Sunday, 23 November 2014

A few words about pacing

You can go fast, or you can go slow. 
Barry didn't mind either way; he had the best view. 
Pacing allows you to control the (illusion of) speed of your story. I say the illusion, because there’s no evidence to suggest your reader actually reads any quicker or slower at different stages of a story.

Fast scenes convey action and excitement. They give the reader a sense or urgency. Importance. Quick bursts of necessary information interspersed with longer sentences quicken the pace, and then slow it back down. (But avoid repeating patterns if you don’t want to irritate.) 

Slow scenes give your characters and readers a chance to relax and catch their breath; to feel the impact of your story. They take time to develop the senses, drawing on the imagination to fully engage the mind. They allow for periods of calm and quiet, and in so doing, enhance the intensity in the action scene.

Stories with no variation in pace do not reflect true life. Life is not all fast paced, or slow paced; if it were, it would either be intolerably stressful or dead dull boring. You don’t want your reader to experience either of those emotions.

Understanding how to control pace is an important skill for all authors. There are lots of ways to do it, although some are better suited for micropacing – line by line – and some are better suited for macropacing – pacing the story as a whole.

If you want to speed things consider the following:
  • More action scenes
  • Giving your reader a series of incidents in rapid succession
  • Cliff hangers and hooks
  • Dialogue
  • Telling not showing
  • Short words, sentences, paragraphs, scenes and chapters
  • Your choice of words
If you want to slow things down consider these:
  • Taking time to describe setting
  • Adding context
  • Lingering over character development
  • Switching focus to sub plots
  • Prolonged dialogue
  • Long words, sentences, paragraphs, scenes and chapters
  • Your choice of words
There are no rights and wrongs, because every story, page and paragraph will be what you make it. How fast your story moves, depends entirely on you. But you must know what you want to achieve and how to achieve it.
Originally posted on the now defunct Magic Beans blog


  1. Hi Wendy! Great article. Very helpful. I'm going to pin it to my Writing Board on Pinterest for future reference. Thank you!

    1. Thank you. I'm glad you found it helpful!


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