Book Project: #18 Elements of Pace and Rhythm

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Pace is the rate at which one delivers the content; the exposition of the narrative. A book always has pace; the question is whether it is planned or not.  To make a book interesting, the pace should vary  throughout the book.  The rhythm of a book is a reflection of the pace as it ebbs and flows through the book.

The elements that control pace include:

  • physical pages
  • content structure: group; series or sequence
  • content type: text; image
  • on a single picture (i.e.. how long the reader stays on an individual picture)
    • Image rendering, such as colour vs. black and white, grain vs. sharpness
    • Image composition, simple vs. complex; uninteresting vs. engaging 
  • on a single page (i.e.. how long the reader stays on an individual page)
    • Page composition, including the number of pictures on a page and the size of the picture
    • The amount of text per page
    • inflection, such as: by bringing attention to the page, the text, the form; the use of text; graphic layout. Inflection punctuates
  • over several pages (i.e.. how quickly the reader turns the pages)
    • Spacing between pages, such as images on every page or alternate pages through the inclusion of blank pages.
    • The relationship โ€” movement created by references โ€”  among images, either through content (sequencing) or order of presentation (series) or simply as an elaboration (group)
    • Variation of images, from repetitions of the same image across several pages through to completely distinct images

Some examples of how the above controls can be used: the weight of the paper can influence how quickly the physical page can or is turned.  For example, light paper may feel more delicate, making the reader more hesitant in turning the page.   A series of images can be structured with multiple recollections (i.e., references to previous images) and thus the steady movement forward (through the book by page turning) is opposed by the reader’s interest in looking back.  Another means of controlling rhythm is through the use of dominant and subordinate (e.g., highly impactful vs. less impactful) images. Using only dominant images limits the range of pacing options; employing subordinate picture along with dominant ones allows the possibility to orchestrate, to build to climaxes, to pattern with rhythm as a means to create movement and to emphasize.  Introducing or changing the graphical layout of content can attract attention, thus slowing pace.  Blank pages cause a pause โ€” and need to be turned past โ€” thus slowing pace. The overall rhythm of the narration can be established through “plot switches” among different people, events or time in the story.

Some sample patterns follow, where each uppercase letter represents a dominant image; a lowercase letter is a subordinate image.  Repeated use of the same letter implies the same or a similar image is repeated. Letters are bracketed to show the verso and recto page faces of an open book [ verso | recto ]. A dash (-) represents a blank page.

  • Pairing images: no pattern, simple 1-2 rhythm
    • [A] [B|B] [C|C] [D|D] …
  • Switching emphasis by context layout
    • [A] [B|A] [B|C] [D|C]
  • Switching emphasis by graphical layout
    • [A] [ – |B] [C| – ] [D| – ] [ – |E] [ – |F]
  • Switching emphasis by graphic layout with recollection:
    • [A] [ – |B] [A| – ] [C| – ] [ – | D] [ – |E]
  • Switching emphasis by inflection
    • [A] [b|C] [D|e] [F|g] [h|B] [i|J]

Blank pages represents an important tool for controlling pace and rhythm: 

  • Blank page before or at end of a series creates a pause either before beginning or at the ending of a section:
    [  |X] [X|X] or [X|X] [X| – ]
  • Blank page after first page places emphasis on the first image, perhaps a statement of theme.
    [ X| – ] [X|X]
  • Blank page as a pause before conclusion
    [X|X] [ – |X]
  • An Iambic meter offers an upbeat mood
    [ – |X] [ – |X] [ – | X] 
  • A Trochaic meter offers a less forward mood
    [X| – ] [X| – ] [X| – ]

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