Not sure where to start? Start with a hook. Something that instantly sparks the reader’s imagination. Get straight into the heart of the action in your first chapter. That way there is less chance to bore the reader. Grab them from the start and keep up the same momentum.
Slow narrativeWhen you read through the narrative and you find it seems to plod in all sorts of areas, that’s a clear indication that you need to adjust the pace of the narrative by speeding things up and giving it some balance.
Slow narrative occurs when there are few action scenes, very little conflict, not much dialogue, too much description and not enough balance. Also, prologues can make the pace become slow before you’ve even started writing the first chapter, so avoid them.You can adjust the pace of the story by adding dialogue relevant to the story, action where necessary and conflict – all of these tools help move the story forward.
Fast narrativeWhen you find the narrative running away at a blistering pace, without leaving you breathing space, that’s when you need to slow things down. This gives the reader chance to pause and reflect – and also does the same for your characters.
You can accomplish this by seeing where you could add some reflective, slower scenes while still moving the story forward – perhaps with some more dialogue. Description is a brilliant tool for slowing the pace, or perhaps you can use a flashback. These help break up the pace of the narrative and allow the reader some breathing space.Moving the story forward
This is an important part of fiction writing. You must always move the story forward. It has to have that momentum until the end. But what if you think the story isn’t going anywhere? What if it seems to have come to a halt?
There are several ways to do move the story forward:
- Reveal parts of the story through dialogue – this moves the story forward and also increases pace.
- Pivotal action scenes also help move the story along.
- Create immediacy – characterisation and good dialogue help create a sense that the reader is right there, within your story.
- Provide necessary information – in other words, use your characters to impart pertinent information about the plot/story. This can be done through their inner thoughts their actions or through dialogue.
Read your story aloud. This may sound strange, but it works wonders for your writing. That’s because you are not just reading as you normally would a novel, but you are listening to the resonance of the narrative and descriptions, you are listening to the dialogue, you are listening to how the whole thing sounds and flows.
You will immediately notice if the narrative doesn’t flow correctly or if it doesn’t feel right, you will instantly pick up on cheesy or irrelevant dialogue. You will notice glaring plot flaws, you will notice if you need more dialogue or description, or whether the story needs more or less pace.You will become aware of these things because we don’t always detect them when simply reading to ourselves.
Need a way of keeping the reader interested?Cliffhangers. The art of a good story is not only being able to tell a good story, but also the art of teasing the reader at every available opportunity. That means leaving a little teaser at the end of each chapter, something that makes the reader want to turn the page and find out more.
Always engage the reader wherever possible. You employ the same tactic at the end of key scenes too.Plant information
It doesn’t have to be over the top, but planting simple, subtle hints for the reader keeps their curiosity brewing, something they will know or become aware of further into the story, (but the character won’t). This keeps the reader’s interest firmly on the story.Too much dialogue
Too much dialogue usually means some characters are talking irrelevant rubbish. The consequence of this is that it doesn’t move the story forward. Cut out the extraneous dialogue and replace with description, action or conflict to balance things up.The Big Sleep
Are you in danger of sending your reader into a deep sleep with a story that seems limp and uninspiring? If so, then your story needs action and conflict. Certainly no story can be a story without conflict of some sort – this is what drives the characters and the story.
Ensure you have the right balance of action scenes and conflict between characters. Entertain your reader, don’t bore them.Always remember that your story needs conflict, action, dialogue, description and pace, and above all, you must always move the story forward.
Next week: Varying the narrative to avoid too much 'he said/she said'.