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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Open Discussions About Writing » Pacing

Author Topic: Pacing
Member # 5339

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No, I'm not talking about walking.

David Farland wrote this tip about appropriate ways to know when to end a chapter. The quote that stuck out to me, though, was that

young readers who watch television and play videogames are taught to take in their stories in “bites.” Just as television and radio interviewers are hoping that you’ll answer questions with short, pithy sound bites, modern viewers are looking for the same experience in their stories.
What does this mean for the actual pacing of the writing? I looked up one of Farland's writing samples on his website, and it kicks off with a bang--no contemplation, little description, hardly any internal observation--pure action.

I love Orson Scott Card, Tolkien, Robert Jordan, Brandon Sanderson, and others in part because they delve into what people actually think about. Ender is an extremely introspective protagonist. Samwise Gamgee's heroism would have never been evident if Tolkien hadn't devoted a chapter to his choice to save Frodo in the heart of Mordor--because in that chapter we don't just see him take action, we see why he takes action.

But what I get from Farland's commentary is that modern readers don't care about that sort of thing anymore, so putting it into your writing is a suicidal career move.

How do you adjust your pacing to allow modern audiences to get what they want while still allowing for incremental growth of character and theme?

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Member # 8019

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Farland's writing and writing about writing speaks to an audience niche. He and his audience favor action writing mode over introspection mode. He doesn't speak for all modern audiences.

Farland is on point about visual media teaches audiences to experience visual media. Self-fulfilling promotion and persuaded assimilation. One of visual media's limitations, shortcoming so to speak, is that artfully portraying thoughts is challenging and perhaps for some audiences disruptive. Cinematic devices or narrated voiceovers imitate thoughts in visual media. Where portraying thoughts is one of written word's strengths.

Like how visual media teaches audiences to experience visual media, written-word media teaches readers to experience written word. While visual media's action pacing does appeal to mainstream readers, emotional pacing does as well. One way visual media portrays emotion is through "reaction shots," a camera glancing at a character or characters' superficial emotional reactions after every emotionally causal stimuli.

Thoughts provide a large fraction of narratives' emotional pacing. Learning to read the complex variety of thoughts in written word is more challenging than learning to read superficial thoughts visual media portrays.

I think action mode is comparatively less challenging to write than introspection mode, and less challenging to read. However, I also believe a fully-realized and well-developed written-word scene incorporates a situation-specific artfully weighted degree of all writing modes: DIANE'S SECRET, description, introspection, action, narration, emotion, sensation, summarization, exposition, conversation, recollection, explanation, and transition; emphasizing action, introspection, emotion, sensation, and conversation. And SPICED ACT: setting, plot, idea, character, event, and discourse; and antagonism, causation, and tension.

I strongly believe reading audiences want access to thoughts. Thoughts enhance character and narrator identity development and consequently reader identification and association with characters--the empathy quotient of tension's contribution to plot. Portraying thoughts strongly develops character and theme. Portraying character transformation relies to a significant degree on portraying thoughts, emotional thoughts, which are reactions to stimuli.

Frankly, I don't feel as engaged by Farland's writing as I like to be. He writes a shallow depth that's, to me, too easily accessible, Greater depth comes from added layers of meaning. From my perspective, those added layers of depth come from SPICED complexity, particularly character and character transformation: psychological maturation or decline. Farland and his niche audience don't emphasize those depths as much, favoring action over introspection and favoring physical, external world problem resolution and transformation over internal life problem satisfaction and transformation. I feel a balance of both quotients are essential for engaging, entertaining narratives. I'm a little weary of narratives that don't incorporate noteworthy character transformation.

[ July 31, 2012, 02:16 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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Member # 5512

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Write the way it feels right. Write stories that you want to read. Worry about what the audience wants only when you finish a piece.
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Member # 8368

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I wish I could remember the link. Maybe I'll find it later. I can't even remember who wrote it, but it was a published author blogging about balance. Although in this case, she (at least I'm sure of that much [Smile] ) was talking about the balance of how much to explain and how much to let the reader figure out for themselves.

You can't write the story for everyone. The same passage may be too much exposition for one reader, just right for another, and leave a third scratching her head.

So, you have to write it how you think it should be and just accept that it won't be right for everyone.

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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
Member # 59

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Was it Elizabeth Bear, Meredith?


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Member # 8368

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Ah, yes. That was it. [Smile]
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Member # 9398

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I've been struggling with this a lot. In my current story, there's just a lot inter relational polictical stuff which is at its nature a little of what's said and a lot of thinking about what's said.

I really liked that part about writing for one person. I mean, what is the point of writing something that you're going to hate in the end? I can see if it was for a paycheck, but I'm just not going to do a very good job at that if I can't find the part that I do like.

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Robert Nowall
Member # 2764

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I generally favor ending a chapter on some kind of high note or cliffhanger, something that will keep the theoretical reader turning pages, flipping MS printouts, or scrolling down, whatever that does to the length of the chapter...I say I favor that, which doesn't mean I've followed that rule.

I remember reading that A. E. Van Vogt said he kept his scenes eight hundred words long...which seems interesting in itself, but, as in much else in my writing, everything finds its own reasons despite any rules I intend to follow.

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