- World Builders
- Rhythm & Flow
Rhythm & Flow
The writing advice copywriters don't want you to hear
Read time: 3 minutes
Yesterday, I flipped through the book Save The Cat — a fascinating read on screenwriting and one of the most recommended books in the storytelling world.
But what stood out to me was the writing itself.
The author, Blake Snyder, pulls you in with a mix of fast stories and tactics. Yet then he slows down the writing. It’s like he’s saying, “Hey, this is important. I don’t want you to miss this.”
Today, I want to talk through the importance of pacing and rhythm and how to use them in your writing.
Hope you enjoy — Nathan.
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Now to today’s piece 🌎
| 1 Storytelling Tip |
Copywriters have convinced us that shorter is always better.
They ask, "How can we say the thing in the least amount of words possible?" When the question should be, "What's the right amount of words to get across my meaning?"
The ability to use pacing and rhythm has been lost. Punchy phrases dominate the day.
Yet too many writers use one-liners as a crutch. In truth, readers skim. And when skimming, a one-liner often catches your eye.
But a one-liner doesn’t pull you in. It doesn’t trap you and transport you into another world, or let you into another person’s mind. Longer sentences and paragraphs, though tougher to pull off, give you a punch as a writer the short stuff never could.
The real magic, however, comes from contrast.
Short and punchy to deliver the message. Long and winding to suck the reader in, provide detail, and build tension. Short and punchy to keep the reader moving. Long and winding to get them to spend a little more time, to go that extra bit deeper.
Tactically, here's what you can do to vary your pacing and create rhythm:
When I edit, I look for patterns.
Are there multiple sentences in a row of the same length? If so, how can I shorten or lengthen one?
Can I combine two sentences, ideally using 'But' or 'Therefore' instead of 'And?'
Did I vary the structure of the sentences (for example, not starting each one with a noun)?
Once you’re done with your sentences, go up a layer and look at your paragraphs. Repeat the process. Because it’s not just sentences that need rhythm, but your entire story.
I love this short lesson from Gary Provost. No better way to see the magic of pacing, rhythm, and flow:
| 2 Quick Examples |
From Roger Federer as Religious Experience by David Foster Wallace:
A top athlete’s beauty is next to impossible to describe directly. Or to evoke. Federer’s forehand is a great liquid whip, his backhand a one-hander that he can drive flat, load with topspin, or slice — the slice with such snap that the ball turns shapes in the air and skids on the grass to maybe ankle height. His anticipation and court sense are otherworldly, and his footwork is the best in the game — as a child, he was also a soccer prodigy. All this is true, and yet none of it really explains anything or evokes the experience of watching this man play. Of witnessing, firsthand, the beauty and genius of his game.
DFW opens and closes this paragraph with short, direct statements. The middle, though, is full of long, winding sentences.
It’s a pacing technique called “Bookends.”
Silence shows confidence
This 21 second pause to let @elonmusk think about his answer is why @lexfridman is an amazing interviewer.
— Neville Medhora (@nevmed)
Dec 29, 2021
The pace of the interview slows to a halt. As it does, watch how Lex just sits in silence for a full 20+ seconds.
Notice what it does to you as the viewer? It doesn’t make you bored. It pulls you in.
| 3 Resources or Ideas on Story, Writing, and Creativity |
📹 To see masters of emotional storytelling in action, watch the first 4.5 minutes of Up. You’ll go from smiling to wondering if you’re a grown adult about to cry from a cartoon movie in a matter of seconds.
⚒️ The beat sheets for 50+ movies and books based on Save The Cat’s beat sheet template.
For the non-screenwriters like myself, a beat sheet is often used to outline the stories of TV shows or movies.
📜 A great read on creating good fiction writing habits, which broadly apply to everything. My favorite bit:
“The overwhelmingly vast majority of fiction writers I’ve met don’t actually do much writing. They think about writing, they talk about writing, they read about writing, but they rarely sit down and put pen to paper.”
When you’re ready to go deeper, here are three ways I can help:
I’m reading The Three-Body Problem by Ken Liu. If you’re into science fiction even a little bit, it’s a phenomenal read. I’ve been told books 2 and 3 in the series are even better.
What are you reading recently?
*Disclosure: This is a paid advertisement for Monogram Orthopedics’ Regulation A+ offering. Learn more at invest.monogramorthopedics.com/disclaimers