Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Sprinting and Resting in Writing

As I'm working on my newest book, I'm reminded again of the importance of pace in a story. In my stories there are quite a few heavy action scenes, and young readers like those, but we can't maintain a fast pace without wearing down a reader after a while.

Every good action scene needs to follow with a substantial rest period, a time for reflection and setting up the tension that leads to the next action scene. Without the buildup of tension, the action seems frenetic and without purpose. It's simply tiring.

Also, I think the reader needs some time to catch his breath with the characters. The reader enjoys a few pages to contemplate the consequences of the action with the characters and how they must plan for the future. As each action scene is threaded together by skillful rest periods, the reader feels the motivations behind the action and is emotionally involved throughout.

So, always remember to give readers a break, one that helps them emote with the hero as he cleans his sword, savor the aroma of the meal the hero is cooking over an open fire as he chats with his comrades, and feel the energy as the hero mounts his horse for the next adventure.


Galactic Overlord-In-Chief said...

Very good post. I have thought about that myself. More than once, I have written in a brief rest period after a strenuous action sequence, and it helped matters a great deal. For example, I had a fairly long pursuit sequence that I was able to break up by having the hero meet help in a forest, and they rested him so he could rejoin his band, at which point the enemy party found them, and the pursuit began again.

Much of my focus has also been on choreographing the battles themselves, such as mapping out action "beats." That would be sword swings, dodges, jumps, etc. I think when there’s a primary hero and a small group of villains, it’s not so hard. Billy is primarily the one who engages in physical combat, while the others provide support in one fashion or another, chiefly Bonnie. With my writings, I’ve ended up with a larger cast, and most of the good guys are very combat capable, (about 12 in all) so I’ve had to inject more variety into the battles themselves. It mattered what kind of weapon the character used, or what ability he was gifted in, because that informed the reader as to what kind of person he could be. I’ve also had to be more careful about pacing, since this could easily bloat the story. (The book I wrote ended up about 444 pages total. The next ones I’m aiming for are in the 200-250 page range)

So basically, this can be an easy trap if you let your mind run wild with it.

Clefspeare said...

That sounds good, G.O. I think it's important that the rest periods be more than simple rest. They should provide motivation for the next action scene, something new to add tension that ignites the next event and even works to escalate the action.

BeckyJoie said...

I agree. I found myself unconsciously doing this in my own writing. I think though every good book I've read utilized this method. It is only logical. I have set down a few books which kept the pace revving too quickly. They overloaded my mind and emotions. I like the balance you have in your books. And I like the way your characters move from scene to scene without jumping out of sequence. One famous Christian romance author writes interesting stories with good content but the way she moves between characters and scenes drives me batty. I still read her books but I groan through the scene changes just in time to adjust and bump into another one. I'm learning alot from seasoned writers like yourself.