5 Mistakes about the Timing of Events in Your Story That You Should Avoid
When you look at the basic structure of a scene, you get two different compounds: action that leads to disaster, and the aftermath. The aftermath is slow, compared to the action of the scene. But they are rarely balanced. The aftermath can be only a sentence after a series of activities, or a long period of reflection. The truth is, trying to control the timing of events in your story when you are in the process of writing the story can be difficult. Trying to control your creativity that way might lead to having a writer’s block. In order to perfectly time the events in your story, it’s better to do it when you are editing the story. And once you begin doing that, there are several things you need to watch out for.
1. Derailing the sequence of cause and event
Derailing the sequence of cause and event means rearranging parts of chapters, scenes, or other small snippets in your story in order to create a better flow. What you realize, way too late, is that you’ve moved a revelation scene further down the story, but before that, comes an action scene where the revelation changes everything. In other words, Mary knows how to beat Peter only because she learned how to do it in the scene that, from the new arrangement, comes later in the novel. Now you have two problems. First problem is a deus-ex-machina: Mary knows how to defeat Peter just because. Second problem is the revelation scene: it doesn’t have a purpose now. The small details are what you must watch out for – derail them and your story might fall apart.
2. Prolonging scenes for no reason
Prolonging scenes does happen. It’s the reason why most writers cut away huge chunks of a book during the editing process. Because we go overboard. We over-explain everything, and make the readers’ privy to most of the protagonist’s thought processes. It’s natural – a large part of writing is thinking the words you’re going to write, and when you’re in your characters’ heads, it’s easy to get lost and just write down everything. The same thing happens in an action – you just don’t know when to end it. It goes on and on – one disaster leads to another, a chase begins and seems never to end. You need to read through what you’ve written and decide where it ends. End the reflection when you’ve become bored by reading it, end the action when it becomes too difficult to keep track of. Simplify things. Make every word in the sentence count.
3. Bombarding the reader with action only
Action only novels are like action movies – lots of flashing lights, explosions and running, without a story or a characters’ arc to speak of. The problem lies with the fact that even if your protagonist is physically in a different location at the end of your story, if he hasn’t changed internally, it doesn’t matter. He can go back to the beginning and live the same life all over again. Living a normal life can be the protagonist’s goal – but in that case, his beginning would be different. His life has already been derailed and now his is going through with all the action to get back on the right track. On the other hand, if your story features plenty of action, followed by little to no reflection, there better be a large chunk dedicated to showing all of the changes. Even then, the lack of reflection times will tire the readers. Remember, pacing your story, balancing action and reflection is your primary goal.
4. Beginning the story with reflection
The protagonist wakes up, looks out of the window. Contemplates the weather. Unless the story is about an apocalypse with weird weather fluctuations, you’re not starting off the story in the right manner. Where did the action begin? On page three? Bring it back to page one, and infuse all the information from before in the latter sections of your story. Start with a bang. Take the readers on a ride as soon as they read the first sentence. Reflection period can come later.
5. Ending the story with action
Ending a story on a high note does sound pretty impressive? You think you’re going out with a bang, leaving things open to interpretation. But, the truth is, finishing your story at the end of the climax might not always be a good idea. You can leave things open even if you end your story after the end of the climax. Give yourself a little breathing room. Show the aftermath without revealing too much. Think subtle impact instead of a flashy one. Then, the end of your story and the beginning will line up perfectly, and your story will be cohesive without having a negative impact on the plot.