Today we’ll tread through the topic of pacing in fiction. If you’d like readers to maintain interest in your stories, you might want to step along with me.
The term ‘pacing’ refers to how fast the reader is reading, and the speed at which the story’s events take place. A good writer not only controls the pace of reading, but also varies that pace throughout the story. Fast-paced scenes are followed by slow-paced ones, and then another fast scene, etc. Jamming too many fast scenes together leaves a reader overwhelmed and lessens each scene’s impact. Slow scenes that are too long or not separated by a fast intermediate scene can bore the reader.
Even within a scene, some pacing should occur. There will be slightly fast moments in a slow scene and slightly slow moments in a fast one. Pacing relates to rhythm, and it’s important to keep varying it.
Use a fast pace for action-packed portions of the story. Examples of emotions felt by characters in these scenes are anger, fear, energy, excitement, joy, and surprise.
Create a fast pace with short sentences and short paragraphs. Keep the writing plain, free of modifiers. Use brief and impactful verbs. There should be more dialogue, and it should be snappy. Some sentence fragments.
In other words, you’re maximizing the “white space.”
A slower pace allows the reader to catch her breath and more fully absorb what happened in the faster scenes. A relaxed tempo serves to emphasize important points, let characters to refresh and recharge after action sequences, reveal character backgrounds and motivations, and permit characters to react and reflect on moments of high drama as well as to plan for future events.
The slow paced sequences allow better expression of these character emotions: anger, fear, astonishment, awe, and disbelief. Yes, anger and fear can belong in both the fast and slow parts.
To slow down the pace, stay with more narrative and less dialogue, make use of longer sentences, and embellish the prose with descriptions. Don’t overdo any of those, however; your aim is to keep the reader interested, not bore him.
As mentioned, my advice is to alternate the fast and slow sections. Also alternate fast and slow paragraphs, and sentences within a paragraph. Such variation avoids monotony and keeps the reader intrigued enough to stay with your story.