Posted in books, creative writing, reading, writing, writing advice, writing thoughts, writing tips

Pacing that keeps the reader engaged

A story’s pacing needs to be consistent enough to keep readers engaged while providing all the ups and downs that create a realistic story rhythm. Below are some tips for strong pacing.

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  1. Plan with pacing in mind: Start at the outline level and make sure every scene has some element of conflict/reveal/resolution.
  2. Vary your conflict/reveal/resolution: Not every scene needs to be high intensity. Vary the sources and level or conflict/reveal/resolution in successive scenes, but make sure to keep building toward the climax. Utilize quieter scenes for reflection or understanding important details.
  3. Pace at the word and sentence level: Make sure your word choice and sentence structure match the pacing. Short, quick sentences with simpler words set a faster pace. Longer, more complex sentences using a bigger vocabulary slow the pacing.
  4. Use details appropriately: Sections of narrative with a lot of detail slow the pacing, which works well for scenes of internal reflection, revelation, or self-discovery. Use limited details in fast paced scenes to keep the action or conflict going.
  5. Highlight important moments through pacing: Using sustaining a faster pace builds to a important moments of action, revelation, or excitement. Slow the pace leading into moments of introspection, cueing readers into its importance.
  6. Critically evaluated scene elements: Ask what is the goal of this scene? Does the pacing serve the goal? What is detracting from the desired pacing? Remove elements that don’t match the pacing, such as extraneous dialogue (small talk, rambling), unnecessary details, extended character thoughts that are off topic, etc.

Consider where your scene is in the rise and fall of the plot arc and make sure the pacing matches its position. If the scene is flatlining and not moving the story forward, cut or rewrite it to better match its purpose.

Posted in books, contemporary romance, romance, writing, writing advice, writing tips

Things to consider when writing intimate scenes

Writing intimate scenes, whether they involve a first kiss or sex, should be natural and progress with both the character’s nature and the overall storyline. These types of scenes should impact the characters in some way. If it doesn’t change anything, it either needs to be rewritten, moved, or gotten rid of entirely.

Romantic couple in a hotel room

The intensity of intimate scenes should not detract from the storyline. Take care to lead the reader into the scene with a building intensity, then guide them back down to the main focus of the storyline. If readers only care about the intimate scenes and skim the bulk of the story, either the story is too weak or the intimate scenes are too overpowering.

When describing what takes place during intimate scenes, especially in sex scenes, sometimes less is more and it’s best to let the reader fill in the details. That doesn’t mean you should skimp on the details, particularly sensory details, but give the reader room to craft an intimate scene to their own preferences by not being overly descriptive of every second.

Many writers find it challenge to find new ways or words to use when writing intimate scenes. It is key that these scenes not feel like they were copied and pasted from an earlier scene. Ways to accomplish this is often more about the details surrounding the scene than the actual act. Choose different settings so the description and sensory information is more varied. Change how a couple progresses toward an intimate scene. A kiss or sex after a romantic dinner is going to be much different than right after a soul-bearing admission or a fight. This gives new opportunities for internal dialogue and emotion.

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When it comes to word choice, don’t be afraid to use standard terminology. Getting too creative with euphemisms can be distracting for readers. Instead, focus on motions and actions involved, and the characters’ responses. Describing where an arm or leg is isn’t what gets most readers attention. The response to where that kiss or finger is placed is what readers pay attention to and want more of. The reader wants to feel what the characters feel much more than they want a diagram of what went where.

Incorporate agency into these scenes to avoid objectifying either sex or treating characters as passive bystanders. In most cases, both characters should be responding to the other’s needs and actions rather than expressing themselves “at” the other person. There should be a give and take in both physical action and mental/emotional responses.

Structure an intimate scene just a you would any other story or scene: foreplay, action, climax, wind down. Whether the characters move through this arc quickly or slowly depends on the circumstances. Regardless, it’s important to hit all points of the arc. Lead into the moment as slowly as is fitting to buildup the reader’s anticipation. Begin the action and capture the characters’ thoughts and reactions to each action. Hit the climax on multiple levels, not just physical. Slowly bring the reader back to the storyline as the scenes concludes with a hint or lead-in to what’s coming next or the repercussions of what just happened.

Keep the focus of intimate scenes on what they mean to the characters and how it impacts them more so than just description of what went where.

Sensual attractive couple