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The Slow Burn

Tantz_Aerine at 12:00AM, Dec. 14, 2019
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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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anonymous?

Genejoke at 6:18PM, Dec. 15, 2019

Blood and water is a slow burn, it's really the only way I could think of to write it and achieve what i intend. The intention is to make a character driven murder mystery that delves deeply into the psychological effects of murder and betrayal. Oh and the bond of friendship versus love. Whether I achieve such lofty goals is doubtful, but aim high, yeah? The structure was problematic and has changed a number of times as I was concerned about keeping it interesting or losing focus. On one hand I wanted to show the journeys of the main characters, but I also want readers to wonder where it's going and get interested in the whodunnit elements. Another concern is at what point should readers think they know how it will end and where to put the twist reveal as from there it's a direct route to the resolution.

ShaRose49 at 10:21AM, Dec. 14, 2019

Slow burning stories are like the only ones I know how to write, and I think that’s partially because I take so long to develop a story. Sunstrike and Bluemist might not have that super high-stake beginning though—but I think it definitely has the super odd, peculiar, fishy and suspicious beginning, with dialogue clues. I plan to eventually rewrite the beginning anyways. I don’t like fast-paced stories as much as ones that take a little more time, I like not being bombarded with information or feeling like I’m just a spectator.

Banes at 6:23AM, Dec. 14, 2019

I like a slow burn. I would like to write one; I think it would take some confidence to do it, and trust that readers won’t get bored and tune out! It still needs some kind of structure to it I think. It has to be going somewhere, and be compelling!

Ironscarf at 6:15AM, Dec. 14, 2019

My first webcomic was a slow burner, but burned itself out. I should have started was something smaller to get my act together, but it's a common mistake. I might go back to it at some point. It would be a totally different comic, more like the one I wanted to make but didn't have the know how.

usedbooks at 5:00AM, Dec. 14, 2019

I grew up reading and watching whodunits. They aren't exactly fast-paced. Usually there is some suspense, and ideally a touch danger as the sleuths nears the truth. Maybe a chase or fight at climax. But it's mostly a slow-paced puzzle solving and character study.

Andreas_Helixfinger at 4:45AM, Dec. 14, 2019

The first story of the comic that I got going, at this time, I would say is a slow burn kind of story. Not spoiling anything, it starts with a wedding and early on you can sense that something is wrong. The main character Molly Lusc, who is the bride to be wedded, judging by her expressions and her monologuing text, is giving you the implications that this marriage is gonna end in tradegy. From there it takes its time, showing their marriage in its everyday light and then slowly but surely, it unravels the underlying negative elements that will serve as the catalyst of the ensuing conflict of the story. I really like slow burning stories, they allow this atmosphere of mystery and intrigue to creep up on an unexpecting world, making the repercussions on the characters involved feel all the more profound.


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