How to keep the reader invested in your story

Principle #5 – The Power of Storytelling

Imagine a piece of music made up of one single flat note. Would you listen to it?

Hey, I’m Diana and this is Story Artist.

Many stories start out great, but then they transform into one single flat note. And they become boring and tedious because there are no emotional highs and lows in the story. And the mistake lies in the pacing.

So this is principle number six: how to keep your reader invested in the story.

Pacing is about balance. It’s about turning points. It’s about highs and lows in the emotions of the story, and also in the emotions of the reader. Instead of having one flat, boring line, how can you actually avoid this flat line with the reader? And how can you nail pacing?

#1 Plan your story’s, highs and lows.

If you’re an architect writer, then you have to nail this in the outline. Create an outline and pay attention that in this outline you have emotional highs and lows.

If you’re a discovery writer, you can do this in editing because you won’t nail it on the first try. Even with architecting, you cannot nail it on the first try. You will still have to edit this in terms of pacing as well. But with discovery writers, it’s actually even more important to nail this in the editing process.

So while you’re editing, pay attention to the fact of your emotional highs and lows and that they’re always there, and they never flatline.

Think about balance again. So what you can do, you can take a board or you can do it on your computer or wherever you feel comfortable and, draw a line that represents your story. You can actually try and see if you can represent it in a way that fits. Like every hundred words, you have like two, three centimeters or whatever. And then you write down the story that shows your highs and lows and flatlines of the emotions in your story. And if you do that, and if you draw this line, you can see the story. You can step back and see the story as a whole. And then you will see if you have moments, especially, maybe you have too many highs, maybe you have too many lows, maybe you just have a flat line for a very, very long time.

And with this, you can see whether you have a pacing balance or not.

This works was fiction, obviously, but it also works with nonfiction and marketing. So you can analyze every piece of content you do with this approach. You can analyze your email, you can analyze your sales page, you can analyze your nonfiction book, whatever you do, your YouTube video, even you can analyze it with the emotional balance and the emotional pacing.

#2 Divide your story into units.

Learn to think in units, be it scenes or be it smaller or larger parts. It depends on the length of your content and your story, but learn to think in units and divide and subdivide your story into these emotional units.

That’s why numbered lists are so helpful, and that’s why I love them and that’s why I use them with every single piece of content because they actually subdivide the story into units. Even in your reader’s mind. And that that helps them to have this pacing nailed in their mind as well.

You can of course, do it without lists.  You can do it  just with the content, but the lists are really helpful.

Now, let’s look at this video. I start out with a hook and a raised tension, and then I raise the tension even a little bit higher when I explaine the mistakes that can be done with that. And then I reveal the technique that I mean – okay, it’s the pacing. And whenever it the tension  falls. Then there’s a short flatline when I explain a little bit about this technique because there are no emotional ups or downs, but then I raise another question about it and this question is the technique.

Then we have the three  numbers that I present in this list. That are also emotionally with highs and lows. So I have number one. I tried to make my statements the titles of this number really interesting to raise the tension, or I try to raise the tension in the introduction of this. So the first sentence has raised the tension and then I let it flat line a little bit while I explain the technique more. And that with number two, I raise it again. And this is how the whole thing works.

So already with this YouTube video, in the beginning, I have three different units. I have the hook, the introduction, and then the leading up to the point number one. Then I have those three points. And then I have the ending.

And the ending can be both. It can be a release of tension. A resolution or it can be a BANG with a cliffhanger. When you raise the tension again, you decide which way you want to go with the ending.

So learn to divide every piece of content that you do in pacing units.

#3 Manipulate pacing with sentence structure.

In film, you can manipulate pacing by editing. So the faster the edit, the faster the pacing gets. Just look at the crazy editing pace of Mad Max and you’ll see what I mean, compared to a romantic comedy. And you’ll see how the speed of the editing really manipulates the pacing of the film.

And the same you can do with written content with sentence structure. So you can use short sentences, long sentences, a sub-clause as a comma, full stops, colons. It also depends on how you build those sentences. Like if you have a paragraph with only one short sentence, or if you have short sentences that follow each other up and so on, so you can manipulate it by sentence length, by punctuation and by the paragraph as well.

For example, a long sentence slows down the pacing, but a long sentence with commas and many words that follow up – something strong, mighty, powerful and so on – then you have them all in succession, it can also quicken the pacing. On the other hand, short sentences obviously make the pacing faster, but if you have one short sentence in a paragraph, it slows down to pacing and makes a statement.

So with every piece of content especially in story writing, you have to know your way around working with the length of sentences, the length of paragraphs and punctuation in order to achieve the pacing you want to achieve.

And this is the key. You need to know what you want to achieve with that. You need to know why you’re writing a short sentence or why you’re writing a longer sentence. You need to know how you want your pacing to be, where you want your emotional high and your emotional low to be in order to create this kind of pacing. So you have to plan for the sake of the story, not just because, but you have to know why you want this emotional high there and the emotional low there and why you want this flat line there.

Be really intentional about your pacing and this way you can influence the reader and this way you can keep them on the edge of their seat. Plan, structure and be intentional.

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