Dancing fingers

Kahasai

United States

I'm 17
I like to dream

Homeschooled
Maybe a fool

Trampolinist
and classical guitarist

Archer
Let us barter

Mountain girl
I like burl

River otter
Viking daughter

Wolfdog owner
Forest roamer

I'm no fighter
But I am a writer

Tip #1: Walking vs Running (aka, Pacing)

March 7, 2019

FREE WRITING

2
    My first tip of what will hopefully be an on-going series.

    1. Walking vs Running
    Aka, pacing. This is incredibly important. It's also the next hurdle if you've got a handle on your grammar, you know how to write some good descriptions, and know how to create dialogue.
    Most of the time, you go too fast. Why? Because you're so excited to get to the next part, so eager to get the idea out of your head and onto the page.
    It's time to learn to slow down. Trust me, the more you drag it out, the more emotional the ultimate ending will be (well, you can drag it out for too long, but I'll get to that later). Think of a movie, book, or TV show that has brought you to tears (or close) or made you want to squeal in delight. Imagine that moment when the protagonists' kiss or your favorite character dies.
    Now, imagine making that scene at the beginning rather than at the end.
    Do you think you'd be as invested?
    I wouldn't be. I suspect that's the case with you, too, and with just about all story consumers.
    However, that's on a large-scale plot. For some of you, you need to go smaller than that. You know how to describe: use it to slow down the scene. Pause and show the actions. When things get action-packed, that's when you start briefing over details. By going slow, you can make some truly memorable, emotional scenes. If you don't ... Well, it can be like giving spoilers to someone who's never read the story.
    Here's a rewritten excerpt from my piece Midnight Child:

    Nixie watched the woman as she bustled from one plant to another. With every step, the woman came closer to Nixie's hiding place. With every step, a spike of fear and wonderment spiked through [Nixie].
    I know this woman. 


   Let me show you the published version.

    Nixie's unnaturally large eyes tracked the movements of the woman as she bustled from one plant to another, taking notes on a clipboard screen, its harsh light giving the woman in a washed-out facade. Her white coat, dusty from being outside, fluttered gently in the breeze. 
    With every step, the woman came closer to Nixie's hiding place. With every step, a spike of fear and wonderment spiked through [Nixie.]
    I know this woma
n. 

    In this case, neither description is wrong or right, as both offer something a bit different. The first is faster, the second cares more about, well, slowing down and taking in the details. This is appropriate to the character, whose memories are slow and have to take time to activate.
    In, say, a fist fight, you don't want to take your time. You can't go slow and describe the scenery. Anything you describe should be dealing with the character immediately at hand. Ice can make someone slip (I know when I slip I focus on the ground rather than the trees). The opponent's shifting movements is something the POV (point-of-view) characters is also something they'll notice. You won't describe the bricks on the walls around them, you'll describe where the action is. Otherwise, it'll drag too slowly by giving information that isn't pertinent.
    Example A:

    Jake's brow was slick with sweat. He shifted on his feet, fists in front of his face, so high up it nearly blocked his view of Ben's curly hair, bloody knuckles, and crooked nose. The brick of the building beside him rose high above him, red brick faded to brown beneath the twilight sky. Streetlamps flickered at the edge of the sidewalk, offering little light to the icy road that threatened to send Jake spinning to his backside.
    Ben came closer, one foot sliding forward, shirt stuck to his body with sweat, despite the cold. In a single lunge he snapped his fist toward Ben's stomach, the cracked knuckles splitting and spilling blood even before hardened skin and bone slammed into Jake's stomach. He--


    Gah!
    So, obviously, the descriptions themselves aren't bad. They offer vibrant imagery (hopefully, or I'm doing my job wrong) and reveals the setting.
    Assuming Ben actually moved that slowly, the first paragraph was fine. The second one, though ... ugh, no.
    Rewritten example (Example B):

     Jake's brow was slick with sweat. He shifted on his feet, fists in front of his face, so high up it nearly blocked his view of Ben.
    Ben came closer, one foot sliding forward, shirt stuck to his body with sweat, despite the cold. In a single lunge, he snapped his fist into Jake's stomach.


    Can you feel the difference in time between the two examples? While a full minute may have passed (in story-time) between the first and second paragraph of Example A, only a few seconds went by in Example B.
    I want to point out the second paragraph. In Example A, his fist must be moving in slow motion for Jake to observe that Ben's knuckles were splitting even as he punched Jake. In Example B, it is far more realistic (and exciting) to not go into the descriptions.
    But, from what I've seen, an overabundance of description isn't usually the problem. The problem is usually this:

    Jake hurried through the brick building.
    "Hey, Jake!" came a shout from behind him.
    Jake cursed as he recognized Ben's voice. Carefully, he glanced over his shoulder--and tripped over a desk. Muttering another curse, he made a beeline for the exit as Ben came closer. He only had to make it to the exit.
    "Jake!" Ben sounded angry now.
    He made it to the exit.
    Jake pushed open the door and escaped to the outside. He turned to look at brick building just had just exited, slipping as he moved.
    The door burst open as Ben approached, his brows knitted into a deep scowl.


    *shudders*
    This is a typical scenario for, frankly, the majority of young writers on this site. While I'm reading this, I'm asking: where did that desk come from? Are there people there--what do they think, why are they so quiet? How far away is that exit? Should I be worried that he doesn't make it to the exit--oh, never mind, he's already there.
    Okay, he's outside now. Can he escape into another building, or a taxi? Wait, I can't see anything--my mind's eye is blinded by a vacuum of darkness. Maybe he can creep away into the nothingness and escape Ben that way.
    That's my train of thought reading what I just wrote. Now, let me rewrite it so that I, at least, like it:

    Jake hurried through the brick building. Desks and chairs covered the floor in organized rows. Only a few were filled, their occupiers looking up as he passed. Up ahead, across a distance of a couple dozen rows of desks, glowed the exit sign.
    "Hey, Jake!" came a shout from behind him.
    Jake cursed as he recognized Ben's voice. Carefully, he glanced over his shoulder--and tripped over a desk. He stumbled and hobbled away, glimpsing Ben's stout walk barely twenty feet away. Muttering another curse, he made a beeline for the exit as Ben came closer, well aware of the confused, judging people who watched him. He only had to make it to the exit. Calmly. Not at all suspiciously.
    Chairs scraped. "Ben, Jake--"
    The sound of a chair crashing against the hardwood floor made Jake wince. The few people cried out.
    Ben's steps echoed behind him, growing louder with each passing second.
    "Jake!" He sounded angry now.
    Just a few more rows of desks.
    Sweat dripped down his face and his muscles tensed, some small instinct keeping him from going into a full-on run.
    Jake pushed open the door and escaped to the outside, cold blasting his skin. Twilight made it difficult to see the empty streets and quiet rows of warehouses. He turned to look at the brick building's just exited, slipping on the icy road as he moved.
    The door burst open as Ben approached, his brows knitted into a deep scowl.


    Not perfect, but still, far better than the former of the two examples, in my opinion. All I did was fill in the bigger pieces of the reader's imagination with a few descriptions and didn't skip over the plot holes. Also, describing what's outside the brick building before the fist fight makes it possible to move straight into the action. Really, you just have to make sure you have the patience to come up with small, important details as you go. Also, knowing what details are important and what aren't.
    I called this piece Walking vs Running because the details you can take in while on a stroll versus a sprint are quite different. While sprinting, anything on the periphery is a colored blur. Walking, you can take the time to smell the flowers. What details you choose to tell should serve one of three purposes: A) to add realism, B) to foreshadow something and C) to immerse the reader into the story by giving them a three-dimensional world instead a pair of cut-out figures doing stuff in space.
    That's all I have for now. I hope this helped, and if it didn't ... well, obviously I have some things to work on.
    Happy writing!



 
Voting time! Which of these topics do you want me to cover next? (yes, numbers are missing from the list, deal with it)

    3. Emotional Impact
    4. The Power of Repetition
    6. Professionalism in writing
    7. Character: Physical, Mental, and Emotional
    8. Using drama and exaggeration
    9. Secrets of Description
    10. Theme of a story
    12. Realism
    13. Tension
    14. How to plot (or how to properly not-plot)
    15. Subtext
    17. Beginnings and Endings
    20. Choosing titles and names
    21. Action scenes
    22. Paragraphs, Chapters, and that stuff
    24. Scenes between the important stuff in novels

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3 Comments
  • paperbird

    hey-
    i heard about how write the world took down your letter and i’m absolutely infuriated. i’m so sorry, for both you and xavier and really the whole of the write the world community—this is a low point the admins are stooping to. i was wondering what their reasons were? could you copy and paste the email or something? i’m just curious why they did this awful thing, what their excuse was.


    4 months ago
  • Kahasai

    Well, I hoped this helped a bit. I'll see about #24.


    4 months ago
  • Quille

    #24 I think that's my biggest problem :).
    Thanks a lot for this piece! I really try to keep that kind of stuff going well, but I definitely have some trouble keeping sensory details in place during the action :DD


    4 months ago