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Character moments

David Gane
David Gane
1 min read

I recently watched this video discussing Ocean's Eleven and was intrigued by Steven Soderbergh's use of character moments between major story beats.

Initially, he filmed them but cut them out. But test screening audiences said they cared more about the characters than the plot, so he added them back in.

And they have a noticeable impact on the pace and overall appeal of the film.

Our second book Shepherd's Watch has a lot of character moments, but we never thought of them as ways to adjust the pace of the story. We did them because we wanted to get to know our characters more.

But their existence wasn't because of me.

When constructing stories, we plan out the scenes and then Angie begins writing the book's first half. She likes to riff, wander, take detours, and hang out with characters. She writes a lot of words, and they go in a lot of directions.

So when I come to the page, I edit things down and try to shape the words but try to keep as much Angie on the page as possible. Sometimes I have to make hard choices, but I always believe the best stuff remains.

Then after spending all that time with Angie's words, I start riffing too and making character moments of my own. I wouldn't have gotten there on my own, but that's the beauty of a good partnership.

Yet, not everyone liked the choice. They noticed the slower pace that was caused by the character moments, and sales have always been a little less for that one over the others.

But some did like it. And Shepherd's Watch has always been one of our favorite books we've written, primarily because of the character moments. It allowed us to see the relationship between the characters, their differences, and their connections.

So, I think it's a balancing act of finding the character moments and letting the overall story breathe—but keeping them short so that the overall pace doesn't grind to a halt. I think Shepherd's Call found this balance a little more, and hopefully, we'll figure it out more in our next book, Wolfe's Blood.


David Gane Twitter

Co-writer of the Shepherd and Wolfe young adult mysteries, the internationally award-winning series, and teacher of storytelling and screenwriting.


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