Strengthen your Story: The Art of Lingering

Feb 1, 2011

I've got several awesome beta readers dutifully plugging away at Devolutionaries. I've even gotten feedback from a few already. And it's amazing to me how incredibly helpful it is to have readers who have never seen the story give their thoughts.


Two of those awesome readers (hi Hannah! Hi Teralyn!) mentioned something that got me thinking quite a bit. They said to take some more time on certain moments. Let the character experience that twist, feel the emotion-- because the reader will too. I thought back to a blog post I read ages ago (I wish I could find it again!) about letting moments linger.

There are certain points in your story that need to linger so the reader can feel their full power. Moments of great change or emotional impact. If those moments are passed by too quickly, they lose their impact.

Movies often do this by slowing the cinematography-- literally letting a moment linger by putting it in slow motion, or just letting the camera linger. Like in the newest Pride and Prejudice, when Darcy is striding across the misty field toward Elizabeth. The camera focuses on him for longer than a normal shot, allowing the audience to take in this moment where he's coming back to Elizabeth. It is thoroughly swoon-worthy (I'm getting fluttery just thinking about Matthew McFadyen in the mist with that billowing coat and open shirt). And the swoon is stronger because the camera lingered, letting the audience soak in that moment.

Lingering is useful not just to heighten the impact of a moment, but to deepen your character. Lingering on your characters thoughts, feelings, and reactions shows your reader what kind of person he/she is. It's also a moment for your reader to connect to your character through their own emotional reaction. I like to think of lingering as the action/reaction (or scene/sequel) sequence on a smaller scale.

So I'm putting that on my list of further revisions for Devs: let it linger. And I'm all kinds of excited about the possibilities.

So, my friends, what can you do to let it linger in your stories? What are some of your favorite lingering moments, either of your own or in another book or movie?

P.S. The awesomeness is coming. This Friday. You won't want to miss it.

19 comments:

Melissa said...

This is excellent advice. Lingering... I'm going to have to look at my own novel in terms of letting it linger longer on certain moments!

Michelle Merrill said...

Great suggestion. I totally remember the post that you're talking about. I think it was actually something that was taught during writeoncon. I'm glad people are already responding ;)

~Nicole Ducleroir~ said...

You're so right. I'm reading a book right now that I LOVE, but twice now I've thought a scene would have been better paced if I'd had time to linger of its impact. Great subject to ponder as we write!

Saw you won Kari Marie's 50 followers contest so I thought I'd visit. You have a great space here. Following now!

rh352 said...

I've actually noticed the same thing as I read, only I couldn't pinpoint what the problem was. I've felt like some of the big decisions happened to quickly to feel realistic and I think this 'lingering' thing is probably the answer.

Catana/Sylvie Mac said...

Good timing! I made some notes this morning about emotional points in my novel that need more emphasis. I hadn't thought about them in terms of lingering, but that's exactly what I needed.

Kathryn Packer Roberts said...

Good post. I have been thinking about this lately and am trying to force myself to do it. I don't know why it is so hard sometimes. As I outlined my current WIP I intended to let certain scenes 'linger', and now that I get to them I find they are the shortest chapters by far. SO, back to work for me. Thanks for the reminder!

Abby Minard said...

Ooh, I got chills too- I LOVE that version of Pride and Prejudice. One of my favorite movies. Good points!

Angie said...

I love those lingering moments, but that's usually something I have to work on in revisions too. I'm not a fast drafter, but I still sometimes rush by those important moments. (I haven't started your book yet, but soon!)

Melissa said...

I'm have to remind myself to linger on certain scenes all the time! It's a lesson I learned recently so I have a lot to fix in my book.

I looooooove that scene from Pride & Prejudice. I could watch Matthew McFadyen all day:)

Rachna Chhabria said...

This is really great advice. I seldom have lingering moments in my books. But after reading this post I will certainly add them, because I personally love them and feel that these moments stay with readers for a long time.

Lindz said...

Excellent post, and I like the analogy between lingering and cinematography. I can't say I'm always the best at letting revelations linger. I have a couple later in my series, but in my first book there's at least one major one that could probably benefit from a bit more lingering.
Thanks for the insight! And congrats on the betas, I'm excited for this Friday-awesomeness you speak of.

Misha said...

Great advice.

I do try to linger, but it's hard to do naturally without slowing down the action.

:-)

Kittie Howard said...

Great advice! I've found that when I'm writing it seems as though I'm lingering, but when I print pages, it's as though I've zipped through the moment. I definitely have to work on this!

Lynda Young said...

The best advice I got recently was to slow down..like you said, linger a bit. It helps as a writer, and it helps the reader live the story.

Girl Friday said...

Excellent point, I need to do this more. I think it also applies when trying to build suspense in a scene - yes, you know what happens next, but it doesn't hurt to string it out a bit first before a twist or shock to ramp up the tension and make the payoff more exciting.

Kari Marie said...

This is a great post. You are totally right!

Diana said...

I had a critique partner also give me this advice. I wanted to pull her too quickly and she wanted to feel the momemt--to linger. It's actually a great compliment that someone would want to stay in any certain moment for a bit longer, means we've done something right. I hope, anyway. Good blog.

J.L. Campbell said...

Lingering in the moment is a good way to have the reader identify with what the character is feeling. In my work, I have the individual relate the moment to something in their past or perhaps what brought them to the current point. When characters stop for a moment, revelations come and changes follow.

Her highness, Samantha VĂ©rant said...

Very true. One of my readers pointed out a scene in my novel which was just too rushed. Sometimes we need to slow down a bit!

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