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Old 06-15-2019, 11:38 AM   #1
Steve Colle
Freelance Editor
Join Date: Mar 2003
Location: Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Posts: 1,509
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Tips to PACING: Understanding and Implementation

Pacing visual sequences in comics can be hard to do effectively as a creator, with too many panels or too few affecting creative intent and message to the reader.

Here are a couple of tips to pacing I teach online and to my students:

1) Stretch out the actions of the situation in question or, in the event of a conversation or reaction to something that has been said, break it into beats. From there, start thinking of the importance or lack of need for those beats, being selective as to which ones need to exist and which don’t in getting the message - the intent - across to your reader. By doing this you play the elimination game instead of the addition game, which makes the latter a lot more difficult when in a bind of what is missing versus what can be taken out.

2) Sometimes pacing is based on reveals: what information you are trying to reveal and the pace in which it is given. Here’s an example:

A young boy is angry when he walks into his room and sees that someone has cleaned it up: his bed has been made; his clothes are put away; his books are back on the shelf; his action figures are standing on his dresser; and the Legos he was playing with, and which he meticulously placed in deliberate fashion on the floor, have been picked up and put into their basket. He is irate and screams out, “MUMMEEEE!!!!”

Now, all of these things that he has noticed can have their own focus in their own panels OR some can be combined into panels that include two or more details (his Legos and action figures together, which he had been playing with together, for example) OR you can have the more global single-panel that shows the general clean room. Each is a reveal of some sort which can be separated or combined to pace out the ultimate psychological purpose of reveals and pacing: Immediacy of reaction versus mounting emotional tension (even if it’s good tension) that makes the reader invested in the emotion themselves. This is a case of “He’s angry” (immediate) versus “He’s going to blow” (emotional investment).

Another instance of using isolated detail reveals is to provide as much referential information as possible to the scene through pacing. A crime scene, for example, is detail oriented. A police officer may see the whole, while a CSI may see the individual clues, as will the reader if that is the intent of the story. This type of pacing not only reveals set-related information, it also reveals character, both for the investigator and for the culprit. A hack-and-slash killer versus a serial killer who leaves specific details to his murders are completely different in the pacing of information the story needs to provide.

Pacing, in a nutshell, is the gradual or immediate release of details that both inform and emotionally invest the reader to the various aspects of the story. The faster and less numerous the details through separated information or actions, the less invested the reader needs to be. Likewise, the more numerous the panels and their pacing, the more invested the reader should be. It’s the deliberate creative uses of this pacing that you need to consider as the creator of the content.
Every good story must accomplish two goals: Convey information effectively and incite an emotional response. If one or both of these are lacking, the story won't keep the attention of your audience.
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