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Author Topic: Attributes of pace and flow in writing  (Read 10282 times)

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superpsycho

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One the things I have a tendency to harp about, when editing a piece, is pace and flow. Iím a firm believer that part of what makes a good story is how well the author shapes the a story using those very factors. Building to a plot point or decelerating into things like emotional and spiritual questions. And, as Iíve noted before if grammar or spelling arenít right then youíre just making the job more difficult.

The factor Iíve only touched on, that needs to be further explained a bit more, is connecting sentences and paragraphs together when building a pace. An author sees the story in their head, and without realizing it, well make jumps between sentences and paragraphs by leaving out small but important bits of connection information their mind assumes is there. When you know the story you're already anticipating the next line, but the reader hasn't got the same information so he has to be told. It isnít much, usually just a word or two indicating a new thought is coming. The reader, in coming across these small jumps or holes canít help but go Ďhuhí a little, as their mind must regain its bearings to the new scene it wasn't expecting.

Quote
The history of such encounters he had found to be less than rewarding. Dull evenings of meaningless small talk, culminating in awkward good-nights on poorly lit doorsteps. But, this excursion was not to be the same. The party was to start at eight sharp and he knew that his Aunt Lacy was a stickler for punctuality.


This is about a young man who has different members of his family trying to set him up with someone.  The first two lines set a tone of disappointment with past blind dates. This builds a contrast to his next experience. The point is to establish a level of anticipation for the reader. The first two sentences are fine but the third, doesnít make a good transition from the second to the forth sentence. Itís ok but there is a big enough gap in information that some readers will go Ďhuhí and reread the lines to see if they read it right. When that happens you lose any build up you've tried to develop. If the line was dropped entirely;

Quote
The history of such encounters he had found to be less than rewarding. Dull evenings of meaningless small talk, culminating in awkward good-nights on poorly lit doorsteps. The party was to start at eight sharp and he knew that his Aunt Lacy was a stickler for punctuality.

Without any transition your mind will automatically start over again at the change in context. To continue the build up, the change needs to be gradual, like it isn't really there:
Quote
The history of such encounters he had found to be less than rewarding. Dull evenings of meaningless small talk, culminating in awkward good-nights on poorly lit doorsteps. But, tonightís engagement would turn out to be something new entirely. The party was to start at eight sharp and he knew that his Aunt Lacy was a stickler for punctuality.


The extended replacement line provides a much smoother transition, blending the shift from one scene to another so that you continue the build up. The key word being 'tonight'. Using words like 'next encounter" or 'this new encounter', intended to establish anticipation, wouldn't work as well as 'tonight's encounter', which connects directly to the first words of the next sentence 'The party was to start at eight'.

These gaps are typically small and such things often go unnoticed but itís enough that it can break the pace of the read. If it happens only a couple times over the entire book, itís not a going to be a big deal but if it happens to often or at moments that the pace is key to the story, then it can turn off a reader or make the story not near as good as it could be.

Youíll find it easier to establish a desired pace and atmosphere of a story if youíre not accidentally adding other factors a reader might have to deal with. Often itís the accumulation of the little details that make the difference between a good story and a great one, and between a decent writer and a great author.     

(edited: For clarity, since the first version was rather narrowly explained with out the greater context being defined)
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Re: Attributes of pace and flow in writing
« Reply #1 on: 11/16-02:23 »

original transition: But, tonight's exertion was not to be the same.

replacement transition: But, tonight's engagement would turn out to be something new entirely.


they're essentially the same sentence, with the exception of the transition from passive to active voice. Or are you saying the "something new entirely" part clarifies the transition?
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superpsycho

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Re: Attributes of pace and flow in writing
« Reply #2 on: 11/16-02:30 »

original transition: But, tonight's exertion was not to be the same.

replacement transition: But, tonight's engagement would turn out to be something new entirely.


they're essentially the same sentence, with the exception of the transition from passive to active voice. Or are you saying the "something new entirely" part clarifies the transition?
Look at it again. The word 'tonight' isn't there in the original, so there is no direct connection to the next sentence. You can see one once you are into the new sentence a ways. So, for a short moment there is the potential for the reader to catch the jump and do a double take. Once you add the word to 'tonight' you've told the reader the scene is shifting.
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Re: Attributes of pace and flow in writing
« Reply #3 on: 11/16-02:34 »

Ah, my mistake.

Tonight's the key word then.
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superpsycho

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Re: Attributes of pace and flow in writing
« Reply #4 on: 11/16-02:49 »

Ah, my mistake.

Tonight's the key word then.
in this example, yep. The subject was past experiences. With the addition of the word 'tonight' it tells the reader the next context is that evening. Otherwise they could be half way through the next sentence before the realize the shift and then have to reread the beginning of the line in that new context.
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superpsycho

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Re: Attributes of pace and flow in writing
« Reply #5 on: 02/18-19:44 »

I've mentioned Edgar Allen Poe's thoughts on writing more than once on various threads. Here's a link to his The Philosophy of Composition. If you're not the type to work through his phrasing, here is a Wiki that summarizes it. And Poe's seven Tips

Of course in something that's novel length it's not practical to craft every word but there are always scenes that are ripe for such treatment; points of drama or suspense. A simple way to look at it is, maintaining and building on a single train of thought at a controlled pace for the reader.
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