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.