What’s the point of worrying about pacing? Well, it’s actually a very important consideration.
Pacing is how fast or slow you’re telling the story. It can show the reader how much time has passed (for instance, whether you need to show lot of events during a short period of time, versus if you’re showing events over the span years and your characters age with the progression of the plot).
Lord of the Rings, for instance, is told at a slow pace, for the most part. As you so clearly recall, most of it is about the journey, so that’s most of what they show- the journey, which meant in Frodo’s case a whole lot of walking. And eating. And walking. But, mostly eating.
Whereas, say, an adventure stories, like Harry Potter or Percy Jackson and the Olympians are more action-oriented, and keeps things moving quick.
That doesn’t mean it’s all eating and walking in Lord of the Rings, though. Scene to scene, you can lure the reader along at a different pace, raising the tension high in some, and raising it even higher in others.
But, what do I really mean by pacing, and how can we apply it to our stories?
Let’s see what Courtney Carpenter of Writer’sDigest.com thinks, shall we?
Ms. Carpenter has some brilliant tools here to help you make your story better!
1. Word Choice and Sentence Structure: “The language itself is the subtlest means of pacing. Think concrete words (like prodigy and iceberg), active voice (with potent verbs like zigzag and plunder), and sensory information that’s artfully embedded. If you write long, involved paragraphs, try breaking them up.”
2. Summary: Caution yourselves with this one, but it’s a useful tool. Basically, if you have a long-period of time pass without much action, you can summarize what happened, if you need to keep things short. I’d try to limit how much I use this, if I were you, but hey, maybe you can make them super interesting somehow.
3. Short Chapters and Scenes: this way, it’s easy to digest, and it keeps the reader moving along pretty quickly (and, added bonus, feeling quite accomplished fro reading so much).
4. A Series of Incidents in Rapid Succession: without any time to breathe in between, your characters will have to deal with quite a lot all at once- and leave the reader reeling.
5. Scene Cuts: “Also called a jump cut, a scene cut moves the story to a new location and assumes the reader can follow without an explanation of the location change. The purpose is to accelerate the story, and the characters in the new scene don’t necessarily need to be the characters in the previous scene.”
6. Prolonged Outcomes: this is all about suspense. Tension. This is where the readers are burning through the pages, trying to see if their favourite character gets saved from the burning building.
7. Dialogue: how much the conversion resembles a game of ping-pong really depends on how fast it’s paced. If you want things to speed up, go back and forth with little extra info.If it’s a quieter, slower moment, you can let them speak in their long, winding sentences. It’s all up to you.
8. Action: you’re showing, not telling. The sentences are short. It’s on. Nothing gets your story off it’s proverbial rump like having your characters do something.