Creating Pause in Your Action–When and How to Let the Reader Linger without Losing Momentum

Dear fellow writers,

Have you discovered the writing tips available by Mary Carroll Moore?

When I began writing my first book Mary’s newsletter got me started. Her ideas answered many questions I had as a novice author. Now, each week I tweak my novel, implementing what I glean.

Below is an example of her writing tips I receive in an email every week.

Enjoy learning with me.

Glennis

Creating Pause in Your Action–When and How to Let the Reader Linger without Losing Momentum

A blog reader sent in this fascinating question:

How can “event writers” develop stationary moments in their narrative and sections in their books where the main characters reflect on the meaning of what happens? What’s the purpose of this, and what’s is the benefit to the story?

This is a question about pacing, but it also hints at our natural preferences as writers, to write certain kinds of scenes.

Some writers enter their writing via reflection–the meaning of a situation or memory. Reflective writers write meaning first, then translate it into action. Some writers enter via image or setting. If you’re one, you think first about where the story is happening and you love the details of the place. The third group, event writers, prefer to have things moving forward. They think action first, and they may get impatient with too much (to them) description.

None of these is stronger or better or worse; all are needed. It’s just where we naturally like to start.

Back to my reader’s question.

Stationary moments are the domain of reflection or image writers, and they would almost scoff at the question: what is the benefit to the story. The benefit is that the reader gets to absorb the meaning. What is a story without meaning? It’s all momentum. It leaves you breathless, charged up, but possibly without a clue as to the purpose of what you just read.

It also creates a dense feel to the writing, which I addressed in an earlier blog this year (scroll down). Counter-intuitive to say that too many events create dense writing, I know–but that’s how readers perceive it. So meaning, or pauses, are the places we catch our breath and think about the purpose or meaning of what we just read.

How does an event writer, who prefers not to pause, put in pauses?

First, it requires an awareness of the benefit of pauses, so the best first step is to find a book you love, preferably in a genre similar to the one you’re writing, and comb through a chapter for pauses. If it’s a skilled writer, it’ll take some work to see the pauses. Look for something called “beats” in screenwriting, or breaks in the action or dialogue–gestures, movements, a glance out the window, a brief flashback, a bit of setting. They don’t have to be long but they allow just that moment to regroup and absorb that a reader needed. Notice how often these appear, how long they are, where they are placed.

Then go to a chapter of your own and model the writer you just read–their structure of pauses. You would use your own words, your own story, but mimic the placement of each beat and what is included. For instance, if the writer uses two lines of backstory just there, you do the same. If they use a gesture or movement in another place, do it too. Use your words, their structure.

This modelling exercise is a great way to get muscle memory of pacing, as well as the benefit of pauses or stationary moments. Try it this week, as your weekly writing exercise.

Glennis Browne is the author of the Historical novel series – The Fortune Seekers.

Book one of The Fortune Seekers – Dan and Charlotte is available in both ebook and paper formats. Book two is almost at the editing stage; and, book three is in its the first draft.

Websites

 Xlibris   Website –       http://www.authorglennisbrowne.com/

WordPress website – https://glenniswritingabc.com/

WordPress Blog-  http://GlennisBrowne.wordpress.com

Twitter –       https://twitter.com/browne_glennis

Links to my social media Author Pages

fb.me/GlennisBrowneWriter

My author facebook page

Http://www.facebook.com/GlennisBrowneWriter

Or message me-

m.me/GlennisBrowneWriter

Websites

Xlibris   Website –       http://www.authorglennisbrowne.com/

WordPress website – https://glenniswritingabc.com/

WordPress Blog-  http://GlennisBrowne.wordpress.com

Twitter –       https://twitter.com/browne_glennis

Links to my social media Author Pages

fb.me/GlennisBrowneWriter

My author facebook page

Http://www.facebook.com/GlennisBrowneWriter

Or message me-

m.me/GlennisBrowneWriter

A pup named Annie

I didn’t understand the pleasure a pup gives until Annie came into my life.

Bent upon sharing undeserved love, soft, silky cuddles and mock kisses. She’s never finished, I can’t get enough.

Companion and guard dog – yes, she thinks her gruff growl will protect me from birds sheltering from the rain.

I never would have believed hubby and I would decide it best for Annie if he went on his own on the annual month holiday to NZ (he’s gone fishing), and I change my flights and visit my family upon his return.

Crazy?

No, Annie joined our family just one month ago and as our six month old pup is to be our companion for the next sixteen plus years and how we settle her in now will make all the difference later.

Also, she has touched a needy part of my heart. I am smitten, and obsessed by her cuteness.

She is clever, quick to learn and loves the treats when learning new skills.

A stubborn girl if she hasn’t finished sniffing the trees, or I prevent her saying hello to every person or dog we pass.

The long walks we share, her by my side or running circles in the park. The return home when she is in my arms or resting in a large bag, as her little legs are exhausted. All this to this new dog owner is special.

My shadow plonks down upon my keyboard when I am writing, telling me ’you have done enough, it’s my time now!’ How can I resist.

My ever present companion has added a special dimension to my life.

Dear Doggie followers, expect to hear more about Annie.

Dodging the Deus Machina

Hi.

Every week or two a newsletter arrives in my mailbox which teaches something in a way I haven’t heard before. This blog from AutoCrit is one.

For three years I have used AutoCrit when I am at the first editing stage. I have a life time membership as I am convinced the editing website is worth using.

Also, of late, the monthly newsletters and weekly videos for elite members continue adding new insights and skills to my writing knowledge base.

It’s exciting seeing book two of The Fortune Seekers Series reaching the editing stage. I am currently considering the principles of Deus Ex Machina throughout.

Dodging the Deus Ex Machina is a worthwhile challenge.

Enjoy the AutoCit blog.

Glennis

Dodging the Deus Ex Machina

The phrase deus ex machina is one that you’ve likely encountered throughout your literary travels. Latin for god from the machine, it describes an unexpected and sudden event which saves a hopeless situation.

Allegedly, the phrase’s roots go all the way back to ancient Greece, where many a play would see an actor lowered from above the stage, performing the role of an intervening deity who has arrived to bring an end to the drama, tie off story threads, and close any plot holes in one majestic swoop.

No genre is safe from the machinery of the gods, as you can see in these quick examples from modern stories in literature and cinema:

• The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit: The giant eagles swooping in to save the day when protagonists are trapped by lava/stuck on a tall tower/need a quick exit.

• The Princess Bride: Wesley suddenly reveals his immunity to a certain poison. (Though this could be argued.)

• The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: Tom Sawyer reenters the story, traveling hundreds of miles to visit relatives, enabling him to be on hand to rescue Jim.

• Dodgeball: The good guys are saved due to a treasure chest filled with money turning up. In a satirical turn, it even says Deus Ex Machina on the outside of the chest.

It might seem a simple matter to identify when this particular plot device appears, yet there are many stories that are cited as falling prey to deus ex machina when they arguably do not. One of the most famous examples may be H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds.

Some writers, readers, and critics would assert that the defeat of the aliens by natural bacteria is unexpected and therefore a ‘god from a machine’ ending (apologies for the spoilers)…

But it might not be, in actuality.

And why not?

That’s because Wells used foreshadowing at the beginning of the book to plant the seed of a bacterial savior. Look at the first paragraph of his novel:

No one would have believed in the last years of the nineteenth century that this world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man’s and yet as mortal as his own; that as men busied themselves about their various concerns they were scrutinized and studied, perhaps almost as narrowly as a man with a microscope might scrutinize the transient creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water.

It is subtle – extremely so – yet this foreshadowing offers a clue to the ultimate ending.

Why is Deus Ex Machina Frowned Upon?

With that out of the way, let’s take a look at why, generally, the deus ex machina is a device that should be avoided.

Primarily, it’s because it is not seen as divine intervention, but instead as lazy writing.

The need for a deus ex machina usually arises when an author has written themselves into a corner – having thrown the protagonist into a situation that is so escalated and perilous that escape is, within the logical confines of the surrounding story, impossible.

The only solution, save going back and rewriting the events that led to this trap, is to break the internal logic of the fictional world and offer up a solution that – often as a side effect of this logical break – appears to come out of nowhere.

These unexpected and sudden solutions to a dramatic moment (especially the climax!) can leave readers feeling disappointed and unsatisfied – which is why the deus ex machina is so loathed.

How to Avoid Deus Ex Machina

Most of the ‘god from a machine’ moments you’ll come across are unsatisfying because they rely on dumb luck saving the day. The crisis resolution comes down to little more than a happy coincidence.

To change a deus ex machina into a believable plot twist, you need to lay some groundwork for your reader.

First, plan your story arc. If you want your character to be saved by a magical sword, for example, you need to know this in advance. Make sure you tie that item or external force strongly to the events your protagonist goes through. You don’t have to give anything away until the end, but this ‘savior’ should be a regular feature that becomes part of your hero’s story – because readers appreciate stories where the character solves their own problems through something they did (or didn’t) do. In many cases, this is the unlocking of the previously hidden properties that allow otherwise benign story elements to become the savior.

Next, and tied to the previous tip, you need to foreshadow. Leave little clues to allow the reader to feel the solution is believable, and not entirely unexpected. These clues don’t need to be overt – some might go unnoticed until the book is read for a second time. Seed those clues correctly, and readers will be wowed!

These simple steps to avoid disappointing your reader will work for most stories, but there’s something else you need: the determination to get it right. We all know it happens, and it can be easier than expected to find yourself boxed in a corner come the finale – especially if you’re a relaxed writer who likes to stay in the flow rather than planning everything from the start.

When you spot yourself conjuring a deus ex machina, it’s a sign that things aren’t falling into line. Yes, getting to this point has been more than enough hard-fought work, and ideally, you just want to wrap things up – but resist the urge to undermine all that work by letting it be.

Write to the end, then go back and see where things veered off course. Most of the time, just a simple correction or the addition of some extra foreshadowing can deliver a much more satisfying climax for your second draft, without having to scrap whole sequences.

An Alternate Solution to Inescapable Corners

If you write your characters into an inescapable corner, the general opinion when you’re trying to figure out a solution is that the hero must still save the day. Therefore, you might feel stuck due to needing to change your story while maintaining the happy ever after.

But is that actually true?

Some of the most life-changing books are those with a ‘sad’ ending. If your hero is trapped, could you instead allow them to get caught up in the tragedy you’re trying to avoid?

Think of George Orwell’s 1984. As a reader, you want the characters to get their happy ending – but in a world of Big Brother and the Thought Police, there is no logical escape. So, Orwell doesn’t give them a happy ending. They’re just too small to stand any chance of overcoming this enemy, no matter how much we might wish it.

Given the dystopian genre of the novel, this solution is more logical than the protagonists skipping off into the sunset. The bleak ending has a huge emotional impact on the reader and is one of the reasons 1984 is so successful.

Keep the God in the Machine?

Okay, so for all the negatives about the deus ex machina, there actually are reasons you might want to keep such an ending… and they’re not because you’re a lazy writer!

Plenty of stories written for children have unbelievable endings – because children can suspend their disbelief more easily than adults can. Also, they don’t tend to over-analyze plots. They’re happy to listen and accept.

If your story is in the fantasy genre, there’s a lot that ‘magic’ can explain. It could be argued that many of the plots in the successful Harry Potter series are deus ex machina, but they’re still beloved books because finding magical swords in hats is generally acceptable in fantasy books at that level.

Finally, like The Princess Bride and Dodgeball show, deus ex machina is always usable for comedic effect – especially if presented with a smile, and a cheeky nod to the literary intelligence of your readers.

If you’re going to keep it, make sure it’s appropriate for both your chosen genre and your intended audience.

Final Thoughts

Writing an exciting and dramatic climax is vital for a gripping story, and a memorable experience. However, if it’s impossible for your character to escape without an unbelievable or contrived ending, chances are you’re going to disappoint your readers.

So make sure your machine is finely tuned and well oiled, and not in need of divine intervention – but don’t be afraid to take a very different path than you initially believed you would, if that’s what it takes to forge a believable resolution.

What are your thoughts on the deus ex machina plot device? Would you argue ‘til you’re blue in the face that The War of the Worlds is indeed an example? Share a few of your favorite (or least favorite, as the case may be) endings of this kind in the comments below!

Glennis Browne Book Website

What made Friday a great day?

Tonight an author messaged me with her review of my historical novel : The Fortune Seekers – Dan and Charlotte.

Hopping onto Amazon.com and Amazon.com.uk tonight I found hers and other reviews I hadn’t seen before.

Made my day!! I am extremely grateful for these reviews.Amazon link

Thank you kind readers. You are aware how important reviews are to authors.

One of my goals is to review every book I read, and place it on every site that may assist the author become better known.

This includes Amazon pages around the world, GoodReads, review groups on Facebook, Twitter, and my blog pages.

Below are the three unexpected 5/5 Star reviews

Top customer reviews

Mags RO

5.0 out of 5 stars

Very interestingly read

27 January 2018

Format: Kindle Edition

|

Verified Purchase

Wow! Well done to the author. Each time I put the book down, I couldn’t wait to get back to it. I was captivated nearly all the way through. I’m really looking forward to Part 2. Will her husband come back to spoil her happiness? I wonder! Definitely a 5/5

Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com

Amazon.com:

.jpg”>

Nicole O’Connor

5.0 out of 5 stars

It explores hard-line Calvinistic attitudes during the mid-1800s.

17 February 2018 – Published on Amazon.com

Format: Kindle Edition

|

Verified Purchase

The Fortune Seekers – Dan and Charlotte: Book One of a Series This story explores the hardships and unyielding religious attitudes of people living in the mid-1800s. It takes the reader on a journey from the Welsh countryside to early Australia where the characters must forge a fresh start while living in rudimentary conditions. They have little on hand other than hard work, determination and the ability to survive. It deals with their mental hurdles as they endeavour to live good lives while being responsible parents. They have little to look forward to other than a rare visit to distant family. A subliminal parallel between modern life and early settlers unfolds causing the reader to consider their comparative blessing.

4.0 out of 5 stars

I DID enjoy the book and am looking forward to the next installment. -The Fortune Seekers Dan and Charlotte

3 October 2016 – Published on Amazon.com

Verified Purchase

A review from New Zealand – after purchase from author.

Hi Glennis. I read your book and as other reviews have stated, I found the first 100 pages rather hard going. However, once Dave and Dan left home, and the story had some substance, I began to thoroughly enjoy it. It was well written. Also can I suggest some captions added to the photos would have been nice.

I DID enjoy the book and am looking forward to the next installment. Keep up the good work. I give it 4 out of 5 stars.

Glenda Blagdon

Thank you Glenda. I plan to rework the first part, as it will be be a better story tightened up. Glennis Browne – Author

Mary Russell

5.0 out of 5 stars

I was in my element reading this novel.

3 November 2016 – Published on Amazon.com

Format: Kindle Edition

|

Verified Purchase

I love historical novels. I was in my element reading this one. Amazing the struggles and hardships these courageous people worked through. I highly recommend this well written novel. I am looking forward to the next one.

Why is a single complaint so powerful?

I now have the cutest puppy, named Annie.

Her arrival has brought much happiness to my hubby and my lives. The new dynamics within our home is amazing, as we speak to each other about Annie throughout the day. Chatting like never before as we have something special we share in common. Our kids are grown, the grandkids are growing up, and not close enough to visit frequently, therefore our nest was empty, so to speak. Annie has filled a need we had not been aware we had.

But, I am discovering others don’t appreciate the joy a pet brings to a home. Some of these people are complainers and make complaints about any thing they feel isn’t right – including my quiet, affectionate six month old puppy.

I live in a life style village where well behaved pets are welcome. I always heard there were grumbling residents who complained, and some of them are valid if the pet barks consistently and destroys the peace that a neighbour expects. Within a village, this can be addressed, not like the problem it can be out in the residential sub divisions.

A fellow resident decided to address their concern today.

An unidentified villager complained about me walking Annie along a pathway, past the windows of the community lounge, across tile pathways that lead from the fenced in pool, gym and along to another village street.

The complaint had me thinking.

Why is it that one complaint can be so powerful?

Why do council or village management (in my case) listen and accept the complaint as valid, instead of looking at the bigger picture?

More upset is created to the average law abiding person by this attitude than is necessary, in my opinion.

I decided to address my issue on our village facebook page, hoping not to ruffle feathers, but to open up an awareness of the way it seems to be in todays world. The complainer has all the power to stop progress, and take away the enjoyment of others.

Quote from my post:

Dear village friends and neighbours.

Almost three weeks ago I became the happy owner of the cutest little puppy, who we named Annie. Many of you have met her, as she enjoys being cuddled and talked to by people. Also she is progressively socialising with other dogs within the village.

All in all, most of us are becoming one friendly, happy pet friendly family of residents.

Unfortunately there are one or two residents who don’t seem to like pets in the village and who complained about our pet even before she arrived.

I understand barking dogs are annoying, and I’m happy to say Annie has only barked when meeting another dog who she hasn’t socialised with yet. She is very quiet at home. Neighbours who have spoken with me, are saying they would not know I had a dog if I hadn’t told them.

But there seems to be an ongoing problem somewhere. I want to address this, as I strongly desire us all to enjoy living in our lovely village.

Today I learned that one resident has complained because I walk Annie from the kitchen path, past the pool area and down the lane via the gym. Today I was told dogs are not allowed in this public area by Tony. (Our village manager)

This instruction annoys me as it is unreasonable.

Can anybody who knows why this might be a problem for the complainer, please explain what harm a quiet, clean little dog is doing taking this pathway with its’ owner, when on a leash?

My thoughts on this is that these repeated complaints are causing emotional tension by taking pleasure and enjoyment (that I have enjoyed after living here these last 8 years), away from me.

I and the 20% of other responsible doggie families in the village, surely have rights to walk within our common areas as well.

I understand why the pool and BBQ areas are out of bounds. Walking along the paved areas disturbs no one. I consider the complaint is unfair as it doesn’t affect that person negatively in any way.

Finally, this one complaint is from a resident who is unwilling to talk to me about his/her concerns. I am happy to chat with him/her if he/she will discuss their problem one to one.

Unless they do this, their grumbling will continue in the village about such situations making the atmosphere in the village not what it should be for all affected.

I invite him/her to meet me in the lounge and I’ll shout you a drink and we can talk this over.

Glennis

How can I be sure I’m choosing the right book cover design?

Hi friends,

I need your opinion, please.

Is it really important to select a professional cover designer who has solid experience in creating bestselling cover design that does its intended job?

I recently read the following blog.

– Do you the author, feel a need to gather opinions about your proposed cover design, and do so only from a qualified focus group composed of prospective readers in your market segment who are interested in this specific topic?

As an author, it’s easy to seek input from people you know, like your spouse, friends and co-workers. They care for you and want what’s best for you, so it’s safe to trust their advice, right? WRONG!

In reality, their opinions are pretty much useless.

They are most likely not your target audience so what they think, well, it simply doesn’t matter. If you develop your book to make your friends and family happy, you end up with a book which won’t appeal to your buying audience.

When surveying your focus group, do not ask “What do you think about my cover design?”

Ask this question, and this question only: “Would you buy this book?”

Then sit back and wait for the answer. You are not soliciting opinions about design. Don’t even mention it. You only want to know if the cover compels them to buy.

Quote from blog – 8 mistakes will absolutely kill your book.
— Read more www.selfpublishedauthor.com/content/8-mistakes-will-absolutely-kill-your-book

Much of what is written above, I agree with.

Of late I have considered what actually works for me regarding book covers. My opinion is as valid as any one else’s, so my thoughts follow.

My second novel is soon to be published. A cover must be designed. I want to get it right as the series needs a certain unique look.

A respected author I follow on Facebook commented after reading my novel that my cover needs attention. The comment explained font size challenges that I am aware of, but what surprised me was that she believes the cover should have a person pictured on it.

I am wondering why she believes a human figure must be on the cover?

Do book covers really need someone as the focal point?

Would you buy a book without a person on the cover?

Does this human image actually encourage a potential reader to pick up a book and consider reading it?

Does it depend on genre?

My genre is historical fiction based upon genuine historical events in a family. Would a picture of an 1870s woman, or man or couple, display adequately the possible content of the book?

Not in my experience.

Many of my readers gaze with interest at the country scene with the stone building of ‘The Fortune Seekers- Dan and Charlotte’ and comment that they love my cover.

I ask, ‘Would you buy this book?’ The answer seems to be ‘maybe, as the picture on the cover has me interested.’

Personal promotion

I sell at Sunday Markets, enjoying chatting with those who stop to read the large blurb on my signage. Potential customers buy my book because of the relationship we form after our two way conversations. Success depends upon my ability to enthuse them to read it because it contains something they are interested in learning, exploring or understanding at an emotional level. Their interest is sparked when discovering they are talking with the author. Their smiles widen when I offer to sign their book.

Remember- WIIFM (what’s in it for me?) After a pleasant chat, and my personal signing, plus a book mark to move forward as they proceed into the story, they leave with happy memories related to the book. It’s a unique experience, not often happening to book readers.

Did the cover help? Maybe, maybe not.

But, in a bookstore or catalogue, what attracts a potential reader?

As an author I see many cover ideas on Facebook every week, and I read a number of books each month. For me it’s the Blurb followed by a quick preview of the style and opening pages that interests me.

A cover that is bright, simple, balanced and hinting at its possible genre by its title and picture will draw me. Whereas the beautiful faces, perfect figures that tend to be everywhere on the book shelves and ebook lists don’t.

An author friend published a few short stories last year. (Red cover, no picture at all, just the title and author name.) Knowing and enjoying his books, the plain cover didn’t put me off.

Saying that, I add that a very different, surprising, original book cover actually draws me to it. Whether or not it is professionally designed.

Uniqueness for me is the essence – whether it is the colours, font, or the fact that it piques my curiosity, urging me to read the back blurb, or skim over the first few pages to see if the writing style draws me quickly.

That, for me, speaks of a book cover doing its job.

How about you?

I am interested in your thoughts fellow book readers, especially when considering a book by an unknown author.

I am eager to hear whether a cover encourages you to buy a book.

Thank you.

Glennis

How can I be sure I’m choosing the right cover design?YouTube clip