Logistics, Pacing, and Timing

I got the idea for this post from one of Anthony Lee Collins‘s comments on a blog I wrote last week.

Sometimes story timelines don’t work. Or perhaps, they work in the outline or as we’re planning the story, but once we start writing or thinking more deeply about where our characters are at any given time, we start to realize that… it just isn’t possible.

Fight scenes are sometimes hard to choreograph on the page, which is why I tend to avoid writing physical conflict scenes and go for quieter scenes with more psychological conflict. Timing and pacing are two reasons why writing fight scenes is difficult. When you’re writing a scene about two characters involved in a gunfight, it’s hard to time everything perfectly – the shot from the gun, the character falling and grabbing his arm in pain, the other character rushing over to finish him off… A lot of times, when I re-read fight scenes that I’ve written, they come across really clunky.

Timing is also an issue when you’re writing one scene that takes place in Florida and another scene that takes place in Russia (for example) and by the climax of the story, the characters from both scenes have to meet at a certain place in California. The reader needs to get a realistic sense of the characters moving from their respective locations to the one where they will be together… and for that to be done right, the author has to develop a sense of how to pace the story.

I’m not yet sure how to get this right except to create very detailed outlines, keep in mind the time differences in your settings, and revise carefully in order to create a pacing that doesn’t feel too rushed or too drawn out.

Is timing/pacing/logistics/choreographing fight scenes an issue for anyone else?

17 thoughts on “Logistics, Pacing, and Timing

  1. A lot of food for thought! I had not really thought about time zones or physical conflict (probably need to expand my horizons). I guess this is where proper planning and thought through plans come in. It is so easy to skim over certain parts of a story because we can see them in our heads but what comes out on paper when we write is completely different.

    Thanks for this…I so need to go back to the drawing board with my new project now.

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    1. That’s what makes me turn back and reconsider my original story plans… because I often overlook how time is going to work.

      Glad the post could help you!

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  2. I agree with Vix. I also agree with you when you say that writing scenes with more psychological conflict is easier. If I ever wrote a novel, I’d definitely go for that kind of scene :).

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  3. I don’t usually have big fight scenes. The action in my stuff tends to be more a period of tension followed by sudden violence and then resolution.

    The logistics problems — where people are when and how long it takes for them to get somewhere else — tend to be especially important in mysteries, since mystery readers often analyze the solution to make sure it works. Complicated in my case because the characters have no phones and almost no vehicles.

    In the last mystery I wrote, I had the detective and her assstant at point A, needing to go search an apartment at point B, but not having the address and so having to go to point C to try to find it, meanwhie also getting in touch with someone else – who was at point D I assume – and get her to point B also, when I realized she wouldn’t have had the address either.

    It’s a miracle mysteries ever got solved before cell phones. 🙂

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    1. Cell phones are surprisingly useful in terms of logistics and keeping track of what character knows what and when they tell who doesn’t know…

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      1. Chris Carter has said that the only reason the X-Files worked was because around halfway through the first season they gave Mulder and Scully cell phones. The whole dynamic of the show wouldn’t have worked otherwise.

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        1. That’s a neat fact. Walkie-talkies would have probably worked, too… but a high-tech cell phone is probably more aesthetically pleasing than a clunky walkie-talkie.

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  4. Yup, fight scenes are tough. Probably my most-revised scene in my current manuscript is a fight scene. It’s even harder because there are….eight people fighting. “The more the merrier” does not apply to writing fight scenes.

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  5. Most of the time I try to avoid blow-by-blow accounts of multiparty fight scenes. If you really want to or feel compelled to do so, the only solutions I have found are to sit down and map out visually, instant by instant, the precise movements and body positions of each character. You can do this with rough sketches or animation software (if you want to get all techy). This also helps you avoid scenes where fighters contort themselves in ways not physically possible, or suddenly appear in places they logically could not be.

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    1. That would work. Sometimes I am tempted to draw out what the characters would look like fighting… but I’m a terrible artist – another reason I don’t care too much for writing fight scenes.

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  6. Flow is the problem for me… making the scene “dance” so it does not sound like “This happened, and then that happenened, and then this happened” It’s so hard to make it flow, and be intense at the same time.

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