Friday, August 2, 2013

The Importance of Pacing in Writing Fiction by Jack Meyers

The Importance of Pacing in Writing Fiction

Alright, let me get right down to it. Pacing is important. In every kind of writing there is pacing. It is present in school books, novels, poetry, and even advertisements are dependent on pacing. Pacing determines how what you write comes across to readers. Is it short and fast and to the point? Is it long and boring? Is it ornate and languorous? It all depends on your pacing. If you do not understand what I mean then just keep reading.

1. Fast –So you want your story to be fast paced. You are going for something that will get readers moving through the pages faster than their eyes can follow. Something that sucks readers in and keeps them reading until the story is done. You like action; quick stories with faster resolutions and witty banter. None of that froufrou stuff for you. You subscribe more to the Hemingway philosophy of writing than the Austen school. Here is a tip: keep your sentences short. Choose short words that are clear and concise. Do not spend a lot of time describing what is going on or the setting or the characters. Show by action and dialogue.

2. Slow – You prefer the slow and steady path. Rather than rushing your way through a piece of fiction you prefer to meander and take in all the details. More luxury car than sports car, you thrive on the little joys of writing. Take your time describing the setting. Get to know your characters with elaborate back stories or long conversations. Keep your sentences long and complex with lots of adverbs and adjectives to fill up the pages until your simple story has stretched into an epic novel that will keep readers enthralled for days.

3. Action –When writing action, a fast pace is usually preferable. Because action scenes need that feeling of movement short, choppy sentences work well. Sound words and sharp verbs should be foremost on your list. You do not have a lot of time to describe everything that is going on, so focus on what is most important at the time. You can always fill in the blanks via a flashback or info dump later. Remember that fragmented sentences are acceptable! Keeping your paragraphs and dialogue short is another great way to infuse action and movement into a scene.

4.  Romance –Depending on the type of romance you are going for, you usually want to slow things down a bit. For period romance slow and easy is key. Describe the frilly things that make up this historical world and draw your readers slowly into the past. Once you get to the actual romance scenes you can choose to keep it slow like the embers of a fire, or speed it up for a blazing romance. For an action story with romance in it, the opposite is usually key to highlighting romance. In a fast paced world slow down your pace to emphasizes the connection between too people. You can have your readers forming a relationship before there is ever a kiss or touch between the characters.

5.  Mystery –Another genre that requires a great deal of consciousness with pacing is a mystery. Mysteries are dependent on a fast intro, a slow build and a fast conclusion. In the first part of a mystery story everything should happen quickly and without much detail. The murder or other crime should be right at the beginning and should be fast paced in order to keep too many revealing details from coming forth all at once. What good is a mystery if you know from the beginning who did it? After the crime however the pace should slow down considerably to allow for clues to be found and the investigator to proceed with solving the crime. This is the time to build up the various characters and create the web of mystery that great stories are known for. Then when the conclusion looms, the pace should increase again. The closer the answer gets, the faster the pace should become until the climactic reveal. Then you slow down again to wrap things up and fill in all the details of the crime.

6.   Sections of the story –As all writers know, there are sections to every story. In general, each section has its own pacing. Depending, of course, on the genre of the story there can be variations, but most stories can be broken down into four parts.

a.      The intro –The introduction to a story should usually start out fast paced. This is the point at which you want to hook the reader and have them drawn into the story. Most readers look for action and excitement and a fast paced intro is a great way to keep them interested for long enough so that you can start to build up your story.
b.     The build – The build is where you slow down your pace and fill in the details. Character back stories, setting, historical points or anything else you want to include detail wise should be in the build. The build can go on for a long time or it can be very short depending on the genre and length of the story you are writing.
c.      The climax –Here is another important spot to go very fast paced in. The climax is where everything comes to a head. Everything you have been building on has built up to this point. This is the big reveal and it should be the shortest and yet most important part of your story.
d.     The conclusion –After the fast pace of the climax slow back down to fill everything out. Though some stories end at the climax most writers and readers prefer to wrap everything up nicely and give some closure. A slow pace is necessary to bring everything back down and wrap it all up.

7.      Vocabulary and pacing –Vocabulary is very important when it comes to pacing. A fast paced story has a need for short words that are easily understood. This can mean simple, but does not always have to. Sometimes a short word is more revealing than a long one. For example the word exuberant is simple, but much more expressive than happy. When you want to move a story along at a fast pace the best way to do that is with short but expressive sentences full of easy to understand words. If, however, you want to go at a slower pace than larger, longer and more elaborate words should be used. Where exuberant would work in a fast paced section, a word like effervescent is a lot more flowery and descriptive than still. The use of many adjectives and adverbs as well as a large and descriptive vocabulary make for a slower pace but an excellent read.

8.     Pacing for children – Children’s writing is a whole other ball of wax. Depending on the style you want to give to your story the pace makes all the difference. Take “Goodnight Moon” versus “Green eggs and Ham” for example. While the first is slow and calm the latter is face-paced and frantic. Is it the vocabulary? No, because all the words are for young readers. Instead it is the punctuation and repetition. Where the first has long repetitious sentences that do not rhyme, the latter has short, fast rhyming words which give it a bouncy reading style and fast pace. This is something that children’s book writers have to be very aware of.

These are just a few ideas that pertain to pacing in your stories. When writing you should always pay attention to the pacing of your sentences and how they will be read by others. It can make the difference between a bestseller and a forgotten novel.

Author Bio:
Jack Meyers is a regular contributor for As a detective he wants to spread the knowledge of terrible things that can happen when people don’t fully verify the credentials of a caregiver or any employee. He also writes for various law enforcement blogs and sites.


Laurie Buchanan said...

I thoroughly enjoyed the attention to detail here as Jack thoughtfully outlined the different types of pace.

Leanne Dyck said...

Yes, Laurie, I completely agree with your comment. Jack has crafted a very helpful article.