King's pacing

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Randolph Carter

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Sep 13, 2015
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I am reading Wind through the Keyhole right now, while I'm on a work trip, and found myself staying up late the other night inadvertently as I couldn't put it down. This is a common thing for me when reading King's book. Obviously it's related to the content, but I think it's also the way he paces them.

I'll read a shortish chapter, get to the end and want to read more. Then I encounter a few more shortish chapters, decide it's not that much more to read another chapter and keep going. After a few these there's a longer chapter that stretches things out and really engrosses me.

I noticed this in the current book, and remembered I'd run into this with other of his works. But I'm not sure if that's accurate. Has anyone else noticed this? It would make sense for a writer of his talents to be able to use the actual length chapters to add to the tension.
 

Dana Jean

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Apr 11, 2006
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I am reading Wind through the Keyhole right now, while I'm on a work trip, and found myself staying up late the other night inadvertently as I couldn't put it down. This is a common thing for me when reading King's book. Obviously it's related to the content, but I think it's also the way he paces them.

I'll read a shortish chapter, get to the end and want to read more. Then I encounter a few more shortish chapters, decide it's not that much more to read another chapter and keep going. After a few these there's a longer chapter that stretches things out and really engrosses me.

I noticed this in the current book, and remembered I'd run into this with other of his works. But I'm not sure if that's accurate. Has anyone else noticed this? It would make sense for a writer of his talents to be able to use the actual length chapters to add to the tension.
I have always told my friends who want to write, keep chapters short. THe longer you can keep someone engaged in your fictional world, the more they will embrace it and the flow is steady and consistent.

I do the same thing. I'll be reading, look ahead to see how many pages are left in the chapter -- oh, there's only 3 or whatever, so I keep reading to the end of the chapter. THen I look at the next chapter to see how long it is, if it is short, I think, I can do one more chapter. Pretty soon, I am so trapped in this story, I don't want to step away.
 
Mar 18, 2016
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Maybe it comes from my film background, but I know when I write, I do the same. Shorter chapters to help build tension, get you drawn in, but then a longer chapter to balance it out. I usually pay more attention to this in when I'm editing and rewriting the book, as I work on flow and pacing. I don't know if King does this consciously, but I probably did pick a part of it up from his style as well and hadn't realized that's why I do that. I just noticed it from film work and how to edit action scenes as opposed to longer dramatic scenes.
 

blunthead

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Aug 2, 2006
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Atlanta GA
I have always told my friends who want to write, keep chapters short. THe longer you can keep someone engaged in your fictional world, the more they will embrace it and the flow is steady and consistent.

I do the same thing. I'll be reading, look ahead to see how many pages are left in the chapter -- oh, there's only 3 or whatever, so I keep reading to the end of the chapter. THen I look at the next chapter to see how long it is, if it is short, I think, I can do one more chapter. Pretty soon, I am so trapped in this story, I don't want to step away.
It's important to be conscious of paragraph length, too. People notice a paragraph's size and can easily be turned off by big ones. When people are conversing they take turns with fairly brief exchanges. Writing should reflect what people are comfortable with. Some paragraphs can seem written by a blowhard.
 

Dana Jean

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It's important to be conscious of paragraph length, too. People notice a paragraph's size and can easily be turned off by big ones. When people are conversing they take turns with fairly brief exchanges. Writing should reflect what people are comfortable with. Some paragraphs can seem written by a blowhard.
absolutely. I have thanked people here in the past for using paragraphs. When I go to read their stuff, and it's just one big long block of words, oh man. Even if it is very good information or conversation, the lack of paragraph breaks is no fun.
 

sam peebles

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Sep 17, 2008
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Massachusetts
JK Rowling and Michael Crichton also come to mind when mentioning pacing. King's pacing talent seems natural--he certainly doesn't always rely on short chapters followed by long, and the structure of his chapters can be fairly complicated. There's a flow to his narrative that I feel he doesn't constrain due to unofficial rules.

Rowling and Crichton, on the other hand, are a bit more technical, relying heavily on short chapters, usually ending in a cliff-hanger, to move the reader along. I got sucked into those Harry Potter books like an addiction. Thankfully I'm off it now.
 
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fljoe0

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Apr 5, 2008
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I like short chapters too. If I'm reading and get to the end of a chapter and see that the next chapter is longer than I want to go, I'll probably stop reading but short chapters keep me going.

I don't read the stories in a short story collections in order either. I figure out about how long I've got to read and figure out what I can finish and pick them out that way. I try not to start a short story I can't finish. So one night, I may pick 3 short ones and save a long one for the next night.

I'm always very conscious of the length of what I'm reading. I like to have my approximate stopping place figured out ahead of time.
 

skimom2

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Oct 9, 2013
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I think Mr. King is truly a master of pacing. His use of short/long chapters never feels forced or pre planned--they feel organic to the story being told. I do have an issue with many contemporary writers who don't have his sense of story arc--just as a book has a natural story arc, so does a well constructed chapter. I've read quite a few recent books that are full of 5 or 6 page chapters that are just garbage. They've broken a chapter arc into "a clump of pages someone can read doing the average bathroom break" (I got this advice from an professional editor, only they used a more scattalogical word for 'bathroom' ;D) instead of honoring the story.
 

bigkingfan91

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Mar 1, 2014
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This brings to mind a chapter in The Tommyknockers.. The power plant man lol. Wasn't the guys name Ted? I enjoyed it myself, even if it did go on and on and on lol. I love his pacing though. Always comes across as so natural and unplanned, for me he is no doubt the greatest storyteller of all time and then some. I also do that, the looking ahead, and end up reading more and more lol. Sometimes even if a story is great its good to have plenty of stopping points for when life breaks in. I'm glad life didn't break in for me though with that chapter in The Tommyknockers, LOL, I was right there with him in the zone until it was over.
 

sam peebles

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Sep 17, 2008
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Massachusetts
I think Mr. King is truly a master of pacing. His use of short/long chapters never feels forced or pre planned--they feel organic to the story being told. I do have an issue with many contemporary writers who don't have his sense of story arc--just as a book has a natural story arc, so does a well constructed chapter. I've read quite a few recent books that are full of 5 or 6 page chapters that are just garbage. They've broken a chapter arc into "a clump of pages someone can read doing the average bathroom break" (I got this advice from an professional editor, only they used a more scattalogical word for 'bathroom' ;D) instead of honoring the story.
I think you've said what I was trying to say much better and more succinctly. He doesn't restrain himself to standards. The man just writes what's natural to him, what flows, and that's what we're hooked on. He doesn't care if the chapter is 500 words or 5000, it's still gonna reel us in, 'cause he just knows.

Whereas Rowling and Crichton (and many others) rely on known formulas.
 
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duf70

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May 27, 2008
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I think King's pacing is balanced off most of the time, although I don't know if it is something conscious of him or just comes out that way, either way is great though!

However, what I wanted to share is my own pacing while reading. I will always read a section twice, always, the first time it just becomes exciting, something new, whereas the second time around is always more enriching, I pay more attention to detail, letting my imagination produce more input around each scene. I don't know, it has become a habit of mine, this is something I started doing some years back. The bad part is that it takes you twice as long to read...it is like I don't want SK's books to ever end.

Does this happen to anyone else?
 

Doc Creed

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Nov 18, 2015
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This brings to mind a chapter in The Tommyknockers.. The power plant man lol. Wasn't the guys name Ted? I enjoyed it myself, even if it did go on and on and on lol. I love his pacing though. Always comes across as so natural and unplanned, for me he is no doubt the greatest storyteller of all time and then some. I also do that, the looking ahead, and end up reading more and more lol. Sometimes even if a story is great its good to have plenty of stopping points for when life breaks in. I'm glad life didn't break in for me though with that chapter in The Tommyknockers, LOL, I was right there with him in the zone until it was over.
I agree. When King says to the reader..."hey, c'mere, follow me" I am never disappointed. I liked the example you listed from The Tommyknockers.
 

mal

content
Jun 23, 2007
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Yeah, I noticed that as well. I attribute it to damn good story and I agree about the chapter lengths. Sometimes I'll flip ahead to see where the chapter ends and, if only a few more pages, will keep going, else I'll finally put it down. I'll also finally put it down when the wife digs her toenails into my leg when I start snoring with the book on my chest and the light still on.=D
 

Randolph Carter

Active Member
Sep 13, 2015
25
124
37
I think King's pacing is balanced off most of the time, although I don't know if it is something conscious of him or just comes out that way, either way is great though!

However, what I wanted to share is my own pacing while reading. I will always read a section twice, always, the first time it just becomes exciting, something new, whereas the second time around is always more enriching, I pay more attention to detail, letting my imagination produce more input around each scene. I don't know, it has become a habit of mine, this is something I started doing some years back. The bad part is that it takes you twice as long to read...it is like I don't want SK's books to ever end.

Does this happen to anyone else?
I don't do exactly that, but I get the idea of not wanting the books to end. I usually re-read the ending a few times, since it's usually so powerful that I'm not quite ready to put the book back on the shelf.
 
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