by A P VON K’ORY
Certain things come easy to every author, and other things come hard. Pace comes easy to me. When a paragraph or chapter drags along, I somehow sense it when editing and revising. Most writers do, especially when you read your own work as a “reader”.
Pace is the amount of time you spend on each part of the story. The Goldilocks Principle applies to pace – it should be neither too fast nor too slow, but just right. There isn’t any tidy little rule you can memorise to define what the perfect pace is for a story. A general rule is to vary the pace to suit the tension in the scene. So most often, you’ll want to zip through the boring parts of the story and take more time on the exciting parts. That seems very strange, right? If you’re showing a high-speed car chase, surely you’d want to make it read fast, wouldn’t you? Which means using fewer words, right?
Yes and no.
Yes, you want it to read fast. But no, you don’t want to spend fewer words on it, you want more. There’s really no paradox here. Think of a football game in which one of the players makes a huge play, dodging first one defender, then another, all the way down the field, finally dancing into the end zone for a score. What happens next? You can bet your manuscript that the networks are going to show the whole thing again, this time in slow motion, dragging out every twist, turn, footwork a la Kylian Mbappé, and all the way down the field. Showing it in slow motion takes a lot longer, but it doesn’t cut the pace. It increases the pace.
Because when the play ran at normal speed, you missed most of the action. You saw a fellow running with the ball and you saw others missing to stop him. It all went by in a blur so fast that you couldn’t take it all in. When they ran it in super slow motion, you saw every little move, every tensing muscle, the bunching and flapping of the shirts and shorts, facial expressions and the movements of various muscles. You saw the defence response fooled and beaten, their boots sending turfs of earth and grass flying. All the way to the final kick, ball sailing through the air, the goalkeeper’s twists and turns to stop the score, and finally the ball hitting that particular part of the net, perhaps (and more exciting) hitting whatever part of the posts first before sailing into the net. You saw the last desperate flying ball just an inch from the goalkeeper’s fingers or a breath above his head to land the score.
And then the normal pace resumed.
It took ten times as long to see it in slow motion, but this time, you saw it all. You saw every action, every reaction, in beautiful, sharply cut detail. That’s what you came to see or turned on your TV to watch.
In your novel, the moral equivalent of super-slow-motion involves spending far more words than you normally would, but using much shorter sentences and shorter paragraphs. If your sentences are normally ten words apiece, they might fall to five. Or three. Or one. Or, in dialogue, by certain omissions.
You can’t keep that up very long, of course. It would be crazy to watch an entire football game in slow motion, right? You want to ramp up the pace only for the high-tension scenes, where the stakes are in Pluto. Slowing down the pace works the opposite way. Longer sentences. Longer paragraphs. Fewer actions and reactions. More interior monologue, longer dialogue.
The reader reads fiction hoping to have a Powerful Emotional Experience. Inside a scene, you provide this by showing actions and reactions between your point-of-view character and the other characters. Every time you show your POV character reacting to the other characters, you have a chance to provide an emotional hit point to your reader.
Naturally, it only makes sense to speed up the pace when the tension is high. If you try this when the tension is low, the story is going to drag. (Imagine showing the team’s pep-talk huddle in slow motion!) There are an infinite variety of paces you can use as you work through each scene. You speed it up and slow it down, possibly several times in the scene.
How do you know when you’ve got it right?
That’s easy. You’ve got it right when it feels right. Fiction is about creating a Powerful Emotional Experience in your reader. Tweak the pace until you’re doing that, and your reader will feel like Goldilocks.
Glorious pacing, fellow writers!
Blurb: Golden Shana: The Chase (Book 1)
An evening at the opera house La Scala in Milan twirled the lives of five people into a web of intrigues, heartaches, human hunts, loss and revenge.
Roman: I never chased after a woman. It was always the other way around. Then I caught a glimpse of the woman I would kneel for, at the opera, and I didn’t even know her name. But I determined to find her if it took me the rest of my life.
Shana: He stood in the room with her. The frisson in the currents freaking between them was as solid as a steel portal. The mutual force of predator and prey blasted its way into her core … her soul … Danger. Keep far away from him.
Marie: Some men were born to rule the world; others were born to ruin it. Roman Alastair Northcott Broughton Castell was born to do both. But she loved him and awaited his baby.
Alyssa: He was the lover she wouldn’t tire of. Roman had something so damned perilous about him he was addictive. Who gets addicted to safe and riskless? Not her.
Grieg/Phoenix: Had His Girl interpreted that Friday night as abuse? He’d only done what she wanted – protection of her cherished innocence.
Excerpt from Golden Shana: The Chase (Book 1)
What a difference a day makes… And it hadn’t been a day. It had been an evening in Milan. Brief moments of an evening. I didn’t care about the consequences to whomever. Through my obsession with Svadishana I became aware of the fact that I was a person. A human being, not an almighty god, with all the baggage that comes with being that. I too – eureka! – had a heart pumping white and red corpuscles through my veins. Blood, not icicles.
Was it love I felt for Svadishana? A woman I’d spoken three whiny words – Please call me! – to? Was it more than simple lust and desire? Did I want to possess more than just her body?
Pondering these questions alone was so unlike me. That woman had turned me into an alien even unto my own self. What I felt, my inner voice said, was more than the thrill of the hunt. More than lust, desire, need, passion, the excitement of possession, and subjugation.
Of course all that was part of it. But the basis or the source, the seedbed on which all that sprouted and was growing to full blossom in me, could well be something else.
When I thought of her, saw her image from Milan in my mind, watched how she moved in long smooth strides in YouTube, my brow beaded with sweat. I couldn’t pull my gaze away from the few photos I’d fished out of the Internet. Group photos at a family birthday or the authorized biography of her father. Her movements in a YouTube conference clip were springy and powerful even in their smoothness. She exuded strength all over the place, laughing, talking, gesticulating.
A breath-taking beauty. Such beauty that I dared not believe it at times.
And brains to go with it.
In love or not, I knew what I wanted and Svadishana was the answer. I wanted her and would do anything short of suicide to get her. Who knows – perhaps when it came to that as the only means available, I’d really murder too. I didn’t in the least care about the consequences, as long as they got me to where I wanted to get to.
Svadishana’s arms and knickers and… heart?
What obsession, Roman. Get back to real.
No chance. Real was Svadishana.
Blurb: Golden Shana: The Capture (Book 2)
Roman finally gets together with Shana. But he finds himself wedged between three women and the man intent on killing him because of Shana. And there’s the secret of Marie’s unborn baby.
Roman: I wanted to eat all of her. Even within that fortress I longed to erect around her to hold her captive in, to keep her away from men not worthy of the sight of her, I’d devour her.
Shana: Roman was deadly sex. She had no antigenic for immunity against him. Instead she lay there on his bed, in an impossible state of sluttish disarray, holding her breath.
Marie: “So you didn’t bring your rich old cow with you.” The bitch was ten years older than her, years older than Roman himself. Weren’t men supposed to prefer younger women?
Alyssa: She was not going to let Roman treat her like a hole in the air. He started this triangle and she was going to make it equilateral.
Grieg/Phoenix: His philosophy stated that peace was bondage, and war was freedom. His Girl was his territory, and no other man’s.
Excerpt from Golden Shana: The Capture (Book 2)
I picked her up and carried her like a bride. Or a sleeping child. She nuzzled between my neck and shoulder. I kicked the door shut behind us.
We were both ablaze, and I needed to check that, wind it down a notch.
“Like to lie down on the sofa and cuddle till we both slow down a bit?”
“Bed.” Her voice vibrated against my neck.
We left the entrance hall behind us. The flames kept on leaping.
“Overriding my sensible decision?”
“Yes. Bed.” Tremulous once, tremulous twice.
“Just got me, and you want to run away with it.” I bore her past the living room.
“I’m getting a restraining order on you.” I took the first stair, chest tight again.
She lifted her head off my shoulder and her Huskies sent megawatts to my blues. Unveiled desire. My balls clenched. At this degree I risked coming where I stood with her in my arms. I was tempted to close my eyes and summon my control. For the first time I felt life surge through my veins for a woman, the whole woman, not just sex with her. Again, I experienced that powerful instinct in me to guard and protect her, the fragile and most precious thing in my life. She had a pull on every cell in me. Her masses of loose curls gave warm slaps through my chinos to my hip, sending the sergeant into planning guerrilla warfare for its freedom.
The witch. I was hypnotized. I had to stop climbing the stairs and get my head cleared. She was as necessary to me as the air I breathed, yet she knocked that air straight out of my lungs. Her naked desire was intoxicating. Insanity mingled with reality. I really had her back in my arms. She came to me, came to my home for the first time. And ordered Bed, not a mutual shower. She was the first and only woman to take me to this Newland. She was my perfect balance. I’d fallen hard and didn’t even want to get back up. It happens to the worst of us ingrained rogue playboys.
The Huskies still pinned me in Newland. “Skirting around the deed, are we?”
“Protecting my golden goddess.”
For sheer survival, I broke the lock of our eyes and started up the stairs again.
Blurb: Golden Shana: The Untouchable (Book 3)
Roman doesn’t even want a harem. But the harem relentlessly seeks him. No sooner has Shana left Roman than Grieg/Phoenix is marking time on Roman’s door, out for a war, not a fight, over Shana. And so is Marie, whose pregnancy Roman still keeps a secret.
Roman: I loved owning women. Then I found my woman. But she would never be owned, not even by the gods. She left me. Still, her dangerous admirer and I began wars over her, not merely street fisticuffs.
Shana: Roman scares me in every way and the fear excites me. I’m brainless in his arms, brainless just from thinking about him. He makes me navigate so many labyrinthine passages and secret doors that I’d never even been aware of before. My body knelt and wept for him. My common sense made me flee from him while I could.
Marie: I sold Roman my heart and soul. Only to realise my body had not been consulted, and was therefore out for war.
Alyssa: I really got all that about Roman. The super-ink indelibility of him, the substance of him that stamped his four-figure-euro Ferragamo Oxfords, the supernatural charisma that rocketed him all the way up there with Lucifer. His square would never fit my round. But hope springs eternal, right?
Grieg: “If I have whoever your girl is, why don’t you simply come over and take me off her or her off me?” Roman had not reacted like a man who had received that damning message. Over the phone, he’d sounded as if he didn’t have a single feather ruffled. Time to start the war.
Excerpt from Golden Shana: The Untouchable (Book 3)
I heard him change the phone to the other ear. “Castell, you’re a kid running a billion-euro crib, you pervert.”
My system actually waged wars for me to jump out of my skin. Control, Castell.
“Oh, yes. I’m about as straight as the U-bend under a sink, fuckwit. So is this the problem? A pissing contest based on having some beef about your wallet being a little anorexic in comparison? Have I got that bracketed?” I heard him swallow again. I decided on a blind knock on that, although for all I knew he was drinking water. “By the way, I’d ease up on the drink. Otherwise you won’t manage to solve the square root of bugger all, let alone remember if you have any other name but Sggirb.”
“I know you right up to your fucking perve room, Castell. I delivered the CD—had the CD delivered – right into your fucking office, practically into your hands. You know nothing about me. So you better watch your smart mouth.”
“Ah, you thought you’d simply storm the Bastille that’s my home and be discreet about it, then slink into my office building and show me the dot over the i that amounts to your balls? You’re right, I know nothing about you. You’re not even in my periphery, private or public.”
“I’m not a ball of yarn to your kitten, so watch your fucking mouth, Castell!”
Just to keep him put off his stroke, “Who would you say has all the tools for annihilation, fuckwit, the kitten or the yarn?”
“You’re lucky I’m—”
“Luck is basically mythical. Reality is called chance. How about we meet?”
He said nothing.
Not good, because now that I was screwing him hard, I needed to keep up the pace. So I said, “You could make it your mud hole or you could haul your arse back here to my city. Then we roll up our sleeves, or whisk off our T-shirts. Then we start doing a little tribute to Muhammad Ali out in the Congo with Joe Frazier.”
He said nothing. I heard him swallow at intervals during the silence. “I’m rapt with attention, fuckwit Sggirb, so let’s have a date and then – to quote your countryman –you are an American – float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.”
“You think you’re so fucking cool…” He rumbled the word out long: Coooooollll…
“Oh, I don’t just think it.”
“Just keep your hands off her, Castell. Keep your hands off My Girl!”
“If I have whoever your girl is, why don’t you simply come over and take me off her or her off me?” I paused for a reply, none came. “Or is this the sheep being docile until they get utterly famished?” Another pause. Silence, so I continued, “You sound like you wouldn’t find a clitoris if you were armed with a compass, street map and a fucking NASA telescope.”
“You can’t intimidate me, Castell.”
Which only exposed to me the wound I’d ripped open in him. Time to add chilli.
BUY LINKS IN KINDLE – Please note that the books are also available in paperbacks:
UK Untouchable PB: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Golden-Shana-Untouchable-von-KOry/dp/1725967073
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Giveaway: Golden Shana: The Chase (book 1)