Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Pace - The Final Frontier?

I've been watching Homeland on television. It's been very good at keeping the tension going with a new twist at the end of every episode. 12 episodes = at least 11 twists, with possibly one more are the very end, all spaced out at regular intervals.

It's a lesson we can all learn from - me particularly as I've just realised that I've squeezed two of my major story moments into the same scene. Tut tut - I should know better. Still, at least I know what to do about it, which is not to hope that no one will notice/mind, but re-work the story at that point so that the two exciting story moments will be separated by a time of reflection.

I see other writers doing this. They cram the exciting events next door to each other so the reader doesn't have time to savour the new developments. It's good to have exciting events, but the pace needs to slow down in-between or the exciting events are diminished. Action, followed by reaction. Fast, slow, fast, slow. Fast, fast, fast is as boring as slow, slow, slow.

Think of sport. There's a period when a player or team loses all the time, then they start winning. We need the contrast of the win, followed by a loss, to keep our interest going. If they carry on winning everything then it becomes boring - I gave up on Wimbledon because of Pete Sampras, then Roger Federer. Watching Jessica Ennis at the Olympics will be much more interesting because she got second place last month, not the predicted first. And would cricket be exciting without those long, long periods when nothing much seems to be going on?

So when you're looking at your writing, check that there is both a good balance and variety between the slow bits and the fast bits. That's what pace is all about.


Charlotte Sannazzaro said...

Fantastic advice Sarah. You can have too much of a good thing. Definitely something for me to consider in my WIP.

penny simpson said...

Totally adore Homeland but then I've had a thing since for Damien Lewis since Sean Bean got a goatee (yuk!) and I saw DL in Band of Brothers. What a screen presence. But I digress...

Yes, the pace of Homeland is incredible and keeps you guessing the whole time, dropping tiny hints that make you go one way until the next episode when you realise you are completely wrong. Pace, I repeat to myself constantly as my protagonist starts to 'go off on one.'

Sarah Duncan said...

Charlotte - too much of a good thing describes it perfectly. Good luck with the WIP!

Penny - Sean Bean has a goatee??? Noooo. DL has a certain something I think... Your protagonist can 'go off on one' so long as it's sandwiched by contrasting action; pace is all about contrast and variety.