Dynamic Range

One of the key elements that gets overlooked by new writers is what I think of as dynamic range. This is a concept that is used to great effect in other art forms like photography and music.

You’ve got a limited frame in which to work. In photography that’s the border of the image. In music, it’s the length of the piece. And of course you want to deliver some excitement, some payoff. After all, that’s the whole point of the piece. The payoff. But to get there, you have to leave yourself somewhere to go.

If your whole image is bright and exciting, what’s going to draw the viewer’s eye to a particular spot in the photograph? If your entire musical performance is thumping away at eleven, well, there’s really no where to go from there.

Instead, you want to have plenty of calm spaces in your work. Areas where the pacing, color, and detail are relaxed, or different in tone, compared to the climax.

This can be purely manipulative, and is really not fair to the reader. But heck, they’ve bought a ticket, and chances are they are just as much a thrill junkie as anyone else. Don’t be afraid to take them on a ride.

For example, one of the most effective ways to get to a real tear jerk moment is to lull the reader with a sense of the mundane for quite some time. Get them used to the idea that things are plodding along in a particular direction. Then shift into your emotional content. Brevity can be a virtue here. The emotional content can cause the reader to see the scene in a different, more serious, light.

The opposite works as well. You can be serious, serious, serious, funny.

You should actually be able to graph the energy of your scene. This will make you conscious of the movement and energy in your work.

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