Sunday, February 13, 2011

Writing the Tide

As every tide has an ebb and flow so does the narrative. It is upon the writer to establish a strong tide that the reader can ride to it's inevitable resolution.

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.

3 comments:

Michele said...

Great post! A wave is the ultimate comparison to what we strive to achieve. We try to make it flow, yet wonder if it does to the reader. Always a learning process. Thanks for this perfect explanation. Such good info!

Murphy said...

Great analogy. When narrative is not well-paced, it can be likened to a barrage of choppy waves, ineffective and annoying for a reader to wade through. Now, framed into one large swell that sweeps the reader up - as it builds toward its crest - that's exhilarating!

Great way to connect those visual dots!

Murphy

PW.Creighton said...

Thanks for the comments Michele and Murphy! Yeah, as you can tell, I like to deleve into the deep, dark elements at the heart of everything.

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