Friday, August 10, 2012

Pick Up the Pace

In a recent interview on ACFW Fiction Finder with Raquel Byrnes, they asked the question:

You have mentioned that quick pacing is part of your writing style. Why is that so important?
Raquel's answer:
I find that often being in the thick of things, the desperate unplanned situations, reveals our true character and loyalties. Only when we are like those characters—pushed to the breaking point—can we finally see the amazing grace and strength God offers us. I think those moments resonate with people and I love to bring them to light in my books.

I absolutely agree. Life is a series of BOOM BOOM BOOM with no time to stop and ponder, to come up with the perfect solution or wittiest response. I picture that stupid teenage gimmick where your supposed-friend shakes his/her hands back and forth in front of your face and tells you you're running through the woods, trees on the left, trees on the right, your turn and (they hit you in the face) you run into a tree. It leaves you disoriented and with an elevated heart rate.

I like to think the obstacles my protagonists encounter are realistic in the same way life can be, ridiculous and inconvenient. These are the moments, in less than the space of a breath, where true character is shown and grown. Pacing is integral in these moments. You can't draw out the scene with beautiful word paint - it is not the time for that. Staccato sentences. Minimal dialogue tags. Slap the reader in the face the essence of the moment -- whether it is life or death or just intensely emotional (or in my books, passionate). The writing style mimics the urgency of the action.

Not all readers agree. As I struggle to improve my craft, I try to take all critique into account. I weigh the commentary against the story content. While every comment is appreciated, not every one is applicable and I have to trust my instincts. Romance is not all purple prose any more -- there are real stories there that stay with the reader longer than the titillation. I have been accused of having short sentences -- but I do this to aid the pacing of the scene. I am more likely to have rich descriptions in slower moments -- but even then I keep it sparse. If it's something I would skim over in order to get to the story, I don't want it.

Usually when a reader notices the pacing in a scene it's because it was done poorly. How do you, as a writer, adjust your pacing for mood?

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