Pace, as I'm sure you know, is the speed at which a story moves.
Something most writers will struggle with at some point in their career! Finding the correct balance in your story is a difficult task. To be honest, even if you get it figured out once, it doesn't mean you'll never have to figure it out again. Each story is a new adventure, and depending on the genre and plot, the necessary pacing will be changing from book to book.
1 - Try to alternate fast-paced scenes with slower ones. That way your reader will enjoy the excitement of the action, but will also get a rest, a chance to recuperate (if you’re doing your job right, your reader will have a huge amount invested in the book and will be as exhausted at the end of the high-action scene as your characters, and will need as much of a break!).
To speed up pace:
- Action: A lot happening, or a lot of excitement.
- Avoid description: If you want to make the action scene quick and precise, avoid detail. Also, be particular with what details you DO choose to include. Look at it this way: If it was a film, the camera would be focused on the action, on the people - rather than having a panoramic vista. Tell the story the same way, e.g. the beads of sweat on the face rather than, say, the streetscape. If you want to describe what’s happening to the streetscape, then do so through interesting detail - the overturned chairs, perhaps.
- Avoid deep thoughts: Now is not the time for the character to dwell on their family troubles. They're probably not going to have a moral battle in their head that goes on for pages; that can happen after the battle or war.
- Have short snappy sentences: Cut commas if you must, avoid adverbs and adjectives as much as you can. Make the dialogue abrupt. We don't need small talk or comments about the weather, we need them to be straight to the point.
2- Sometimes the story needs to slow down. The plot needs to climb and tension needs to be built up before action. Yes, you'll need interesting events and exciting happenings, but if you write the story pace at 10 on a scale of 1-10 the whole story, your poor reader is going to get pounded with all this action and eventually get desensitized to it. We want the the excitement to actually be exciting, not repetitive.
So how do you slow a story down if you feel the pace is too fast?
- Reactions: Give your characters a breather and let them react to the last thing you put them through, or whatever they're going through at the moment. It could be an emotional reaction, a physical recovery, or a quick run-down of what just happened. Give them some pages to emotionally vent. It's okay, I promise, to focus solely on their emotions briefly. Otherwise, with all the constant action, we may not get to hear from them on how they're doing. Also, if you give them a reasonable and realistic reaction, they'll seem more like real people rather than just characters on a page. Even if the reader just skims over that reaction, the space still gives them a moment to think, “Wow, that was pretty cool/romantic/horrifying,” before they jump into the next part of the story.
- Advance the story: Now, despite what I just said about having slower parts and pages dedicated to reactions, make sure that the tricks you are using to slow the story still benefit it. To slow the story down, I'd rather you not use pages of small talk or meaningless conversation. Also, preferably you won't spend pages just describing a room or something. Yes, that will probably slow the story down, but in a boring way that the reader won't gain anything from. It would be better off cut out of the story.
- Foreshadowing: The slow parts in stories are good places to drop a little foreshadowing in discreetly. While the character is recovering, someone could mention something but just be blown off like it's no big deal. Turns out, that thing they mentioned is actually a huge deal later on in the story.
- Reflection: If you followed the advice about speeding the story up, then you'll most likely have a lot of action without a lot of description or explanation. Now is the time to reflect on what just happened, report the damage, and survey the scene. What changes were caused by this action? (Could apply to an emotional aspect, or the destruction of a town, depending on the type of action you used) What were the characters feelings while it was happening? (If you didn't have time to go into that while it was happening)
- Journeys: Sometimes, in writing, we want to skip right past the parts we assume will be boring and get on with the good stuff. Sometimes, this includes mentioning that they traveled somewhere, but not actually showing the traveling. Well, if you need a good, slow part to your story, try not cutting out the journey. This is still action, but it's calm action, not frantic, and it will still allow your readers minds a little break.
- Dialogue can be more relaxed: -but still with a point to it, a point of advancing the plot. However, the characters don't have to be so straight to the point. You can show their fatigue in the way they talk, or have a few personal comments in the dialogue.
- Prolonged outcomes: They know what's coming next, but they have to wait. This creates tension, and just enough worry to keep your slow part from being boring. The readers know they have something to be anxious about and look forward to. Hold it off, though, by emotional and physical preparation of the characters.
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