Ever watched a movie that was so packed full of non-stop action it left you feeling breathless? Exhilarated, maybe… but disconnected from the characters – unable to learn much about them amidst the constant stream of explosions, car chases and death-defying peril?
Or have you ever read a story where the author droned on for so long about their characters’ thoughts, feelings, family history, and childhood until you thought please… please just let something – anything – happen?
If so, you’ve more than likely encountered a problem with pacing.
Pacing refers to the momentum of a story. There are times we want the reader frantically turning pages because there’s so much high-energy action, and there are times when we want to slow down the story – to let the reader sink into the prose like they would a warm, soothing bath.
Keeping the brain engaged requires a consistent mixture of these – like a rollercoaster ride. Take the reader slowly up to the top and then slam them down the other side, through blinding loops and breakneck corners… and then slow them back down again in preparation for the next dose of action.
A good story has a mix of fast-paced and slow-paced sections. This variety helps us generate tension, build anticipation, develop our characters, insert descriptions, drive the plot forward and— above all – maintain our reader’s interest.