googlead166c37c697d4d3.html Glenn Ashton Author Blog: Hallie Ephron on Pacing your Novel with a Pacing Table & Dotty Pictures

Pages

Friday, November 12, 2010

Hallie Ephron on Pacing your Novel with a Pacing Table & Dotty Pictures

Hallie Ephron
I was lucky enough to attend the presentation by Hallie Ephron at the Surrey International Writers Conference (SiWC) on how to pace your novel. 
Raised by screenwriters, author of six acclaimed novels, crime fiction reviewer for the Boston Globe, and author of the how-to book, Writing and Selling Your Mystery Novel: How to Knock ‘Em Dead with Style, Hallie sprinkled gems during her lecture.
One thing really grabbed my attention: her use of a Pacing Table for analysing the pacing in a novel, along with a graphical representation of the creation and release of tension.
The Pacing Table has three columns. 
In the first one you block out the scene by describing the action taking place in the scene, using simple words. 
The next two columns each have columns numbered 1 to 5, with the first column headed Slow (being 1) to Fast (being 5), and the third column headed Easy (=1) to Tense (=5).
The Pacing Table
Description:
Slow



Fast
Easy



Tense

1
2
3
4
5
1
2
3
4
5

1
2
3
4
5
1
2
3
4
5

1
2
3
4
5
1
2
3
4
5

You use simple words to describe the action in the description column, and then you circle a number in the second and third columns, depending on your calculation of the speed and tension in that action.
Once you've done this for every action  in the scene, you are ready to portray the results graphically. To do this you turn your page sideways and connect the dots in columns 2 and 3.
Voila! There you have it: two graphs, one showing how the pacing of the scene's component actions changes from slow to fast and back again,  and one showing what happens to the tension (easy to tense, with tension rising and being released).
Now you can sit back and consider whether those two graphs represent what you the author want the scene to do. If you think it needs to be slowed down, you do that; if you need more tension, or a release of tension in a different spot, you do that.
It's interesting to see just how much information you can glean from the two graphs (after all, isn't a picture worth a thousand words?)
Some other snippets from her Pacing your Novel presentation. There is no direct correlation between speed and tension – even slow scenes can be tense. Tension is important, because it's the force that pulls the reader forward.
You can add tension to a fast scene by slowing it down – take a fight, for example: think cinematically, and slow your writing down as if you were shooting the fast scene in slow motion, as we see so often in movies. The slow motion actually makes the scene faster!
One key takeaway from Hallie was that EVERY scene had to have an arc – rising tension followed by a
release of tension. The rise and release need not be dramatic, but there must an such an arc or else the scene is flat, listless and boring.
A few pointers from Hallie's bag of pacing tricks:
  • you introduce characters slowly, with detail but no big detail dumps (they slow down the story)
  • arguing? happens fast
  • you can write a scene fast and slow it down in reflection
  • staccato rythms create speed
  • underwrite a scene to create speed
  • verbs, verbs, verbs in a row create speed
  • questions raise tension
  • stop time with sensory descriptions
  • longer sentences slow things down and vice-versa
  • humor reduces tension
  • conflict increases tension.
A lot of info, crammed into a short hour and a half. Click here for a short interview with her, and click here for her website.
Thanks, Hallie!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Some more of my random posts for you:

/* PLACE FOR SURVEY MONKEY POPUP QUIZ JUST BELOW HERE */ /**/ /* NETWORKED BLOGS BIT FOR IT TO QUALIFY */