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We all have an inherent sense of story. There is an expected rhythm to it, like breathing, and we notice when that rhythm gets interrupted. This is why we give up on a novel we’re reading because it’s moving too slowly, or why we are dissatisfied with an ending because it felt too rushed.
I had the pleasure earlier this month to present at Writer Unboxed’s Unconference in Salem, Massachusetts. One of my topics was “Wrangling with Plot,” to correspond with my essay in Author in Progress. Rather than focus on the three-act plot structure that, perhaps, we have all heard too much about. I attempted to focus my remarks on the pacing of those three acts so that they resonate well with modern-day audiences’ expectations. In other words, while you want your plot to surprise, to inspire, and to get readers thinking about things in new and interesting ways, the pacing of that plot, the delivery of that message, is often best received when it has a certain anticipated rhythm.
If you are getting comments from agents, editors, or even readers that the story is “hard to get into” or “moves too slowly,” then you are likely dealing with a pacing problem. Your story is not beating in rhythm with the pulse of the modern-day audience and that lack of rhythm can, no doubt, be unsettling. [Read more…]