Thursday, September 9, 2021

The Art of Momentum (Lydia)

If I was to take a great story and boil it down to its pure essence, I’d say you’d be left with the concept of momentum.  A concept where the plot, characters, action, and setting lead your eyes from sentence to sentence, dancing across the page, until all words disappear and soon, five hours have passed, and you’re left with nothing but an overwhelming sensation of raw emotions mixed with the aftertaste of adrenaline.  A taste unlike anything else.

But crafting a story that compels your reader to keep reading is quite the daunting endeavor.  There’s no “One Size Fits All” formula for writing a gripping story, because as is the nature with any creative art, once a formula for success is created, it quickly becomes formulaic.  Predictable.  Boring. 

So, what are some things you can do to avoid reader boredom and craft effective momentum?

1)      Seek Balance:  Find a balance in your story between predictability and defying expectations.  Don’t be afraid of using tropes or genre styles, but at the same time, challenge them in new and exciting ways.  Keep your story grounded in the rules of the world and in the behavior of your characters, but don’t be afraid to throw in a plot point or two to shift the story in a new direction, one that may be brand-new or even one that can give a face-lift to a current trope.

2)      Focus on Transition:  Whenever your shift from scene to scene, be sure to incorporate a transitional sentence first.  And always start these sentences with the means of how the transition occurs.  The secret to momentum in any story is to treat your words and sentence placement like a camera.  For instance, you’d want to see a character enter their car, before we see them have a meltdown into their steering wheel.  Or we should see a character draw their blade, before they use it to battle a dragon.  The purpose of transition is to use your words to visually help the reader move from scene to scene as seamlessly as possible.

3)      Break the Monotony:  This is especially difficult in journey-based stories, like fantasy or even fairy-tale retellings.  Often times, characters in these genres will spend countless chapters just walking around, talking about their feelings or the plot, going from town to town, without anything really interesting happening.  And, just like a kid can get bored on a long road-trip, a reader can quickly grow bored of a long journey. If you reach a point in the pacing where the journey feels like it’s beginning to stagnate, stop and ask yourself:  What would make this more interesting? Throw in a slice of drama or intrigue.  Find what makes your story fun and flesh that out even more.  The more fun or interesting you make your journey, the more your reader will be delighted or compelled to stay along for the ride. 

4)      Avoid Resolution while Providing Rewards:  One of the last struggles of crafting momentum is when a story provides a resolution to its conflicts too quickly.  Ending the conflict before it really gets off the ground.  This can result in a sort of “Start/Stop” pacing, where a conflict is introduced, it rises to a climax, then it’s resolved relatively easily so the plot can keep moving forward.  Usually, an effective story keeps the conflict rising throughout the entire story in one solid arc building up to the ending.  Focusing on a single overarching conflict will help you create a more seamless story:  the kind where all the events naturally build on one another, leading your reader to a very logical and satisfying conclusion.  However, while you should avoid easy resolutions, you should not avoid rewards.  Rewards are the little moments of celebration for your characters, the moments for joy and peace.  Rewards shouldn’t completely resolve the conflict of the story, but they should provide tranquility and a moment for the story to breathe.  Using rewards sparingly is a great way to invest your reader quickly, and an essential trick to make your reader care before the final climax.

In the end, the key to momentum ultimately stems from finding balance between the familiar and the unique.  Between suffering and success.  Between conflict and resolution.  And, in this delicate balance of simple and complex, is the source of a powerful and enjoyable read.

What are some of your thoughts on momentum and on what makes a gripping story?

1 comment:

  1. Great tips! I often imagine the plot of a book like a glider. The writer has to keep up a certain amount of momentum or the plot crashes.


Please note that your comment hasn't gone through unless you see the notice: "Your comment will be visible after approval." We apologize for any difficulties posting comments or delays in moderation.