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Author Topic: The Relation Between Pacing and Conflicts  (Read 687 times)

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Offline Philosotaku

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The Relation Between Pacing and Conflicts
« on: August 24, 2016, 02:17:27 PM »
I've always been interested in the inner workings of writing and I have a few ideas on how different aspects of writing relate to one another. So I thought I might bust out an idea I've been working on and see if anyone else agrees.

The relation between pacing and conflicts can be summarized with a simple rule of thumb:
"For any case with two or more conflicts, the less distance there is between subsequent conflicts the more the pacing of a story/scene increases. Likewise adding more distance between conflicts will cause the pacing of a story/scene to decrease."

Simple application follows: if I have a story with five subsequent conflicts and these conflicts are spread out over the course of five chapters then each chapter will explore each conflict from start to resolution. As a result the pace of the story will decrease as a whole as more time is allocated to exploring each conflict. On the flip side if I were to jam five conflicts all into one chapter then that chapter is going to move faster in order to resolve each conflict in less allotted time.

This is also really good advice for pacing a fight scene (which I do a lot of). When you have two characters going at it you can think of the entire scene as a series of conflicts and resolutions. If you add more conflicts within a smaller space the action of the scene increases and this gives off the perception that the scene is moving faster. Likewise you can slow the fight down by adding a standoff where the conflicts from before the break are given some time before the next set come into play. This gives the perception that the scene has slowed down.

That about sums it up. Anyway, it's really only a working theory but I'd really like to know if it makes sense to anyone else. Thoughts?
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Offline NO1SY

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Re: The Relation Between Pacing and Conflicts
« Reply #1 on: September 02, 2016, 09:11:13 AM »
It's an interesting rule to assign to pacing related to conflict when writing.

However, it assumes that conflict is the only thing that is contributing to pacing in the scenario, which is almost never the case.

Consider the other contributing factors:

Time skips, character developments and relationship forming, obtaining an item, exploring an area/gaining knowledge, monologues and info-dumping etc.

For instance, if on one page, two characters meet for the first time and are cautious of one another and don't show any signs of trust, then a couple of pages later they act like best friends without seemingly having shared any major experiences or facing an ordeal together or even sharing advice... it speeds up the pacing (often detrimentally - I'm looking at you Star Wars Epsiode VII...)

Even Deus Ex Machinas and other Deus Ex's can increase the pace by forcing conclusions to things or forcing scenarios in early.

But really, a story should have a flow and the pacing should follow that flow and enhance it. During combat, you most likely want that pace to increase to create a sense of urgency and dynamics. However, in the lead up you may want to slow things down by taking a look at inner feelings of both parties and after you may want to consider the consequences of the skirmish.

A story that is just one fight after the other with no real weight behind the conflict - no build up, no aftermath, no emotion or anything ends up being rather boring a lot of the time (Bleach, Naruto, probably 1000s of others...). Even within a singular conflict, if a punch seems effortless for no good reason other than lazy writing then what's it actually contributing to the story. But if you slow down the pace just for a moment to show that they are putting their entire body behind that punch and it's putting strain on all their muscles and it's tugging at their heart-strings... well then, in that moment, during that fight where you picked up the pace, that punch means something.

Writing is a balancing act with these kind of things and I would recommend writing what comes naturally rather than assigning formulae and rules to avoid stories becoming one dimensional.

Offline Philosotaku

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Re: The Relation Between Pacing and Conflicts
« Reply #2 on: September 02, 2016, 10:11:46 AM »
It's an interesting rule to assign to pacing related to conflict when writing.

However, it assumes that conflict is the only thing that is contributing to pacing in the scenario, which is almost never the case.

Consider the other contributing factors:

Time skips, character developments and relationship forming, obtaining an item, exploring an area/gaining knowledge, monologues and info-dumping etc.

Actually, the rules is only the relation between pacing and conflicts. Certainly there are other ways to increase or decrease the pacing but this is just a general rule dealing with conflicts.

Although any of the things you mentioned might be able to be worked into the rule. For instance, a time skip can increase the pacing because it decreases the amount of time between two conflicts (the conflicts before the time skip and the conflicts after the time skip). Even Deus Ex Machina would resolve conflicts earlier meaning the next one that crops up would come faster.

Quote
But really, a story should have a flow and the pacing should follow that flow and enhance it. During combat, you most likely want that pace to increase to create a sense of urgency and dynamics. However, in the lead up you may want to slow things down by taking a look at inner feelings of both parties and after you may want to consider the consequences of the skirmish.

A story that is just one fight after the other with no real weight behind the conflict - no build up, no aftermath, no emotion or anything ends up being rather boring a lot of the time (Bleach, Naruto, probably 1000s of others...). Even within a singular conflict, if a punch seems effortless for no good reason other than lazy writing then what's it actually contributing to the story. But if you slow down the pace just for a moment to show that they are putting their entire body behind that punch and it's putting strain on all their muscles and it's tugging at their heart-strings... well then, in that moment, during that fight where you picked up the pace, that punch means something.

Sure, there are effective ways of using increased pacing or decreased pacing. I'm not saying that's not the case. Mmm, I guess I should clarify that when I think of a fight I see it as a series of mini-conflicts all working up to the conclusion of the larger conflict (which is the conflict between the two characters which initiated the fight and the fight must conclude). Slowing down the punch wouldn't discredit the rule because the extra time you take to slow it down increases the distance between the first conflict (getting attacked via the punch) and the next (whatever skirmish happens afterward). It's more my definition of a conflict, I suppose.

Quote
Writing is a balancing act with these kind of things and I would recommend writing what comes naturally rather than assigning formulae and rules to avoid stories becoming one dimensional.

There are many ways to skin a cat. If writing free-form is what works for some then do what works. I happen to like a bit of technical finesse in my writing--makes it easier to keep track of all the nuanced details and you can play with all the various aspects when the patterns between them defined. It's possible to have a lot of technical rules (rather than rules about what the substance of the writing should be) and produce a variety of well-rounded texts using them. It just depends on what the rules are and how skilled you are at applying them.
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Offline Mafioso55565

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Re: The Relation Between Pacing and Conflicts
« Reply #3 on: September 02, 2016, 10:26:23 AM »
In all honesty I think you are mislabling what pacing conflicts is, it is not a rule more a mechanic of writing that is prevalant regardless of intention. What you said is true I just felt calling it a mechanic of writing rather than a rule is more the appropriate term.
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Offline Philosotaku

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Re: The Relation Between Pacing and Conflicts
« Reply #4 on: September 02, 2016, 10:56:06 AM »
In all honesty I think you are mislabling what pacing conflicts is, it is not a rule more a mechanic of writing that is prevalent regardless of intention. What you said is true I just felt calling it a mechanic of writing rather than a rule is more the appropriate term.

Sure, that's fair enough.
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Offline legomaestro

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Re: The Relation Between Pacing and Conflicts
« Reply #5 on: September 02, 2016, 11:03:20 AM »
I'd have to agree with that, since pacing or conflict appears in every story regardless of how well it is done.  But I agree with how things change depending on how much happens.

I do want to add though that pacing does need to be controlled, rather than just saying 'fast pacing is best!' and 'slow pacing is evil!' There needs to be a balance. Sometimes that slo mo punch is awesome, or that epic long dialogue before the final fight, and sometimes a time skip to reveal characters with epic new characters is much needed.

More than anything from a writing standpoint focusing on pacing would be looking at the wrong thing for me. I just try to see if the readers can follow what is happening rather than trying to 'pace' things just right.

Offline Philosotaku

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Re: The Relation Between Pacing and Conflicts
« Reply #6 on: September 02, 2016, 12:12:26 PM »
Yeah, I think it was just the language I used that made it a bit confusing. The rule is more of a mechanic of writing than a position someone takes toward writing itself.

Obviously pacing should fit the piece. Different pieces require different pacing at different places to smooth the story over.

I also like lego's point that pacing shouldn't be the focus of writing. This was just a strange thing I found that I wanted to share and see if anyone else thought it worked as well. Maybe if you're trying to perfect the pacing just right this thought could be useful. If not, well, that just is.
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Offline Mafioso55565

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Re: The Relation Between Pacing and Conflicts
« Reply #7 on: September 02, 2016, 01:02:44 PM »
Nah what you said is definitley useful and applicable im just a language nazi i guess, sorry...either way you word it the subject remains the same, i was just saying that because some people may misconstrue what you said. Pacing shouyldnt be the focus but it is something you need to focus on when writing a story. Just as you check grammer and spelling, checking pacing is important
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Offline Grimmjagger

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Re: The Relation Between Pacing and Conflicts
« Reply #8 on: December 30, 2016, 02:59:34 PM »
I have a bit of adjusting to the pacing of Mangas I write and people can't always understand the conflict I'm going to, could you tell me how much contents is there to add to point A unto resolving the main conflict?