Are You Ready For A Change?

Spring has definitely arrived in my part of world. Not a moment too soon. Leaves are unfurling. Birdsong fills the air. Violets bloom along the perimeter of the woods. The temperatures are usually warm enough to sit outside in the evenings—even if I have to slip on a warm jacket.

I love spring.

Actually I love every season in its turn—spring with its promise of new life; warm summer days at the lake; autumn’s glorious hues and the bounty of harvest; winter’s snowfall and blazing fires in the hearth. I’m one of those people who can’t imagine living in a place where there aren’t four distinct seasons.

We all have our preferences, but for me, the joy of the seasons is change.

We had a rough, cold winter this year, which makes spring all the more welcome and delightful. And who in the cool, rainy weather of March and April doesn’t look forward to long summer days—picnics, biking, jumping in the lake? And then just when I’m done with the heat and humidity, along comes autumn with its brisk temperatures and gorgeous colors. Even winter is welcome—the first snowfall, the holiday season, winter sports.

I agree with Charles Dickens, who said, “Nature gives to every time and season unique beauty.”

I think the key is change.

Lately, I’ve been applying the same principle to pacing in fiction. Personally, I’m not fond of books or movies that start off with a bang and never let up until the end. On the other hand, chapter after chapter of contemplation and inner thoughts reminds me too much of a painful graduate school seminar on Henry James and The Golden Bowl.

Again, the key is change.

Introduced by Gustav Freitag, built on his study of Greek and Shakespearean stories

The best class I ever took on plotting was “The Story Arc,” taught through Guppies by the late, great Ramona de Felice Long. She talked about the big story arc with its rise and fall of tension, leading to the final conclusion. Reduced to its simplest level, story structure looks something like this:

Act 1 (beginning) introduces conflict (Point A)

Act 2 (middle) brings complications (Point B) leading to a climax (Point C)

Act 3 (end) presents the resolution (Point D)

But the lines between the major story points are never straight. Action scenes must alternate with slower-paced scenes in which the characters have time to recover, understand and assimilate what took place, and form a plan to move forward.

With this in mind, Ramona asked us to evaluate each individual scene in our book and rank them according to pacing and tension level. What she wanted us to learn was the power of change and variety. I actually graphed it out.

Are you, like me, so ready for a change of season?

How will you incorporate change in your WIP?

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