Dr. Kristi Siegel
Mount Mary College
Fidelis Hall 223
(414) 258-4810, ext. 461
|"Pacing" Your Narrative ...|
|As you've probably figured out from the other links by now, pacing refers to breaking up your narrative with specific examples, detailed descriptions, and dialogue. A detailed description or dialogue is a way of "focusing in" and slowing down the action; conversely, when you're presenting background material or less important elements of your narrative, you may not want to use as much detail.
Without pacing your narrative becomes flat and monotonous. If, for example, I were to use the thesis, "Revelations got it wrong; there were really four horsemen of the apocalypse and a dog named Kippi," I might organize (and/or pace) my narrative as follows:
I could start by quoting the section of the dog book that warns prospective owners about Belgium Tervurens. Or, I could begin with a different anecdote about Kippi (such as when she chomped a dog-sized hole through the pet gate we'd put up).
|The Beginning of the Essay
If I proceed chronologically I can provide background information as necessary. If I started the story in the middle of the action (such as when I opened up the car door), I'd need to go back and fill in some of the earlier parts of the story.
|The Body of the Essay - Shaping the Essay to Fit the Thesis--or, if necessary, changing your thesis to fit the essay!|
|The Kippi story, as you can tell from the basic narrative and cluster, has a lot of different events and details. If my focus were on the dog's indomitable will, I'd probably opt to leave out some of the events and details that relate less directly to Kippi. I might omit the "puppy shower" or the parts about our insurance agent and the body shop.
I'd make these decisions based on my working thesis and how I wanted to shape my narrative. The thesis acts like a large arrow; its direction should be evident throughout your entire essay. Try to understand (eventually!) what you're trying to accomplish with every paragraph you write.
|Bringing out the important elements of the essay|
|Whatever thesis I choose, the most dramatic moment in the narrative is when I open up the car door and view the damage. Dialogue or a detailed description can help signal an important scene. In this instance (Kippi didn't say much), a vivid description of the car's interior would serve to slow down (pace) and dramatize the moment.
Throughout the essay, there should be this continued focusing in or pulling back depending on how much weight I/you want to give a particular element.
If you find yourself getting stuck, stop for a moment. Take time to fill the well. Think. Your thesis should drive your essay; if you lose sight of the thesis go back to pre-writing for a while until you find your focus again.
|The conclusion should not be a stale repetition of your introduction. Rather, if you've kept your focus throughout the essay, your conclusion should evolve somewhat naturally (nothing really "flows" when you write, good writing nearly always means lots of work and lots of re-writing). If you began the essay with a hook, you may be able to refer back to the hook. If, for example, I had started by quoting from the dog book, I might mention the book I used before we bought our next dog (a very submissive Golden Retriever): How to Pick the Perfect Puppy. What I would not do, though, is start to sermonize or launch into generalizations. If you've developed your thesis throughout the essay, you shouldn't need to take out a big hammer and whack your reader over the head with your main idea.
If your conclusion sounds flat, it probably is. Keep working. Keep filling the well.
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