My client, Alan Lastufka, just released his horror/thriller novel to amazing reviews and has already won three major industry awards! I asked him to talk about how he approached the pacing of this impressive novel.
Thriller and horror genres are probably where pacing in the story is most critical. You need your reader to want to follow you on the ride.
Would you talk about how you approached this in your novel?
Face the Night has a larger cast than most thriller or horror books, as we spend time in six different major characters’ POVs. A few chapters are even presented from minor characters’ POVs. So, not only did I need the reader to want to follow me through Adriana’s turmoil, but to also follow multiple major characters’ journeys.
To accomplish this, I approached the entire project like a film. Short scenes. Cut in and cut out. Show moments that spark empathy, intrigue, or fright. Some earlier scenes may seem inconsequential on the surface, but down in the dark where the light can’t reach—something’s clawing to eventually escape.
And that film approach is not hyperbole, I envisioned the entire story in my head as an eight-hour film while writing. It made it very easy to cut anywhere a scene started to drag, or where the reader was seeing too much, too early. I watched the action, drama, and the horror play out. Then I wrote down the interesting moments.
I grew up in the glory days of ’80s horror films. So, if I’m honest, most of the scenes I envisioned were through the lens of Wes Craven or John Carpenter. Grainy film. Deep blue midnight skies. Things lurking in every in-frame shadow.
While doing this, I also had a concrete vision of my characters, but I didn’t describe any of them in the book. There are no eye colors, hair styles, skin tones (except when mentioned by other characters), or other physical characteristics described.
This served two purposes:
- First, I wanted to give readers the same powerful visual experience of the story I had. I wanted them to envision their own Adriana, their own Mayor Krause, their own Jennifer living next door.
- And second, I wanted the cast of characters to be as diverse as my readers. Is your Jennifer-next-door slim and athletic? Short and uncoordinated? Is she light-skinned? Dark-skinned? The book never says, so you can project whoever you feel most comfortable spending time with in that role for the duration of the book.
How does that affect pacing? Well, I believe it’s inherently more interesting spending time with someone you want to spend time with. I want to spend time hanging out with my Jennifer-next-door, and you should want to spend time with yours!
And hopefully that’ll help pull the reader through to the next page, faster and faster, until they too feel like they live in Cellar. They too can breathe a sigh of relief when they’ve found safety at the end of a chapter… Even if they suspect it’s only a momentary safety.
To buy a copy of Face The Night, visit Alan’s website.