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Writing Filters to Use: The Bigger Picture Part 3

The first and second part of Writing Filters to Use talked about filtering through plot, character, conflict, dialogue, scenes, and point of view. Now let’s go more into structure of a story and look at pace, setting, continuity, and balance.

Pace

Questions to ask…

  • Did the plot/subplots move fast enough to keep your attention?
  • Did it skip around too much to keep track of the characters and plot?
  • If nonfiction, can it be tightened?
  • Are there enough examples (non-fiction)? If so, where and how does the writer need to improve pacing?
  • Does pace vary?
  • Is the pace of each scene appropriate?
  • Does pace influence tone?
  • Does pace increase/decrease tension?
  • Are action and dialogue balanced? Characters should be somewhere doing something when they speak; actions alone will keep the reader at a distance- outside looking in. Pages of description is no better than empty space. Speech that neither defines character nor moves plot can be deleted. In general no more than four lines of dialogue should be written without a break: some action, even a gesture.

Setting

 Questions to ask…

  • Is setting conveyed sufficiently?
  • Is the setting appropriate for the story?
  • Would a different setting work better?
  • Is setting used to advance plot, to create tone, to increase tension?
  • Are readers given a clear sense of place and time for each scene?

Things that can be done to enhance Setting…

  • Verify details
  • Make sure setting details are appropriate to story and scene
  • Make sure setting doesn’t overwhelm action and plot
  • Include props that characters can handle and use

Continuity

Questions to ask…

  • When you finished reading, were there loose ends that were left unresolved?
  • Was there anything that needed further explanation?
  • Were there any inconsistencies?
  • Do the characters plod through the story? It is not necessary to record each step the character takes. Can some details be deleted allowing the reader to take an active role through the imagination and inference?

Balance

Questions to ask…

  • Is there too much going on in the story?
  • Is the author’s hand too visible? Does it stick out?

Things that can be done to enhance Balance

  • Ensure balance between elements; make sure no one element overwhelms
  • Balance character thoughts, dialogue, and actions with setting and description
  • Balance sections, scenes, chapters, and acts

I know it’s a lot to take in. Take a deep breath. Just remember to focus on a few areas at a time. Once you feel like you’ve nailed all the bigger details, don’t think you’re done yet. There’s more to do! Now it’s time to get to the smaller details. Check out the followup post Writing Filters to Use: Finer Detail Filters.