A Clipping Good Pace

When it comes to the pacing of your fiction, do you belong to the tortoise camp or the hare’s?

Are you fast from the first word, moving the story crisply from scene to scene, until you blaze through the finale at warp speed?

Or, are you a leisured writer, dwelling lovingly over details, waxing poetic in descriptive passages, lingering in pools of emotion as you wend your way from start to conclusion?

Ideally, of course, a good read serves up a balanced pace. Action is quick, but there are points in the story where things should slow down. A skilled writer controls pacing to aid her readers’ comprehension and enjoyment. Although the modern trend leans toward a generally faster pace than in the past, you don’t want the story to be a blur in your readers’ minds.

Keep in mind that anything–if overused or repeated too much–becomes monotonous and predictable.

Here’s a list of various techniques and their general effect on pacing:

1. Scenes = fast

2. Introspection = slow

3. Change of Viewpoint = slow

4. Description = slow

5. Explanations = slow

6. Dramatic Dialogue = fast

7. Aimless Chatter = slow

8. Background Information = slow

9. Narrative = fast

10. Conflict = fast

11. Hooks = fast

12. Characters in Agreement = slow

13. Cliffhangers = fast

14. Characters Waiting for Something to Happen = slow

15. Passive Characters = slow

16. Dramatic Action = fast

17. Plot Twists = fast

18. Villain Taking the Upper Hand = fast

19. Characters Talking Instead of Doing = slow

20. Dialogue Clogged by Stage Action and Internalizations = slow

As you think about this list, you may perceive that what’s designated as “slow” or “fast” connects to how exciting the technique is going to be.

Well, of course. There’s speed plus intensity to consider. Each affects reader perception of what’s taking place on the page.

Techniques that are fast can either create excitement or confusion, depending on how they’re handled.

Techniques that are slow can either create anticipation or boredom.

Combine and manage them wisely.

4 Comments

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4 responses to “A Clipping Good Pace

  1. I actually like this short list of this = this. Not too shabby if I do say so myself and I agreed with every one of them. Nice work.

  2. This is a great rule of thumb, Deb. I’m gonna use this if you don’t mind. I am extremely conscious of pace and rhythm in my story. For me, its almost like a song.

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