Sunday, February 13, 2011
Narrative pacing is no different than waves in the ocean, each consists of a multitude of variables that determine the shape, size and power of that wave. A simple change in one variable and the wave is broken, the narrative falls.
At the core a wave has two primary components; the crest and the trough. In narrative guise these are the conflict and the resolution. The power of these elements is what will establish the narrative to the reader, drive them to pick up the book or pass it by in the store.
Diving deeper we find that both the crest and the trough have multiple sub-elements that create the illusion of two solid elements.
While the crest is the core conflict, it is also born of three driving forces; the strength of force, the distance crossed (the Fetch) and the duration.
Establishing the strength of force, the motive, for a character establishes how grand the wave will rise to for the conflict. Was a loved one murdered? Did a husband cheat? This component will establish just how strong the conflict will resound through the narrative.
The Fetch or distance crossed will echo the events that the character endures to reach the conflict. As the events unfold there is a steady climb towards the conflict with each piece playing an integral role in the escalation.
As the motive establishes the conflict and the Fetch unfolds the events that build the conflict, the duration of the events can often cause a mis-step. Too few events and the motive loses impact, too many and the conflict will be weakened, hidden among the events of the Fetch.
When the elements merge together the rise to the inevitable crest, a powerful and poignant moment that establishes the strength of the narrative. As the the narrative reaches its crest it begins it's descent into the ultimate resolution or trough.
As in any resolution there is the descent from the crest and the impact. The descent creates the shape of the resolution. It blends together the events that led to the conflict and prepares the reader for the impact. Providing that the components shaped a strong wave, the impact will leave the reader with a satisfying conclusion as the wave breaks upon the shore. Just as readily the reader will anticipate the next wave as the wave withdraws in preparation for the next.
A strong narrative tide has the ability to carry your reader through or leave them adrift.