Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Let’s Talk about Writing: Part Two – Pacing, Language & Dialogue

Continuing in my three-part series focused on getting back to the basics of writing, in my last post I focused on the story basics of developing a clear plot and strong characters. 

Once you have identified these story basics, it’s time to begin the actual writing.  The very first paragraph needs to capture the reader's interest right away. You don't want to take a long time to build up the action. If you introduce the protagonist's problem or goal right away, you will jump right into the action without having to overthink it.
Just as your high school English teacher told you, a strong first sentence should "hook" the reader. The best type of sentence surprises the reader, or makes him or her curious to know more.

Building tension and creating conflict keep the reader engaged in the story and its characters. There are many ways to build suspense and heighten tension.

The most obvious way is when your character attempts to solve a problem for the first time and fails. As your character continues to try and solve their problem, remember that Pacing is important to a story. If your story moves too slowly, your reader will lose interest. If it moves too fast, it will lack tension. You need to focus on your character, the character's emotions, and moving toward the story's climax. You don't want to spend pages on needless dialogue and an excess of description. But you also don't want to throw action scene after action scene at the reader. You want to give the reader time to absorb the action and its implications. 

Just when it seems like all is lost for your character, this heightened tension is your story's climax. There are several ways to create tension: Allow the reader to know something that the protagonist does not, shorten the deadline of when the goal must be achieved or you could give the protagonist an inner conflict that interferes with his or her solving the main problem.  Remember that good tension adds drama to your writing, but don’t overdo it and cause fatigue in the reader. 

Being a writer is a delicate balance.  Your use of language brings your story to life. The way your character uses language says a lot about him or her as well. If your character approaches his school and calls it a prison, then he or she sees it much differently from another character that views school as his or her private sanctuary away from home.  The way your character describes others tells the reader about his or her attitudes — whom he respects, admires, detests, or distrusts. We can tell if your character is intelligent and witty, or dull and withdrawn. Even a small word change can make a huge impact.

Besides making sure that your pacing is effective and your language descriptive, you need to write dialogue that sounds natural. Each character has a particular way of speaking, including repeated phrases that are unique to him or her. Check your dialogue by reading it aloud to ensure it sounds like natural speech.  Poorly written dialogue can detract from the overall writing. 

...my next and final post will explore the climax and conclusion of your story.

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