Self-aware. Self conscious. Self induced.

Acts and Scenes

Structure identifies how we parlay dramatic tension – I think about it in terms of scenes and acts because I come to prose by way of stage plays, and conveniently it’s a common way of describing screenplays as well.

In conflict-driven stories (which is what most YA books are), we are trying to build steady interest and make sure that our readers don’t set the book down. Nevertheless, we want to give them a chance to breathe. We can’t run page after page through fights and chases and terror. It’s exhausting.


Jurassic Park III after the jump. Also, Dinosaur Comics at the link.

I have an unlikely relationship with many movies that are generally judged BAD in the court of public opinion. No one likes Tim Burton’s The Planet of the Apes. I don’t even hear people talk about White Men Can’t Jump. I liked both of these movies quiet a bit. Not coincidentally I saw both of them while living in the Czech Republic and they were a bright spot of the English language in my otherwise Czech-filled life at the time. I also saw Jurassic Park III, which, in spite of the same circumstances, felt like I was being pummeled in the face.

Structure is another way of talking about pacing.

The easy way I think about pacing is through T.V. shows. Every time the action breaks for a commercial, the writers heighten the action. Subtext: DON’T CHANGE THAT CHANNEL!

When we return from our five minutes of learning about the heart-healthy aspects of yogurt and the side-effects of several drugs (offer not applicable in every state), we’re usually still in the throes of the action, but maybe with a tension filled conversation, a chance to ease up on the throttle of our adrenalin.

I know, I know. This all sounds a little abstract. That’s why I’m going break it down for you – Joss Whedon Style.

This and more coming to you on Everyday Performance. Stay tuned.

Previous: Simple and Complex Structures

Next: Pacing


2 responses

  1. graysea

    I’m almost finished reading Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Apart from the fact that I’m amazed that I’m almost finished reading a book, (A whole book! Over 100 pages! Not written for a target audience of children!) I’ve begun to realize that most of the reason why I keep reading is due to the pacing of the dramatic action. It took Lucy like 3 or 4 visits from The Count to actually finally frikkin’ DIE… or, rather, become un-dead. Another grueling blood transfusion (which Bram Stoker expertly circumnavigates because it’s “just too gruesome,” i.e, Stoker knows nothing about medical science so let’s just skip it) and I would have lost interest. In-between poor Mina getting the life sucked out of her, we have this intensely boring search for a bunch of boxes of dirt. Seriously. Boxes of dirt. GET TO THE PART where Dracula is making her suck blood out of his chest already!!! … which totally happened. I had to sleep with a crucifix.
    Long story short: good book. dramatic pacing awesome.

    September 27, 2011 at 1:38 pm

    • Use pacing to overcome authorial ignorance! Another bonus!

      September 28, 2011 at 5:36 pm

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