How to Nail Your Pacing
Pacing is what keeps your readers up at night turning pages because they have to know what happens next. It can be the difference between an okay story and a great one. Good pacing makes your story memorable and exciting. So how do we nail our pacing?
By following story structure. Story structure is the foundation of your story and it will ensure good pacing by hitting every step of the way as you build your story. This holds true whether you use the Three Act Structure or the Fichtean Curve. Each structure has different plot points that need to be met and are staged throughout the story to ensure your pace doesn’t slow down too much. The overview for the Three Act, Five Act, Fichtean Curve, and Hero’s Journey structures will give you more details on each structure and what they entail. The point is to be consistent with your pacing. You don’t want two high intensity action scenes occurring too close together. You also don’t want too long of a lull in the plot either. Either one can bore your reader and make your story seem amateurish and disorganized. Think of each plot point as a cycle. Build up the tension as a new conflict arises, climax at a major plot point, and relieve tension with falling action as your characters deal with the consequences of each scene.
So how do we speed up pacing? One way is by being concise. Use short, snappy sentences instead of long descriptive ones. Cut out any flowery description and streamline your exposition and narration. Summarize instead of showing the passage of time. Don’t show the MC going through every part of their entire day. Cut out the passage of time and jump into the action. Also, starting too far removed from the action will slow your pacing down. Make sure you don’t start each scene too early and have too much exposition, which will bore your readers and cause them to skim.
How do we slow down pacing? Likewise you can slow down pacing by showing the passage of time and describing what your MC is doing. Stay in the present moment with them for longer periods of time. Dialogue is also a great way to slow down pacing as the readers get immersed in the scene. Dialogue is also a great way to show not tell emotions. Make sure to pair your dialogue with body language and narration to paint the entire scene and avoid just talking.
Here’s an example of a faster paced scene:
Jenny gasped for air as her feet hit the pavement. She scrambled forward as she heard the sounds of a commotion behind her. Move, she ordered herself. Jenny sprang towards the street, losing herself in the crowd.
And here’s an example of that scene slowed down:
Jenny gasped for air as her feet hit the pavement. Drops of sweat rolled down the side of her face and matted her black hair to her skin. But this wasn’t the time to worry about how she looked. She scrambled forward as she heard the sounds of a commotion behind her. Move, she ordered herself. The air was filled with the sounds of the city, honking taxis and cars flying past and the bustle of people rushing about. She sprang towards the street, losing herself in the crowd.
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Do you struggle with pacing? What are some of your trade secrets? Comment below and happy writing!