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114003 No. 114003
#Discussion #Lesson
Part 1: Overlying Arc

Pacing is the concept of controlling the intensity of your story and the speed of the actions in it to create a comfortable and entertaining experience. If you’ve ever had a book or movie that you can’t put down, that isn’t a result of fast pacing, that’s a result of perfect pacing. What people don’t realize is that there is more or less one way to pace a story, and all popular/well written movies and stories use that pacing curve.

That pacing curve is the picture on the side of the post, which is set up following the plot of Star Wars: Episode IV: A New Hope. That was a movie that despite being scifi in an unfavorable era and having mediocre actors, managed to become extremely popular because it had near perfect pacing.

Let’s step back and look at the graph. It goes up and down, ranging between moments of tension, and moments of rest. But it has one particularly sharp spike in the beginning. That sharp spike is the sudden action that you use to grab the viewer’s attention, but after it, you should have a low moment of rest, where you properly establish characters, setting, and the overarcing conflict. Following that, you see a steadily growing curve which goes back and forth from moments of high intensity and rest, before hitting the final climax and falling back down again.

See, despite the notion that constant action in a movie or book can be a good thing, the fact is, that the reader will become acclimated to that level of excitement, and it will no longer be exciting anymore because the reader uses that level of excitement as a baseline. A state of constant excitement is just mentally exhausting to our minds, and therefore should be avoided.

So how do you balance between these moments of rest and moments of tension? Well, below is a list of what rest and tension is in a few different genres:

In Romance, moments of high tension can be drama, sex, or a lover’s quarrel. These are counter-balanced by moments of rest, in which you have actual romance, fluff, cuddling, you know, the light-hearted stuff. The most common mistake with romance in this fandom, is that the writers only write the light hearted stuff. That just isn’t interesting to a lot of readers, and it doesn’t make the relationship as dynamic or compelling.
In Comedy, moments of high tension are the punchlines, the humorous scenarios, the part where the reader is chuckling, or outright holding their sides. These are counter-balanced by moments of story building, mundane activities leading up to the humorous scenarios, or basically any sort of set up you need to tell your jokes. The most common mistake with comedy in this fandom, is that the writers of it try to pump out jokes so rapidly, that the quality of their jokes is average, and we reach the issue where we become acclimated to humor itself.
In Adventure, moments of high tension are wild encounters with dangerous monsters, accidental springing of traps, and battles in which armies clash. These are counter-balanced by moments around a campfire, arriving at a new town and staying at an inn, or sitting behind castle walls and waiting to make the next move. The most common mistake here, is either the absence of the first spike, or it’s too confusing and stretches on too long. Authors spend too much time trying to world build at the start of their story, but we don’t care about your world building unless you first let us know exciting things are going to happen in this world.
In Horror, the moments of high tension are monsters or murderers that pop out of the darkness, caves or bridges collapsing and giving the character a near death experience. These are counter-balanced by moments of building tension with slow walks through a misty marsh, or creeping through a dark skeletal forest at night. The most common mistake I see with horror in this fandom, is people not reading it, and people not writing it. Come on! Fluttershy is the perfect horror story character!

The frequency of our wave-like arc, and the volume of each dip and peak, depends solely on A) The genre you’re trying to tell, and B) The story you’re trying to tell within that genre. But regardless of genre, any story that holds your attention has to have pacing which fluctuates between moments of rest and moments of excitement.
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>> No. 114004
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Part 2: Tessellation

The weird thing about the above mentioned pacing, is that it repeats itself infinitely as you go down each level of detail. Each scene, and each part of each scene, should follow a similar type of pacing as shown on the graph of this post.

This is how the tessellation works: the opening chapter of any story should have a great start that holds the reader attention, and like the graph in the above post, fluctuates from moments of tension to moments of rest. The graph in part 1, is made up entirely of the graph in this post repeating, and if you ignore the squigglyness of the graph in part one, its overall shape is the shape of the graph in this part.

So what this means, is the entire story should more or less follow the pacing outline of this graph. But you get even better pacing, if you subdivide the arc into more smaller arcs, like in the graph of part 1.

But why stop there?

If you go even deeper, and make each scene follow the outline of graph one, you can make your scenes have good pacing, the small arcs and dips, and the rising action being the events and dialogue that happens within a single scene. This is the effect of tessellation pacing. And if you take it even a step further, you can have your sentences follow the pacing arc. This is what a reviewer means if they want you to vary your sentence structure/length more. It means you have bad sentence pacing, which makes your writing stilted.

When you write multiple lines of dialogue with no with no attribution, you get this effect of quick, high action, back and forth talking.
If you consider dialogue a point of tension, then dialogue attribution is a point of rest. The tessellation pattern even exists in the english language with the pattern of varying word length in a sentence.

You can repeat, and split this pattern a ridiculous amount of times and apply it to almost anything that’s designed for a consumer. Car design, video games, art. It’s a universal pattern that coincides with how our brain fundamentally works.

How can you work to achieve good pacing in your story?

Start every chapter/scene with a defining sentence the same way you’d start a story with one. Have each chapter/scene have moments of rest and moments of tension, and close each one as though it were the last chapter/scene of your story. If you vary your sentence lengths and intensity, and have moments of varying plain and purple prose, your writing will come to life.
>> No. 114009
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>> No. 114010
I was just about to post that. I didn't realize I'd left it out of the OP.
>> No. 114039
Excellent guide, OP.
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