Update…the giveaway winner is Holly. Congrats, Holly!
Today our guest is debut Kensington Brava author Joan Swan. I had the pleasure of meeting Joan at the RWA National Conference, and she is a fun and super sweet lady. Joan, thanks so much for coming by–and I can’t wait to read your Brava novels!
The Real Story Behind Pacing (plus giveaway!)
I used to think pacing was all about action. Car chases, shootouts, hostage situation or, if we’re talking about a contemporary romance, it would be a personal crisis or business in immediate jeopardy.
Then I read the most recent Koontz novel What the Night Knows. And I realized that pacing isn’t about action, it’s all about presenting story questions then making your reader wait to discover the answer. But to keep the reader interested, you also have to answer those story questions periodically, which means you then have to insert others. I think of it as a leapfrog type action.
Can you see the forward movement above?
Pacing, by definition, is a rate of movement, activity, progress. That movement could include gunfire (or explosions…I happen to love both), but it doesn’t have to. Even with very little action at the beginning of Koontz’s novel, I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough. When I went back to analyze why I remained so intrigued, I discovered this pattern.
I hope to illustrate this with a few examples from What the Night Knows.
Three sentences into the book, we get our first story question:
Suddenly at noon, six days after the murders, birds flew to the trees and sheltered in roosts.
Q: Murders? What murders?
We must read on to find out.
And we find out on page 5:
A: He was fourteen, the unrepentant murderer of his family, capable of unspeakable cruelty…
Yet, the answer introduces another, bigger story question:
Q: Unspeakable cruelty? What constitutes unspeakable cruelty? And how could a fourteen year old be capable of this cruelty? And toward his family?
Okay, so, hopefully, you can see we’ve got the beginnings of PLOT questions set up and going, right? Let’s get a little more complicated and add CHARACTER questions.
At the bottom of page 1, we get our first character question.
John was a homicide detective, but this car belonged to him, not the department. The use of the placard while off duty might be a minor violation of the rules. But his conscience was encrusted with worse transgressions than the abuse of police prerogatives.
Q: Why is he in his private vehicle, but using the official placard?
Q: Worse abuse of police prerogatives? Like what? Is he the good guy or a dark protagonist?
We must read on to find out.
A complex version of the leap-frogging would look like this:
You can see how dramatic the forward movement becomes:
Do you leapfrog? Can you share your method of creating pacing in your novel? Share examples of other pacing methods? Which authors do a particularly good job of pacing? How do you think they accomplish that?
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Joan Swan is a triple RWA® Golden Heart finalist, and a double Kiss of Death Daphne Du Maurier finalist. She writes sexy romantic suspense with a paranormal twist, and her first novel with Kensington Brava, FEVER, debuts April 2012.