Three Things We Can Learn From Dark Pheonix Part 2 – Pacing

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As I mentioned in the last post of this series, the pacing of Dark Pheonnix was too fast, even if it was a two hour long movie. But because everything was being crammed into one film, it felt shorter.
How could they have fixed this?

#1 – Less action, More Exploration

I know that action plays a big part in moving stories forward, but after  a while, all the smashing and hacking can get repetitive and dull. There are plenty of books and movies out there that have acheived success without an overabundance of action.
Let’s take Dunkirk for example.

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Dunkirk centers around Tommy and the other soldiers who were stranded there during WWII. While the film doesn’t have a lot of action, the viewer is still hooked, because the big question being asked is, ‘will they survive?’ The viewer is on the edge of their seat because, at any moment, any of them could die.
This could have been implemented in the film so that there would have been more time to explore Jean’s arc.
Sometimes, slowing things down in your story can really help you bring the characters to life, and give you more time to explore where you are going with the story and how to get there, without rushing too much of what’s important.

#2 – Quick Turn-Around

Everyone in the film made their decisions too quickly. One minute Magneto wants to murder Jean for what she did, and the next minute, he’s loyaly fighting by her side.
The one experience we will never get in films that we get in books is looking inside a character’s head. If Dark Pheonix was a book, we might have been able to look inside Magneto’s head and see his reluctance to fight on Jean’s side, even if it is for a good reason.
In the film, we see none of that. Magneto doesn’t show any reluctance, only unswavering confidence.

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Having your characters turn around too quickly in their decisions makes for sloppy writing and unfulfilling arcs. Instead of making the characters turn due to outside events only, look inside their heads and ask yourself, why? Why is this character changing their mind about this? Are they willing or unwilling? Does this align or disalign with their beliefs? WHAT makes them turn?
The only reason we see in Dark Pheonix for Magneto to fight with Jean instead of against her is because Xavier said to.

#3 – Shoving Too Much Into One Story

As I mentioned in Part One of this series, there was too much going on in the film for it to be done as well as it could have been. With so much backstory for the power Jean ‘ingested’ and the invasion of the aliens, the pacing was much too fast. With a few hasty explinations thrown in, the story didn’t have any time to breathe.
With so much bogging down the storyline, Jean’s transformation was to quick. But you don’t have to let that happen to your own story.

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To keep from shoving too much information into one book, or if you feel that the story is too complex, try expanding it into two. Or, you could take a look at everything you have and cut out what isn’t necessary. Sometimes, what’s really bogging down a story is too much flab. And that can turn a good story into a ‘meh’ one.
Take every note and outline and ask yourself, “Does my story really need this?” If the answer is yes, then keep it. If not, throw it out. Be brutal. Even if you like the idea, and it doesn’t fit well in the overall plot, cut it out. Cutting out the fat of the story will leave behind a mean, lean steak of a book.

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As a writer, we have to be careful with our stories, and pacing is one of the major things to keep an eye on. Is your story moving too fast? Slow down, and take a breath. Take a step back and see what needs to be fixed. Moving too slow? Cut out the flabby parts and add in some action or a plot twist.
If we remember to take a step back from our stories every once in a while, and look at it from a different angle, we may be able to spot what needs to be fixed and how to fix it.

Readers, let’s talk! What are your thoughts? What other advice do you have on pacing? How else could we improve our stories?


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