Generally nowadays, perhaps because of the nature of today's media and ways of consuming stories, a fast-paced, rapid-fire approach is favored for telling stories. It's with good reason. With so many options available to a finite audience, there is a high competition for grabbing the audience's attention and of course holding it.
The alternative is the slow burn: the story that takes its sweet time to unfold, at a slower pace that lets the audience think and speculate as the narrative goes on.
“Slow burn” has sometimes been used as a gracious term for “boring”, when we don't want to be abrasive in our critique. However, that is very unfair for actually slow burning stories. A true specimen is like the lit up coal. There is no flame yet that you can see, but you definitely feel the heat, and it's that heat that draws you in, even without any obvious fire, yet.
So unlike general assumptions, a slow burn story competes well with the fast-paced counterparts because it, too, captures the attention immediately, if it's done right. The difference lies in the way that attention is caught and kept.
One way to do it is to capture the attention with a shocking event of sorts, right at the beginning of the story: a murder, a disaster, a revelation (complete or partial), a paradox or something that immediately establishes high stakes for some characters. With that event securely having captured the audience's attention, can the story take its time now to unravel at an easy pace, but always in relation to that singular event. That relation might be obvious or obscure, but it needs to exist.
Another way is to lure the audience in with something that looks odd, peculiar, fishy or suspicious. Something that promises to have great ramifications later on in the story. For example, it could be cryptic dialogue about something big, something that needs thorough preparation, or something that will make or break an important milestone in a sympathetic or enjoyable character's life.
The common element is the high-stake establishment. For a slow burn story to be successful, that needs to be established or promised immediately.
The difference in the slow burn story is that often the audience is more actively involved in the process of the story's detangling- speculating and composing the end result alongside the characters because they have the time to think along. In that manner it might be more satisfying in the end than the fast-paced story which runs a higher risk of having the audience be spectators in the unfurling of the plot.
Have you ever written a slow burn story? Do you plan to? How did it work out for you?
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Tantz_Aerine at 12:00AM, Dec. 14, 2019
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