Pacing hates me.
The biggest problem I encounter in a script is that I know pacing. I’m a pacing pro. I can sense it, I can feel it, in everything I watch and everything I write. I dominate pacing. Pacing is like an unruly patron at a bar, and I’m like a big, burly bouncer. With a goatee. And a tattoo that says “I <3 Mom.”
But the fact that I know pacing means that when I’ve just written a scene and ended it on page 10 and the next scene I have an idea for is supposed to land on page 24, I’m screwed. I’ve got 14 pages to make up. Out of thin air.
It’s not formula. Formula says this plot point comes here, yadda yadda. Pacing isn’t like that. Pacing says “Okay, you just had two down beats, you’ve gotta have an up beat, and your intense plot shift can’t come until the audience has settled in with the characters, which means you need some time to breathe, so things should go a little slower for the next two pages, and then pick up slowly over the five pages after that, slow down for three more, then BAM! It’s on.”
Pacing is about the ups, downs, twists and turns that an audience can take and in what order and how close together. It’s like trying to organize a Nascar event at Six Flags, but that’s where I excel. I know that I’ve gotta have two more pages, at least, before I introduce my second lead. The audience needs to attach themselves for my first lead before I bring in the other guy. This takes time. Everything takes time. Some things take no time at all. Those are the easy parts.
Often, I’ll use dialogue to add pages. I write dialogue well, and it’s usually pretty snappy, but other times dialogue throws off the pacing for exactly that reason. It’s quick, it’s punchy; I need something slow and atmospheric. I need pauses and beats and looks and moments. That’s the hardest for me to write.
So what’s the trick?
Beats me. You learn pacing from watching a ton of movies. You know it intuitively. But for me, that’s not the issue. The issue is how to follow pacing. When I have the hero fight a battle and the only sensible thing to do after that is fight another battle, but that doesn’t work with the pace of the film, so how do I slow it down? What do I write between the plot points?
I’d love to see a post from another CFD contributor on this. When you have a clear idea of where you are and where you need to be, but you need to take a certain number of pages to get there, how do you layer the cake?