Jul 17, 2010

Using Audiobooks to Study Pace

The road trip is over. I've had a great time in Brisbane with the girls, but I'm happy to be home. 

I loved listening to audiobooks during my drive. On the way up, it was Charlaine Harris' Real Murders, the first book in the Aurora Teagarden mystery series. 
This book was fun! Very Agatha Christie style, but with a fresh, modern approach. The MC is a member of a 'Real Murders' club. The club members review famous murder cases... until they start turning up dead in a copycat dedication to the original murders.

Audiobooks are a great way to study the pace of a writer's novel. If things slow down too much, it's difficult to skim, as you can in reading, so you notice the pace more. Harris kept bodies, clues and romantic interludes popping up at a good regular pace, increasing the conflict and tension towards the climax of the story. I've learned from this author to interweave your secondary storyline to help adjust and support the pace of your predominant plot.

One way to check the pace of your narrative is to write every scene on an index card and lay them all out in order. Try mixing up the order, does it improve the pace? (a tip I learned from How to Revise Your Novel)

Every scene MUST contain conflict, but some cary less impact than others. For example: In a murder mystery, the protagonist might also be having trouble at work and is worried they will be fired, those conflicts could help move the story  forward, but are less thrilling than the scenes where the protagonist stumbles on yet another corpse. The storyline about the workplace problems will be secondary and the murders primary (although, you could be clever and have the main story about a character finding their place in the workforce against a backdrop of murders - but let's focus on the obvious plot for now). Make sure the murder plot conflicts start to build towards the climax (where your protagonist will come face to face with the killer).

Another way to check your pace: Make a recording or yourself reading your manuscript, or, have someone read it to you. You'll hear where things slow down or get too rushed.
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  1. Glad you're home safe and sound. Audio books are the best for road trips.

    Thoughts in Progress

  2. This is some great advice. I always think hearing the story out loud is the best way to pick up a number of problems. If it is dragging or if some of the exposition is clunky and awkward, hearing it aloud will let you know that straight away.
    Glad you had a good trip.

  3. Pleased to hear you had a good time. Brissie is best in winter!

    All I hear when I record myself is how odd my voice sounds :-)

  4. Wow! I've never thought about listening to an audio book for pacing. I have a difficult time sitting still to audio books which is why I don't usually buy them. But now that you've suggested this, I'll have to give it a go. Thanks!

  5. Welcome back home :)
    Great tips on checking pace. I'll have to do that soon for my own WIP

  6. Mason, I'm finding the audiobooks quite addictive now!

    Cassandra, Thanks, it's always a bit awkward listening to your story for the first time, but it's worth it. I upload mine to my Kindle and let it read it :-)

    Al, Thanks, Brissie's great - it's really growing up, and don't worry, my voice sounds like a mouseketeer in recordings (do they still have those?)

    Amy, audiobooks are great for when you're driving, or when you're in bed and too tired to read - I admit some sound boring because of the narrator. ITunes lets you sample the book, so you can hear if the reader has an enticing enough voice.

    Lynda, Thanks, happy to be back :-)