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How to handle story pacing?

Discussion in 'The Authors' Café' started by matt0044, Feb 7, 2013.

  1. matt0044

    matt0044 Well-Known Member

    I've been watching Transformers G1. I'm not a fan but they're a good watch. I particularly notice how the story in each episode moves so damn fast to the point of it being rushed. The Legend of Korra shows this trait but I feels that it's better handled and comes of as "not wasting time" rather than "rushing." Compare that to Dragon Ball Z that takes it sweet-*** time with panning shots, scene that linger more than they should and pointless filler (they may've had reasons but it's still bothersome) that not ever Kai could fully escape.

    It made me wonder how to properly pace a story so it doesn't seem like you're rushing and so it doesn't seem like you're meandering too much. Like if you finish a story's outline, how would you trim the fat (so to speak) and know when enough is enough for sure?

    So, your thoughts?
  2. Quilava42

    Quilava42 Blazing Flowers

    Here's one thing I want to say:

    The writers need to think of the plot thoroughly before they do it. They need to figure out what's important and what they need to do in order to do that, as in like a TV show. They were going to go into a hiatus, but they needed to wrap up the plot logically with explanation and an OK "ending".

    But, I have to say that it varies. It depends on how far the plot is and what they need to do. But filler... I'd say that it's up to them, if it's not too long so it may disturb the reader's thoughts on the actual plot.
  3. Meeker

    Meeker It needs a fence.

    There are some things that I notice about pacing when you're writing.

    The pace of a story all depends on what the chapter's about, how it's written, and how much description is added.

    Too little description is obviously rushed. But too much means that you aren't exactly showing, just telling over and over again. Make sure that you use enough to keep up the pace to where it's interesting for the readers, but still enough to keep the flow steady. Make sure that the entire thing isn't "it was all a blur" or something along those lines the whole time. You need to tell what went on, and how it happened.

    It's hard to say how to avoid this, but it's obvious if you do rush something. Just make sure to have a beta-reader, they should be able to tell you whether it is/is not rushed.
  4. Firebrand

    Firebrand Indomitable

    Too little description is rushed? I do believe my good friend Ernest Hemingway would like a word with you re: Sun Also Rises, Hills Like White Elephants, etc., etc. Hemingway used almost no description in his works, and yet still managed to establish great pacing in the story. Little description is sometimes exactly what a given piece needs to trim it down to what's essential and cut the fluff. But I digress, this thread is about pacing not description.

    Honestly, pacing in your story is all a matter of opinion. Yes, filler chapters are tedious to readers, and it's tedious for you writing them. The solution is to always include something of relevance in a filler chapter. Maybe it's a phobia of a character, or a certain quirk about them. Basically, so long as it ties into the story later on, it's not filler at all. As to the too long point: again, you're the judge of that in your story. It's hard for even professional writers to strike this balance. The best way is through practice and experimentation, seeing what works and what doesn't. I would advise anyone to err on the side of longer, more drawn out stuff, simply because it's easier to go back later and trim the fat than it is to add new things in.

    It would be a bad idea to start relying on a beta reader for anything. Better to start realizing the flaws in your work on your own not only to cut down on the workload of a hypothetical beta, but also so that you can actually improve.
  5. Meeker

    Meeker It needs a fence.

    I didn't mean that you should rely on one, just that you should have one in case you need to make sure (and for all of the many reasons to have one). After some time, you'll get used to what your beta reader says about whether or not it's rushed, and start learning from that.
  6. yiran

    yiran New Member

    What? No. Beta readers aren't exactly rare in supply, you can find one easily if you want one, so being dependent on them isn't that big of a deal. Plus, what if you don't realise the flaws in your work? In real-life education, should we make all students self-study rather than follow instructions of teachers? Clearly not. And there's no evidence of being too dependent on teachers, either.

    Also, a beta reader isn't just there to "educate" you. It provides another perspective of the story that is available to you before the work is published and thus allows you to see faults that you wouldn't normally see when you reread your own work. So, they do accomplish something that cannot be done on your own.

    So, it's not a bad idea to get a beta reader.
  7. JX Valentine

    JX Valentine ██████████

    I think what Feral means isn't that a writer shouldn't get a beta. It's that you shouldn't rely on a beta for everything. As in, while a beta is there to teach you, they're not there to write the story for you. Likewise, an author should be able to recognize basic issues with their work because a beta's job isn't to catch and correct the details you can take care of yourself. (Well, they're not supposed to do it if you're not actually making it a habit to leave those issues in. Sometimes, typos happen, and betas are in part meant to help you catch those as well. It's just bad form to send them a manuscript that you haven't even bothered to proofread yourself at least once.) Not saying that that's a point I'd support. Just saying that this is like Misunderstandingception here because that seems to be in response to Meeker's post, which was not actually talking about relying on a beta for everything.

    (Oh, communicating on the internet.)

    That aside, I also agree on a level with you in that a good beta should be available for consultation on whatever part you're stuck on in your fic. Especially with something as loosely defined as pacing and description, you might not be able to know that you are having problems or how you go about solving those issues unless someone works closely with you on a very specific scale. Betas are also great people to bounce ideas off of, so between that and the fact that they generally serve as an extra set of eyes that are in no way affected by writer's bias, it's not unusual to have an author-beta relationship in which part of the time is spent going, "Hey, I have this scene I want you to look at right now" followed by "Yeah, that is/is not going to work because ____."

    Or in simpler terms, betas are meant to be people who help you out with the things that aren't as clearly defined as grammatical issues. Or that's one of their jobs, anyway. It's very difficult to determine what is and isn't good pacing because, well, it depends on the story. Sometimes, you need a scene that's fast-paced and full of action; sometimes, you need to spend paragraphs describing a set of curtains a character is staring at for some reason. That and there's a lot of disagreement as to what the exact definition of pacing (among other things) is, so as a result, there's plenty of people out there who aren't entirely certain that they're doing things correctly. If you're one of those people, you'll find that it's an immense help to work with someone who can see your story without being affected by writer's bias -- i.e., anyone but you (or even more specifically, a beta). So, actually, Meeker's advice is pretty sound.

    (And to pull out a response to the original post, that's... basically it. Pacing, along with a lot of other story elements, tends to be very fluid and adapts to the story as needed. So there's no generally right or wrong sort of pacing. It's more like there's right or wrong pacing for a particular story... and even then, it would probably be better boiled down to particular scenes.)
  8. jireh the provider

    jireh the provider Video Game Designer

    Through my experience, in balancing the needed pace is all about playing the story just like a Libra.

    Think of it like having a tipping scale with two plates on each side. Think like this formula.

    A= white rice (filler)
    B= red rice (important)

    So you wanted a balanced paced story. What you could do on the first scale is to add the important ones in any amount. Then place all of the filler extras in the second scale. Once you filled both sides, start removing the excess of each side.

    That is what I usually do in my works before I post my work. Put all of the important things along with the extras. Then arrange the amount of each that I needed in my story. It will usually depend on the chapters I made you see. Sometimes, I can make a filler chapter with a small hint of a VERY Important element that will come out later. You can say it the other way around as well
  9. matt0044

    matt0044 Well-Known Member

    I dunno, if it's just about that, then it sounds pretty skippable.
  10. IJuggler

    IJuggler how much words

    The point is that nothing of absolutely no importance happened; lots of people will say that if it doesn't characterize or push the plot forward, a scene/chapter/episode/sentence is useless.
  11. Kaiserin

    Kaiserin please wake up...

    Characterization can be pretty important, especially if it adds conflict to the plot. It might not have to be directly tied in, but you want your readers to get a good glimpse of who these characters are, and sometimes straying away from the plot can be the best way to capture all sides of them. If readers grow attached to the characters, the plot and whatever twists it may hold has much more impact.
  12. Blue Saturday

    Blue Saturday too fly


    I'm sure we haven't had a topic on this yet, pacing. Pacing represents a form of flow in a story, each event going from the next and to the next at each time. Something I've been wondering is what are your stances on pacing and how to pace well in a story? Or, in some cases, pace well as so the events don't come off as rushed?
  13. IJuggler

    IJuggler how much words


    Control of pacing is harder to do with fanfiction because it's not fair to revise and expect readers to reread earlier chapters for this kind of 'small' change. Despite that, it's definitely important. Pacing has a lot to give to tone, because it'd be hard to show a complex and nuanced thought process through a quick minimalist narrative.

    I think the best way to pace well, at least for fanfiction, is to make sure it's fairly well-spread. If you've given a degree of description to the house, then it's better to keep that kind of pacing by not holding back on exposition after that. But further, if your character's narrative barely notices the house, it wouldn't make sense to have them think long and hard about the professor's laboratory, unless they were particularly interested in something that made the two different and you showed this. If I had to make an analogy, I'd say good pacing is like frosting a cake - you can start out however you want, but if you haven't smoothed it out by the end it will look sloppy. This is why it's hard for fanfiction to pace as well as a book does, for example.

    There's also the ability to use pacing as a storytelling mechanic. Done rightly, a subtle increase of pace can introduce an action scene without being overt, and slower pacing can ease the change from action to non-action. This is getting a bit meta and I'm too tired yet to wrap my head around a good explanation, though.
  14. Sid87

    Sid87 I love shiny pokemon

    Ha ha! Oh, pacing; we meet again. My arch-nemesis of writing.

    I'm seriously just aeful at pacing. Scenes tend to FLY by when I'm writing them, and I feel like I've never let them go enough. And I'm not sure why; most of my weaknesses have improved with age and practice. I used to be terrible at description and narration, but I feel as though those have both improved. But I can't seem to get over the pacing hump.

    A lot of it comes down to focusing on the minute details of a scene. Body language, appearances, setting... using all of those as peripheral "characters" to establish the mood and ideas you are trying to get across. I'm bad at that, but it really helps with pacing because it adds flavor to the story/chapter without making it feel "dragged out".
  15. Meeker

    Meeker It needs a fence.

    Pacing is something I can have a bit of trouble with too. It's not hard to run into this issue, especially when you're starting out. It's best to have some people to look it over to make sure your pacing is right, but only when you feel that it's right. Just keep improving upon what they say, and eventually you should learn how to pace well on your own.
  16. Negrek

    Negrek Lost but Seeking

    Come on, it's barely even halfway down the first page! I suppose I didn't reply to that thread, so I'll do so here anyway... but yeah, we've most certainly had (many) threads about pacing before.

    The thing about pacing is that it tends to be much easier to diagnose problems with it only after you have a complete draft of your story. Even if you've done some pretty intense planning and outlining, the story often takes on a life of its own as you go through the process of writing it, which means that some things you might have thought were important to begin with turn out not to be so much, and vice versa. Scenes that you thought were going to be excellent might have ended up going nowhere, or a particular character you thought was going to be critical might have unexpectedly gotten an early curtain call. This results in what looks like uneven pacing--the characters spend time doing things that, in the end, don't particularly matter much, or something that turns out to be really important is kind of glossed over or awkwardly retconned in later on. I mean, sometimes people just don't understand what's interesting to the audience and put in a bunch of cruft about their character doing mundane things that don't relate to the plot, but I think pacing issues are more often the result of people not quite being sure where they're going with a story at the outset and taking some wrong turns along the way.

    The thing is that most fanfiction writers post immediately after finishing a story chapter, or at best keep up a buffer of maybe two to five chapters ahead of what they're posting. When you're working in that kind of fashion, you pretty much take the plot holes and pacing problems that can result as par for the course--nothing you can do about it, really. The best you can do is try to make sure that the events that make it into your story do reflect what you consider to be important to the plot at the time that you're writing, while knowing that what will look important in the end could look quite different.
  17. bobandbill

    bobandbill Winning Smile Staff Member Super Mod

    I think I'll just merge the two threads. No point having two discussions on the same thing after all!
  18. DarkerShining

    DarkerShining Well-Known Member

    So, I guess I'm not the only one having trouble figuring out how to do things regarding to pacing, huh? I feel I've been doing fine so far, but as more characters and plot lines are being introduced, I'm wondering just how I'll be able to tie everything together and properly resolve things without making the story too long. I will do my best to figure that out, though.
  19. Crystal

    Crystal The Pokemon Observer

  20. matt0044

    matt0044 Well-Known Member

    Um, BMGF can be a touchy subject around here...

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