Hello, Write Owls! Welcome to Day 29 of Storytelling 101. Today we’re talking about pacing.
Pacing is the momentum of your story. Some stories tend to have faster paces than others, but all stories should have a mix of fast- and slow-paced scenes. Like with most things, balance is key. If you have too many fast-paced scenes, your reader won’t be able to catch their breath and will get overwhelmed. If you have too many slow-paced scenes, you’re reader will get bored.
Your story’s structure will help you set the pace. As your characters move toward and away from the plot milestones, they’re creating movement (Maas).
Your pace should be appropriate for what your protagonist is doing and feeling. If your character is in an intense swordfight, your scene should be fast paced. If your protagonist is savoring a moment with their best friend, the scene should probably be slow-paced. You want to go back and forth between fast-paced and slow-paced scenes, so you can give your reader a chance to breathe without boring them.
You can give a scene a faster pace by including lots of white space and decreasing the number of details. If you want your scene to have a slower pace, use denser blocks of text and increase the number of details. If you’re pacing a conversation, adding more descriptions and body language in between sets of dialogue will help slow it down (Moreci).
Your story will be too slow if the main plot doesn’t show up soon enough. You want to avoid having lots of setup and/or backstory in the beginning as this will slow the story down too much and cause your reader to lose interest. A lack of tension can also cause the pace to be too slow (Maass).
I suggest not worrying too much about pace during the initial drafting phase. When you’re editing later, pay attention to the rhythm of your story. Use the aforementioned tips to slow down or speed up scenes that aren’t appropriately paced.
These are the basics of pacing. If you have any questions about this topic, please leave them in the comments; and I’ll try to answer them as a reply since there is no Q&A on Saturday.
Feel free to answer these in the comments if you want to chime in!
1) Have you ever been overwhelmed by a story whose pace is too fast?
Maass, Donald. Writing the Breakout Novel. Writer’s Digest Books, 2001.
Moreci, Jenna. “Top 10 Tips for Pacing Your Book.” YouTube, uploaded by Writing with Jenna Moreci, 12 December 2018, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IYo89h3vxmU