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Hello, everyone! As you all know, this week over at projecteducate is Prose Basics. We're here to help all you prose writers (whether flash fiction, short stories, or novels) get better at your craft with some basic tips for growth. Today, I'm going to be talking about something you've probably heard about again and again: pacing.


What is Pacing?


No, it's not what you do when you're stuck on a scene and need to get up and stretch those leg muscles to get your writing juices flowing. It's actually a very important ability that writers have to control the speed their story is read. You as the author get to manipulate the reader in a way and make the speed of the story match the scene. What better way to drop the reader right into the moment? But, pacing also holds the ability to make or break your story and keep or lose your reader's interest. This is why it's so important in writing.


Setting the Scene:

One of the magical things about pacing is that you the writer get to capture the mood and tone of the moment with your words and make it visible to the reader. For instance, if you're writing an action packed fight scene, short, fast, and sometimes choppy sentences show a sense of urgency and make the scene move along faster-- just like the intensity of the moment in the story itself. In a more serene scene, lengthier sentences or more description to slow down the pacing may be necessary. The first example with the quick pacing gives the reader little time to catch their breath before the next action, whereas the second example gives them a refreshing breather. You as the writer, however, need to decide which is most appropriate for which scenes and apply them well. A good way to do this is to think of your own favorite novels or stories. How did those authors deal with pacing through different scenes? Of course, pacing factors heavily with another phrase that most prose writers have heard since their start in writing...

Show vs. Tell:


Let's face it. You've heard "show, don't tell" from teachers/professors, workshop partners, critiques on and off site, etc. But just how do you show and not tell. Believe it or not, pacing has a lot to do with it. Like mentioned in Setting the Scene, your pace can give a feeling in your story of the tone/emotion/mood of your work. Just by your sentence structure, you are showing your reader something! Of course, there is more to showing and telling than just pace used like this, but it does play a part in ways that you can work on your troubles with showing.

A very wonderful and wise editor once told me that when it comes to showing, "write like you're looking through the lens of a movie camera." Instead of just using short sentences and telling your audience what's happening, slow things down and write what you would see through the lens. (This method still can create forms of "telling" in stories, but when it comes to characters and emotions, I think it's the strongest).

Actions Speak Louder Than Words:

Continuing with Show vs. Tell, here are some ways to bring out the show in your work and ditch the tell:

Let's use the example from the gif I posted above. The author writes: "She lost control." This is a form of telling. There are many other ways to show the reader that "she lost control" without just coming out and telling them. For instance, if "control" here, we mean her life, as in things start to spiral away from her and she can't cope any more, you can "show" it by never having to say that "she lost control" by what happens around her. Maybe she loses her job. Maybe she's starting to panic about petty things. Maybe she begins to overdose on anti-depressants. Without saying these things, the build up and showing of them in sequence (even over a long period of time) is good enough to show the reader that, hey, she's losing control of herself. Aren't these actions stronger than words? Another example would be, for instance, a character being nervous. Instead of saying "He was nervous", show it through some stuttered speech, the character playing with his hands or shifting on his feet. Perhaps he becomes clumsy or needs to fiddle with some random object. These details just scream nervous to the reader-- without ever having to say it. (After all, in a movie, we're never told "HE IS ANGRY" over his head. We see it based on the actor's actions or body language. You want to use the same in writing).

When it comes to description, some find it easier to show in these areas, but it's still important to cover. Instead of saying "It was raining" (which is fine every once in a while), perhaps switch it up from time to time and describe it further. Get the reader's senses to work. Perhaps using something like "The rain beat against the plexiglass window" is stronger in this case. Why? Not only does the reader now know that it's raining, but they can hear the sound it makes by the force implied with "beat" and the surface it's striking: "plexiglass". It's easier for the reader to envision than simply "It was raining". 

Typically, the short, choppy and often telling sentences come off in writing as rushed. How many of you have heard that one before in critiques? Perhaps now you see why a little better. Look at a section of your writing where you've been told it sounded "rushed" and go back through. Are your characters' actions speaking louder than your words? Are your descriptions able to capture and play with your readers' senses? If not, you may want to tweak those areas and see what you can come up with.

When it's Okay to Tell:


However, there's also a point at where things can get too rambley, so don't be afraid to tell here or there or keep those shorter sentences in. A whole paragraph repeating every last detail of what your character had for lunch isn't entirely necessary. Do we really need to know every detail of the same tuna sandwich he has every day on rye with pickles, onions, mayo, mustard, and pepper-- hold the tomatoes? Do we really need to know exactly what that sandwich tasted like? And do we really need to know how he eats? Unless it truly says something important about the character or the plot, it's safe to say that you're better off just saying "He had the usual tuna sandwich." to sum it up and imply that he eats this often. Minor details like these that don't move the plot along aren't necessary to dwell on.

If it's something not relevant to your overall plot, a quick mention like the example above is just fine. Too much showing of unnecessary things bogs your writing down and makes it tedious and "rambley". Everything you write should be pushing forward in your writing and advancing towards the end and fulfilling the plot. If you waste a whole paragraph on describing a sandwich that the character eats once and has no other purpose than to have him/her in the break room at work to witness something to drive the story forward, it's not worth it. Make everything you write count!

Sentence Structure:

Another big part of pacing comes from your sentence structure. You don't want your page to look like a sloppy mess, or even just a bunch of copy and pasted lines. Balance is important. Using the same types of sentences over and over again can lead to monotonous pacing-- which is something that can drown your readers in boredom. The solution? Sentence variation. If you've got a bunch of short, choppy sentences, don't be afraid to throw in a longer one here and there. And, of course, if you have longer sentences typically, make sure to have some shorter ones, too (even fragments)! Your words flow much smoother with variation and choosing specific areas to be shorter or longer, like back in the first section stated, can really bring your work to its full potential.

Conclusion & Questions:

So, as you probably can see, pacing is something very important to your writing. With it, you can really bring your story to life and get inside your readers' minds and control how you want them to read your story. It's the speed your story is read, the tone/mood your story is read, and ultimately, what's going to keep your reader invested on the page. Pace is power!

Now, here are some questions for you to answer in the comments:

  • Have you ever been told you have trouble with pacing? If so, what? (Too rushed, too rambley, etc.)
  • Have you ever struggled with showing vs. telling?
  •  If yes to the last question, have you ever been told how to "show and not tell" beyond just hearing "show, don't tell"?
  • What are some ways that you deal with pacing in your own writing?

:star: And for fun, take a piece that you were told was "too rushed", "too rambley", or "needed more showing" and clean it up! See if you can tweak its pacing and make it a stronger piece overall.

Go out there with your new knowledge of pacing and make some beautiful works of prose!





Add a Comment:
 
:icondrawformyne:
drawformyne Featured By Owner May 7, 2014  Student General Artist
About the show don't tell thing i just wanted to say that in some cases is okay to just tell. And then later elaborate on that for instance :
 he was sad ,small and pathetic with those slumped shoulders and shaking limbs .
It can be used for creating irony : 
he was so angry that he was smiling (didn't came out very good i know)
or to define the mood of the scene or scenery :
The place was as cold as the people that live in it
or if you have a first person narrating it could be given as a piece of information to be proven wrong or right. 
 Just saying that telling can be useful. Sorry for the shit english it's been to long since i wrote in it.
Reply
:icondorianharper:
DorianHarper Featured By Owner May 7, 2014  Professional Writer
I made mention in the one section when telling is okay :)
Reply
:iconmightymog:
Mightymog Featured By Owner Feb 1, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
(I love the secret window and loki Pics)Tight Hug

I rarely have had a critique on writing so I learnt only from trial and error, which probably isn't one of the best ways to learn. I do think that I am rather rambley or "waffley" because I used to write shed loads of sheets and realize I had written nothing of use.

Yes I tend to tell more than show, now you've pointed out alternate ways i'll need to try It out.

No I've never been told how to show not tell, the phrase is new to me but I think I already knew the basics

I often just write what comes to my mind and let my creativity flow, so I either end up writing too long sentences or too choppy sentences.

And thank you so much for this guide, this will really help a lot. I plan to use these prose basics as my guide for the future.Glomp! 
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:iconlabruyere:
LaBruyere Featured By Owner Jan 29, 2014  Student Writer
Yes. I rush because I struggle with being super easily distracted and I'm thinking about the next scene. This is a great article. Hemingway would be proud.
Reply
:iconrhiannonoeuvre:
RhiannonOeuvre Featured By Owner Jan 27, 2014   Writer
Thank you for this!! I only came across 'show, don't tell' a couple years ago and I believe I'm 3/4 of the way to using it all the time. I keep a reminder on the bottom of my Word document telling me to write only what my character sees and feels in that moment :D If I find myself telling, I stop and ask myself how I can show it, or I keep writing with the intention of showing to come back and delete those lines later. I think showing is an excellent tool because it adds depth to the story and increases the word count lol

Thanks again for an awesome guide Huggle! :happybounce: 
Reply
:iconprincesshamanarta:
princesshamanarta Featured By Owner Jan 26, 2014
Nice tips :D specially when I am writing a novel I do not want it to be "too long" ! It was to be a short-story buuut :XD: meh I really want to write short-stories and novels instead of those biiiiiiiiiiiig romance "W.I.P." I have .... 
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:iconliz-darkwarrior:
Liz-DarkWarrior Featured By Owner Jan 24, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Thanks a lot for writing this journal! It really does clear up the details of some problems I've come across when writing. I especially like the "write through the camera lens" tip. The scene becomes much more clear when you write it this way, and it has really helped me in my writing so far. Thanks again! :love:
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:icondorianharper:
DorianHarper Featured By Owner Jan 25, 2014  Professional Writer
I'm so glad you found it helpful! Thank you :heart:
Reply
:iconlilmisspeppy:
LilMissPeppy Featured By Owner Jan 24, 2014  Student Digital Artist
I use syntax to help me with my writing. I also envision myself in the character's positions and try to write their dialogue to the best of my ability, what I think suits them, and it usually works/meets my standards. I've received critiques and compliments on my work as well, so I know I'm doing something correctly.

I love writing. I edit other's work in my head. uvu <3
I don't know, it just suits my preference and it automatically happens.
I usually tell the author where they may improve, so that they may improve for the greater good. I don't know, I think I'm being a Good Samaritan that way with my suggestions and all, or a beta reader at best. uvu <3

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:icondorianharper:
DorianHarper Featured By Owner Jan 24, 2014  Professional Writer
Editing for others is always good practice, too :heart: It helps you improve as a better editor for your own work! We need more people on the site like you, to be honest. Most only leave feedback if they get something in return.

Thank you for answering! :love:
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:iconviper424:
Viper424 Featured By Owner Jan 24, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
Well said.  This educational piece simultaneously confirms some aspects in my writing style while outlining some areas where I can improve.
Thank you very much.
Reply
:icondorianharper:
DorianHarper Featured By Owner Jan 24, 2014  Professional Writer
Thank YOU, as well! I'm glad you found it helpful :love:
Reply
:icondeideiblueeyez:
deideiblueeyez Featured By Owner Jan 24, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
100 points for the Loki Gif, 101 points for the Pusheen gif.

Reply
:icondorianharper:
DorianHarper Featured By Owner Jan 24, 2014  Professional Writer
:la:
Reply
:iconreyjjj:
ReyJJJ Featured By Owner Jan 24, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Pacing?
Psheshe! I need something to pace first!
Reply
:icondorianharper:
DorianHarper Featured By Owner Jan 24, 2014  Professional Writer
Writing the first draft is the hardest obstacle I think of the whole process. But, the only way to get it done is to actually just sit down and do it.
Reply
:iconreyjjj:
ReyJJJ Featured By Owner Jul 25, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
I suppose so...I mean, I have depraved myself of even that first step for over two years now. The "sitting" part.
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:iconshadowedlove97:
ShadowedLove97 Featured By Owner Jan 23, 2014  Student Writer
  • Have you ever been told you have trouble with pacing? If so, what? (Too rushed, too rambley, etc.)
I have once or twice (some of my sentences were too choppy or short when it wasn't necessary) but I think I've gotten better with it.

  • Have you ever struggled with showing vs. telling?
Of course! I think every writer struggles with it at least once in their life, after all we're not perfect. We don't start out with amazing writing haha. However I don't think I've struggled with it as much as a lot of people do. Because I love to read, I subconsciously tend to pick up on grammar and pacing when it deals with fiction writing. Since I'm an author who loves to submerge her readers into her writing, I tend to try and describe things vividly, though keeping in mind not to ramble on with unnecessary details.
  •  If yes to the last question, have you ever been told how to "show and not tell" beyond just hearing "show, don't tell"?
Unfortunately no. I had to learn that on my own haha.

  • What are some ways that you deal with pacing in your own writing? 
I usually go with the flow of my writing and, often than naught, the pacing is correct for what I'm trying to convey. But I do edit my writing and try to be thorough so sometimes I do run into pacing issues, and when I do I try to envision the scene in my mind through the eyes of my character. For example;

If it's an action scene is my character to focused on surviving to notice many details? Is the action fast and breath-taking? Would shorter, but detailed sentences work better and convey what I want the reader to see and feel?

If it's a strong, emotional moment (maybe someone died or they're reunited with their most important person) than will they notice every detail? Are they feeling overwhelmed with emotion? Would vivid description of the environment or the feelings of the main character be appropriate?
Reply
:icondorianharper:
DorianHarper Featured By Owner Jan 23, 2014  Professional Writer
:D

I definitely agree with your last points about envisioning the scene through the eyes of the character in some moments. It really helps build up the emotion and makes it more real to the reader, at least from what I've seen. Good points all around!

Thank you for answering! It's always awesome hearing everyone's responses. :heart:
Reply
:iconayeaye12:
AyeAye12 Featured By Owner Jan 23, 2014  Student Writer
  • Have you ever been told you have trouble with pacing? If so, what? (Too rushed, too rambley, etc.)
I've told myself I rush wat too much. I think a lot of that does come down to not showing but telling. That'll be one of the things to change in my novel, when beta version is done.
  • Have you ever struggled with showing vs. telling?
Oh yes. I tell a lot instead of showing, although slowly I've began to tip slightly towards the latter, so that's good.
  •  If yes to the last question, have you ever been told how to "show and not tell" beyond just hearing "show, don't tell"?
I've never actually been told much about my pace but from myself @___@
  • What are some ways that you deal with pacing in your own writing? 
I explain the things in between, make actions more subtle, that sort of stuff.
Reply
:icondorianharper:
DorianHarper Featured By Owner Jan 23, 2014  Professional Writer
It's good that you're able to identify things to work on in your own writing! Sometimes I feel that's the hardest thing to do since half the time we don't exactly know what could use work, etc. It's good that you're not too worried about it yet until the first draft is done, though! Getting that down first and then worry about the big edits is what's more important ;)
Reply
:iconayeaye12:
AyeAye12 Featured By Owner Jan 23, 2014  Student Writer
I suppose it is a positive. TBH, my prose writing needs much more practice. ESPECIALLY in sentence structure, IMBluntO >__>
Also dialogue personally, although most people think I'm fine with that xP

But yeah, ideas first, questions later, agreed :3
Reply
:iconthewriteroffantasy:
TheWriterOfFantasy Featured By Owner Jan 23, 2014
When I write I try to let the more exciting parts, like fight-scenes, get more "screen-time" so to speak. I write long, detailed sentences in an action sequence often in order to let the reader get every detail, rather than "their swords clashed over and over" or "he shot towards her, but missed" and other short sentences. My purpose is to give the reader a "I want to know what happens next!" moment, where they're truly witnessing an epic battle or awe-inspiring moment.
Of course, the calmer and more serene parts also get a lot of detail, but in a different way. It can't go on for too long, or it'll be boring. It's a matter of balance. But I tend to write on instinct. "What would hook me as a reader?" is more or less what is in the back of my head as I write, and I write what I'd like to read. Not sure if it works, but I can hope.
The "show, don't tell" issue is one I don't think anyone can do perfectly. Some use telling in order to pace the story differently, others nearly always show because that's how the story is supposed to be read. There is no correct answer. Of course, it'll be noticed if showing is used where telling would be appropriate and vice-versa, so doing it right is important. I personally don't find it very hard. Like I said before, I write what I'd like to read. If I'd like to read showing at a point in my story I write that, but if telling is what I'd have liked to read, then telling it is. Of course I have to go back and re-write, and I might end up changing whether it's show or tell in some parts, but that's why we edit, right? First things first is to get it down on paper (or Word) in the way you think is best. Instinct, intuition and a knowledge of what the reader wants is the most important thing at that state of the writing. When editing, afterthought and other people's point of view become a factor.
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:iconlytrigian:
Lytrigian Featured By Owner Jan 23, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
Fight scenes are almost a special case. You want detail, enough so that you know what's going on, but too much detail grinds the scene to a halt.

There were a couple of very good authors who could handle fight scenes in the manner you describe. Frank Herbert did it in Dune, but more was going on there than just a fight. (With Herbert there's always more going on.) Roger Zelazny did it in Roadmarks, where it was at least partly for humorous effect. But that's all I can think of, and I have an entire bookcase full of fantasy and science fiction with a great deal of fighting in them.

Further, if you're going to depict a fight in exacting detail you need to be VERY well-versed in the martial art being used. Most writers aren't without a great deal of research.
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:iconthewriteroffantasy:
TheWriterOfFantasy Featured By Owner Jan 24, 2014
I haven't read those books, but I might check them out for inspitation.

I can't really do a lot of research for the fights I write... I write a fantasy book with lots of magic and special powers being used. The tricky part is describing things the way I picture them in my head.
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:iconlytrigian:
Lytrigian Featured By Owner Jan 24, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
I write fantasy too. Even if you're going to throw a lot of magic into a fight, there is still a well-developed martial art behind how you use a sword. This as true for the West as it is for the East. While you don't want a whole lot of technical description, which will either go over the readers' heads or bore them to tears, what you DO describe needs to conform to how that martial art actually works.
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:iconthewriteroffantasy:
TheWriterOfFantasy Featured By Owner Jan 24, 2014
Thing is, even the hand-to-hand combats and swordfights and other close combat methods that would be regarder as a martial art almost all have very unrealistic aspects to them. Like one character using 4 swords at a time. One in each hand and gripping the other two with his toes, so he's standing on the blades. Kinda hard to research that... I know it's completely unrealistic and impractical, but that's more or less why I'm doing it. It doesn't have to work in real life, because in my mind, in the story, that character has made it work.
Anyway, what I'm saying is it's hard to research something you've made up yourself and that only exists in your mind, and describing it in any way has to come from my made-up details about it.
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:iconlytrigian:
Lytrigian Featured By Owner Jan 24, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
See, that's something I wouldn't do. For even a fantasy story to work, the real-world parts have to be real. Gravity has to accelerate falling objects at roughly 9.8 meters/sec^2. Metal has to conduct electricity. Over-exposure to extreme cold leads to frostbite in normal circumstances. Objects which have a certain weight and balance and design must lend themselves to use in a certain way. It's against the background of a real, believable world that magic can be made to look wondrous.

Had you done your research you'd know why using a sword with your feet is not a good idea, no matter how much you think it might work for a given character. Footwork is essential to all martial arts. It's one of the first things you'll learn in almost all of them. There is no room for the impractical in real combat; it's a life or death situation. Even more, it's not a matter of whether or not you've made it work in YOUR mind, but whether you can make it work in the mind of the reader.

With me as a reader, that would be difficult for a writer to achieve. I've seen it made to work exactly once for a character to wield a blade with his feet, and that was in the manga Crying Freeman. Even then it was just a  knife, which Hinomura would deliver as a surprise with a flying kick, or in being able to throw it from an unexpected direction. He would NOT attempt extended combat that way.
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:iconthewriteroffantasy:
TheWriterOfFantasy Featured By Owner Jan 24, 2014
There's merely a difference between you and me. I work on the premise of superhuman abilities and a different world. You work on the premise of what humans can normally do in OUR world. I like the overly unbelievable to be made to work. I know getting the reader into it will not be easy, but it's so clear in my mind, and it's that clarity that I will try to the best of my ability to convey. I know footwork is important in martial arts. But the whole concept takes the idea of the weapon being an extension of the body to a new (and fairly ludicrous, I know) level. He moves fast, swiftly and deadly, not impeded by his blades, having trained exstensivelly and achieved perfect balance and all other abilities needed to grip them with his toes and move around with them.

This isn't a matter of research. I know One Piece is a fairly exagerated example, but think about it. Many of the people there have ridiculous abilities, most not doing anything to abide to laws of physics. People survive the most severe blows (like a 10 ton bat right in the face) and the whole world is unlike anything in our "normal" world. I know it's fairly easier to get such things across to the reader when one can draw. One doesn't have to worry about descriptions and all. But I bet Eichiro Oda had everything planned out for the abilities when he introduced them. Even though the reader don't always understand how the power works or why one would do such a thing (like Zoro using a third sword in his mouth. Not practical or realistic, but still cool. And there are whole tribes of people with two elbows joints. I don't know about you, but I've never seen that in real life) they're drawn into it and go with it. It's how that world works. It's what made it what it is.

I know taste in literature is as varied as ice cream flavors, and it seems that what I'm writing simply isn't for you. You wouldn't be one of my readers because you don't like my setting of a supernatural world with abilities and fights defying the normal laws of physics. But that's how I'm doing it, and I'm not doing it otherwise. For one thing, the whole story would go bust if I changed those aspects. It wouldn't be the same. It couldn't be the same. Everything I've written so far would have to be scrapped. NOT GONNA HAPPEN! I'm ok with editing stuff and all. I know that'll happen. But if I'm to do what you're saying I might as well delete the entire story and write a completely different one.

Now, let me just say I'm not trying to show any disrespect. Like I said, I know taste in literature is varied. If I come across as arrogant, disrespectful, etc. etc. then I'm sorry. I'm just speaking my mind (or rather, typing it). But I think we can agree that we both have different views on what a good story is and what's necessary to write one. Of course, if I was to write something based on the real world and human beings as they are in the real world, then the research you speak of would be more than nescessary. But let me ask you this: Have you ever watched movies with Jackie Chan? He pulls of the weirdest stunts, many dangerous, and in bloopers you can often see him hurting himself as he's trying to perform a martial arts move. He does things in unconventional ways, and some would say (I certainly would) that in real life he'd be toast! When he starts improvising with a horseshoe on the end of a rope, using chairs to block weapons and catch a blade between his bare hands he's begging for something to go wrong! The character he plays is improvising and has no experience doing such things. By your deffinition he shouldn't be able to last in prolonged fights. Yet he does, and the watchers go along with it. That's how Jackie Chan does it. It's impractical and unrealistic, and in he real world he'd be dead (and he nearly has killed himself sometimes during movie shoots), but anyone watching the movie will overlook that because the film-makers and Jackie Chan (along with some clever editing from the editors) make it work and look good.

In short, practical or impractial, realistic or not, it's about how you manage to present it. Is it good enough to make the viewer/reader overlook the flaws and go along with it? Will they be taken in by the fact that this is how it works in this setting? That is what I'm going for. Might be a tad ambitious, but that's still my goal. If I fail, then that's that. It wasn't good enough. But that doesn't mean I won't do what I can. I've still got quite a bit of writing and editing left, and, like I said before, you don't seem to be someone who enjoys that kind of writing, so I don't expect you to read it. But your taste is your taste, not mine. You can probably enjoy things I get bored with and vice-versa. I hope you find many things you'll enjoy to read in the future :)
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:iconlytrigian:
Lytrigian Featured By Owner Jan 24, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
The main character of my own series has what you might call superhuman powers, but that doesn't mean he can break the laws of physics or arbitrarily alter his anatomy. You yourself admit that your example is ludicrous. I try to avoid ludicrousness. When I want the reader to take a situation seriously, it does not do to make them laugh instead. One Piece isn't really a good example, because from what I've seen of it it's largely to be taken with tongue firmly in cheek. A guy fighting with a sword in his mouth is supposed to be ludicrous. That's not what I'm going for. It's not what they were going for in my own manga example either.

If that's what you want in your own work, fine, but it had better be damned funny.

Jackie Chan isn't a good example for you. As you note, he does his own stunts, but he actually does them. They are never physically impossible. They're merely improbable, in that the films show him getting it right the first time when as the out-takes show us that's really, really unlikely, and the impracticality of it derives from the unlikelihood. I have no problem with a character who's able to do really improbable things the first time he tries them -- although I'd tend to resist him getting absolutely everything right the first time. Characters like that are boring.

Chan, to his credit, almost never engages in "wire-fu" in movies he himself choreographs. (Maybe it's absolutely never, but I haven't seen all his films. There was a bit of it in Forbidden Kingdom, but that wasn't his choreography.) THAT is breaking the laws of physics, and is something I won't do either.
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(1 Reply)
:icondorianharper:
DorianHarper Featured By Owner Jan 23, 2014  Professional Writer
I think there's a difference between short sentences and telling sentences. The two examples you gave were "telling", not necessarily short. You still can use short sentences to show detail and not just tell-- there's always a balance.
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:iconthewriteroffantasy:
TheWriterOfFantasy Featured By Owner Jan 23, 2014
Yeah, I did mention that it's a tricky balance as well.
I wasn't aware that those examples were fully "telling." I thought they were "showing" since I'm "showing" that two people clash swords or someone is firing a gun, just without a lot of detail. But I've never been very good at the technical things of anything. I hardly know the difference between an adjective and a verb... I just write. That's what I do.
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:icondorianharper:
DorianHarper Featured By Owner Jan 23, 2014  Professional Writer
Telling is when you come out and essentially tell the audience what's happening. (Hence the term "telling" :XD:) "Their swords clashed over and over" is telling the audience what's happening, instead of showing it happening. An example of showing something like this would be to have the fight scene going on and describing or having the swords clash multiple times while the fight is going on (perhaps dialogue between, etc.). In this case, it would be a steady build up-- though there are ways to do it through showing, as well.
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:iconrlkirkland:
rlkirkland Featured By Owner Jan 23, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
A profoundly helpful bit of a gloriously useful series. Thank you. :sun:
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:icondorianharper:
DorianHarper Featured By Owner Jan 23, 2014  Professional Writer
:heart:
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:iconbrietta-a-m-f:
brietta-a-m-f Featured By Owner Jan 22, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist

Great article!

 

If I lean anywhere, it is probably toward the realm of rambley. Somtimes I write like I verbally tell stories, and you can ask anyone who's my verbal stories, I can get into more detail and back story than is strictly necessary. :blushes: (I'll make a wonderful grandmother someday!)

 

When I'm writing, I usually control my pacing by using varied sentence structure and judging whether an extra detail is necessary or if it simply bogs things down. Sometimes, if I have a good deal of backstory to cover, I utilize character dialogue to discuss the important elements without needing to go in depth. It makes the backstory go a little faster and provides a double opportunity to let the reader know how the characters feel about it. The trick is not to rely on it too much and turn the device into a cop out.

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:icondorianharper:
DorianHarper Featured By Owner Jan 23, 2014  Professional Writer
Thank you :love:

I definitely agree with the dialogue being used to get the back story out. It falls under showing in a way, since you the author aren't directly telling the reader what's going on, your characters are through the story. It serves well for getting some information out that may not be able to be expressed otherwise.

Sometimes I think it's easier to edit in the end when it's too rambley to some degree :giggle: Then it's just finding the spots to cut out and polish up instead of having to flesh everything out (especially if too much telling is a problem and it seems finished). At least from personal experience!
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:iconbrietta-a-m-f:
brietta-a-m-f Featured By Owner Jan 24, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
For sure. Whenever I have to flesh something out, I usually end up totally re-writing it and ending up with something unrecognizable from what it started out. :blushes:
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:iconpaulyhart:
paulyhart Featured By Owner Jan 22, 2014
hey this is a really great article. it was a little difficult to read with all the .gifs, but good writing nonetheless. so, i would like to answer the second and the fourth question as they most affect me at this stage in my writing career.

snap! no first question? yes, i don't think it applies to me.

second question answered: yes. yes i have struggled with showing. i am in the middle of my first novel "by the gates of the garden of eden" (around 60,000 words) and often find myself wanting to cut it short - just to get to an exciting part. my wife has cautioned me against this to some degree and i always reply: "i can flesh it out later". and this is true. i'm pounding out the story of my protagonist but i am using a short-cut and need to stop.

and yet this is my first real story. i am an author of many short stories and 1500 poems and songs, but this is the first time that i have ever really applied myself for any length of time to one common theme, one idea, one great picture. it's tough but i think that if i continue to push myself to show more and tell less, i will reap the benefit of a satisfied readership.

fourth question answered: ah pacing. i imagined that it would be rough at first to write a good pace for my book but i found it quite easy. i am telling it first person non-omniscient, so it comes as the protagonist experiences it... and yet... when it came to action i was flustered. i realized early on in my movie-watching that sometimes the most dramatic events take place in slow motion (think neo and the bullet-time bullet dodge on the rooftop culminating in trinities famous "dodge this").

slow motion writing is how i want every action scene to play out. c.s. lewis invented the trick: "just then, several things happened all at once", and i can probably employ that once or twice and get away with it, but i want more than just a bunch of related occurrences. i want the reader to hear the singing of the freshly-drawn katana and the whoosh of it in the morning spring air and the crisp slickt of the silk garment snapping as the other swordsman dodges. i want to slow it all down and i think that i am learning that very thing. i just want to get better at it.

so. ok! again, thanks for the article!

-pauly hart
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:icondorianharper:
DorianHarper Featured By Owner Jan 23, 2014  Professional Writer
Thank you :love:

I wish you the best with your novel! It's definitely a crazy experience and getting it all polished and ready to go, but it's worth it in the end. Having a grasp on pacing naturally will definitely help in the slush pile if you're going towards traditional publishing, too. You'd be surprised how many manuscripts come through that are all tell and no show!
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:iconvyasnir:
Vyasnir Featured By Owner Jan 22, 2014
This reminded me of a lesson with Details vs. Importance and how a simple land mark that would only be used in one chapter would only have a sentence or two to describe it, while a main setting in a story might have a page to it self an have and more in depth details added later on.
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:icondorianharper:
DorianHarper Featured By Owner Jan 22, 2014  Professional Writer
:nod:

It's always best to keep pushing towards the greater goal! I think that's the key to showing vs. telling in the end, really. How important is it to the overall plot and does it really move the story along. Then, depending, one or the other works better :D
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:iconcogexkin:
Cogexkin Featured By Owner Jan 22, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
Thanks so much! There's a lot here that I needed a refesher on. The gifs were a nice touch too. :)
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:icondorianharper:
DorianHarper Featured By Owner Jan 22, 2014  Professional Writer
:heart:

Thank you!
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:iconbalunstormhands:
BalunStormhands Featured By Owner Jan 22, 2014
I am bad at setting the pacing in the first draft of a scene, but that's what the edit phase is for. 

Viewing the scene through a camera lens is good advice, but I have been using the advice of what is the POV character feeling, what are their physical reactions to what is happening to them? I have found this can really bring a reader into the story.
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:icondorianharper:
DorianHarper Featured By Owner Jan 22, 2014  Professional Writer
:nod:

I think that's good advice, too-- particularly for 1st person POV. In 3rd person, we wouldn't really be getting the interior of what the character is feeling as much thought-wise, but the physical reactions are what are key. So much is told through the physical to learn about what's going on inside that doesn't need to be said. I think that's one of the big things a lot of new writers need to learn and try out. Like one one example I gave, instead of saying that "he is mad", seeing the physical reaction that he is mad makes it so much more powerful.
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:iconbalunstormhands:
BalunStormhands Featured By Owner Jan 22, 2014
You can do it in third person as long as you are using an omniscient or limited omniscient narrator. 

Indeed. Instead of saying "he is mad" describe the color of his red face, the thinness of his lips, how his holds his fists and the set of his shoulders, will allow the reader to see what we is happening to the character. 
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:icondelta-13:
Delta-13 Featured By Owner Jan 22, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
Oh god this is my biggest struggle when it comes to writing. I am horrible at pacing. I have been told that I am too fast and I don't take the proper amount of time to introduce my world or set up the scene. I just like to jump into the important part of the scene and go from there. I also struggle a lot with show vs. tell. My main problem is that I often few description as something that is necessary but not necessarily organic so I usually list the important features of a room and/or person without organically working it into the scene. I usually start a scene with a ton of description and then nothing is ever described again and there is a load of dialogue or internal dialogue. No one has really given me advise on how to deal with my show vs. tell problem.

I actually use internal dialogue as a way to pace a scene. I'm not sure if it's a good trick, but it often helps me slow a scene down. I also like to use short sentences not only for dialogue, but to highlight an important idea or an important point.

Great article! I love the gifs. ^_^
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:iconbrietta-a-m-f:
brietta-a-m-f Featured By Owner Jan 22, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist

One piece of advice I might give on the how would be to have descriptions of the setting or person shown through interactions with the characters.

 

For instance, instead of saying "The room had one window and curtain, and there was a comfortable chair in the corner facing the tv."

 

Try something like this: "John opened the curtain to let the sunlight shine through the one window in the room. Slowly, tired from work, he shuffled to his favorite armchair in the corner and sat down. With a sigh, he turned on the tv and let his mind sink into numb relaxation."

 

The latter slows it down some and gets your description and action at the same time. If you like dialogue or internal dialogue, have the characters think about their surroundings. From the second example above, John could look down and pick at the frayed threads on the chair's cushion and wonder if he should be a new one.

 

That's just my two cents, hope it helps! :)

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:icondelta-13:
Delta-13 Featured By Owner Jan 25, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
Thank you so much for your advise! It is incredibly helpful and I'll definitely try and use it in my writing.
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