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How To Keep Your Story Moving Forwards

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The rate at which you write your story moving forwards is referred to as the “pace” of your story. If your story has too slow a pace, it can be boring. If the pace is too fast then it’s unclear what’s happening and why.

You need to find a balance between your story moving forwards quickly, whilst still taking time to explain what is happening and why.

Conflict Keeps Your Story Moving Forwards

To keep your story moving forwards, you always need to have active conflict in every scene. By conflict I don’t mean people have to be fighting each other, nobody has the energy for constant fighting. Conflict in your scene means at no point do all your characters have what they want.

If your scene lacks conflict, if everybody has what they want, then the story won’t move forwards. If people have what they want, they won’t be in pursuit of anything, they won’t be driving the story towards the climax. Scenes without conflict have no pace, they’re stalled. The characters are just existing.

Pace Requires Conflict

Watching characters just exist isn’t an entertaining story. You’re joining these characters at this point in their lives specifically to observe their story. If their story isn’t happening, then point of reading or watching it isn’t happening either. The more conflict there is in a scene, the more characters there are in pursuit of goals, the more interesting the scene is.

To maintain the pace of your story, keep the conflicts active the whole way through your story. The conflict begins at the inciting incident, when your Protagonist goes in pursuit of their goals. It’s in every scene up to the climax, when the character’s goals are resolved.

Description

Description is what will slow the pace of your story down. If you don’t describe anything in your scene then nobody will understand where they are or who they are. If you describe so much your pace starts to crawl, your audience will get bored.

When you’re focusing on description you’re less likely to be focusing on the active conflict. And, without conflict, your story slows down. So when using descriptions in your story, be considered with it. Make sure you use more poetic and lengthy descriptions at points where the tension isn’t too heightened. Lengthy descriptions will sap the tension you’ve built and ruin the scene.

Root Descriptions In Protagonist POV To Keep Your Story Moving Forwards

By focusing descriptions on the character you’re most interested in during the scene, you can still keep the conflict active. If your POV character, usually the Protagonist, is personally effected by something or somebody in the scene, then they would naturally have thoughts about what they look like or what they’re doing in their heads. Follow those thoughts, consider how and why those things are impacting the Protagonist, and focus descriptions on those factors.

During a big fight scene, a point of high tension, your POV character would spend less time thinking about what people look like and what colour the walls are. They’ll be focussed on fighting and surviving. If your descriptions mirror that you’ll have a faster pace because your scene will focus more on the conflict.

During a romantic picnic in the park, your POV character would spend more time observing the beauty of their environment. They’ll see the light on the water, smell of cut grass in the air. Their thoughts will go to the way the person they’re with looks at them, the way a smile plays on their lips. A slower pace will suit that scene more.

Finding The Balance

Even a slower, more ponderous scene, needs conflict. It could be internal conflict. Your character isn’t sure what they want or is too nervous to say something they want to say.

They could have a secret or be hopeful for something to happen. For instance, they could want a proposal and be too scared to mention it. They could be feeling disappointed when it doesn’t happen and struggling with their emotions.

A faster scene will still need descriptions. If you’re describing how a character is fighting another, you need to tell your audience they were kicked in the guts, or thrown into a wall. They need to be able to visualise that fight happening. You need to describe how much pain they’re in or how scared they are, or you’ll lose the humanity.

Keep your audience connected to the character’s feelings, both in fast and slow pace scenes. It keeps your audience rooted in the importance of the story. The stakes won’t matter if your characters don’t matter. Your characters won’t matter if your audience hasn’t emotionally connected to them.

You can find more writing advice on our YouTube channel where we’ll help you become a better and more confident writer. If you have any writing questions, comment below and we will try to do a video for every question we get. If you’ve found my work helpful, please consider dropping me a tip in my Paypal tip jar to help me keeping bringing you free writing advice!

Keep your story moving forwards, JJ Barnes Writing Advice
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JJBarnes

I'm author, writer, screenwriter and filmmaker. I've always been passionate about stories, both on the page and on the screen, and now I'm lucky enough that I've been able to turn that passion into a career.

Myfirst novel, Lilly Prospero And The Magic Rabbit was the first release from Siren stories and launched the Siren Stories Universe (the SSU). Now there are multiple stories, on page and screen, all connected and exploring the world I first began to develop all those years ago. Find all my books here.

Hollowhood, the first independent film from myself and my writing partner, Jonathan McKinney, is currently in post-production. Making my own film has been an incredible experience and only affirmed my love of all things to do with film. From the camera to the costumes, I will always love everything about being on set.

As well as releasing my own stories, I'm hoping to spread love and passion for the art of story telling to others, by guiding you through different aspect of writing. I do a series of Writing Advice videos for adults, and a Creative Writing For Kids series, both on YouTube. I'm also releasing regular Writing Advice blog posts explaining different writing techniques and advice for how to get the most out of your writing experience.

Other than writing, my life is mostly spent with my partner, Jonathan McKinney, our three children, Rose, Ezekiel and Buffy, and our extremely foolish Springer Spaniel, Molly.

I love reading books, watching TV, and falling asleep during movies. When Jon comes to bed he usually finds me face down with my face on a book, or hiding under the duvet waiting for him to protect me because I've got myself in a dither reading a ghost story.

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