Tuesday, April 21, 2015

5 Tips to Improving Pacing

Have you ever read those books where you can’t seem to put it down and you find yourself staying up all night trying to finish it or getting up early the next morning so you could read all day?  I have found myself doing that so many times and with so many of my favorite writers. It is why they are my favorites. We want to get to the end to see what happens, though it is usually sad because it means I have come to the end of a really good story that I didn’t want to end. I think that might be why I read so many different mystery series. It means I get to read about those characters again in the near future.

Do you ever wonder how writers get you to keep going? Do they have some secrets that make you want to keep reading? After hearing from some of my favorite authors I see that they each do many of the same things that keep us coming back and make us want to keep reading. As authors we can take some of those ideas and use them in our own stories.

1.      Make the story about a character

2.      Make something happen quickly

3.      Keep the stakes rising

4.      Let the action rise and fall

5.      Write a bang up ending

Let’s look at each of those and see how that works.

1.      Make the story about a character. We might have lots of great plot ideas, or plot devices, but let’s face it. The story always comes back to the character. No matter how good the plot might be, and how action packed, if we as readers don’t care about the characters, we’re not going to want to keep reading.  We will be ready to close that book any time we want. We can get back to it sometime later.  On the other hand, if we are really invested in the character we want to know what happens to that person. We are in the story along with the person. Invest the character with human foibles and make the character someone the reader can cheer on.  No one wants to read about the perfect character who wins every time out. That is boring. Let your character suffer some so the character can grow.

2.      Make something happen quickly.  That means getting the Inciting Incident up as close to the beginning of the story as possible. As we begin to read a book we want to have something happen to your character right away.  Recently I heard romance author Cassie Miles say that when she is writing her popular Intrigues she always gets the hero and heroine to meet and then sets up the adventure they are going to go on. She also cautioned against having the heroine driving somewhere and reflecting on the past. Put her at the beginning of a trip or at the end, but don’t spend endless pages of her thinking things through. Make something happen.

3.      Keep the stakes rising. Just like making something happen no one wants to read a book that just stays in the same place. By increasing the tension the reader will begin to not only see the main characters tested, but the reader will also become involved in that struggle. Things are getting worse and worse. Of course you might want to include some small battles the main character can win along the way. But don’t make the character invincible from the first and keep that action rising until it looks like all will be lost if the hero or heroine doesn’t win the final battle.

4.      Let the action rise and fall.  As you increase those stakes, don’t make it all keep building and building without any chance to let the reader catch their collective breath. Create some distractions or slower periods to let the characters reflect or let the reader think about the story too.  All action can be so exhausting the reader might think they have to put the story down because they have become breathless from all the action. It’s better to slow it down for a big before plunging on to the next problem.

5.      Write a bang up ending. This is a good way to keep the readers coming back. Make the main characters win some sort of prize, even if it isn’t the goal they set out to reach. Solve the crime even if the bad guy gets away – this can be done very nicely if you are writing a series. Make certain the reader knows that the threat is gone for now at least and that there is some other issue that has been resolved. Give the reader a good ending that will have them putting the book down, knowing they must pick up your next book.

 These are just a few ideas for making your pacing work. More to come in the future.  


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