Nail Your Pacing by Manipulating Time

by Tim Kane

I never understood pacing until I had to teach it to students. For me it was always something I recognized in its absence. When the pacing is bad on a novel, it puts you to sleep. But how to define it?

Time manipulation. Specifically collapsing time and blowing it up. For an amazing example, check out “How to Eat a Guava” by Esmeralda Santiago. This really shows how time can be expanded to fill pages, but only second transpire in real time.

The best way to explain pacing is to think of the events of a day taped along the length of a slinky.

  1. Wake up
  2. Breakfast
  3. Drive to work
  4. Answer emails
  5. Argue with coworker
  6. Lunch
  7. Meeting
  8. Drive home
  9. Dinner
  10. Sleep

These are all in sequential order, but it’s a snooze. The exciting moment, the argument, is mired so deep in triviality, that a reader would be comatose before reaching it.

Now, if you consider these events attached to a slinky, you can contract certain events. Instead of slogging through events 1 through 4, collapse them into a few sentences of narration. Or, better yet, employ a jump cut and simply skip over the boring bits.

Now we get to the interesting problem. Just like a slinky, if you contract one section, you expand another. This is the argument. But to make it truly work, it needs to be injected with emotion. Simply relating how the argument went down, in some dry fashion, makes the reader think he’s viewing a scientific report. The protagonist must feel something vital about this incident to warrant it’s attention.

Writers can manipulate time to serve their needs. Collapse the bits that are trivial and blow up, or expand, on the moments that matter. Your story is your slinky. Play with it.

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About Tim Kane

Tim Kane is a young adult fiction writer.
This entry was posted in Writing Advice and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Nail Your Pacing by Manipulating Time

  1. Great post….only, as I recall, playing excessively with a slinky can cause it to be impossibly tangled LOL.

  2. Pacing and slinkies. Hmm, where do you come up with this stuff, Tim?! LOL! Again, good explanation and fun to read. Nice!

  3. Pingback: Top Picks Thursday 01-17-2013 « The Author Chronicles

  4. The best way to explain pacing is to think of the events of a day taped along the length of a slinky.

  5. Krystyna says:

    Hi! I just wanteed to ask if you ever have any truble with hackers?

    My last blog (wordpress) waas hacked and I ended up losing many
    months of hard work due to no backup. Do you have any methods to
    sop hackers?

    • Tim Kane says:

      Not as of yet. I used to be paranoid and back everything up. Now I just realize the risk and keep going. I upped the complexity of my password, and that may have helped.

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