Pacing refers to the variations in the rate of speed your characters move through scenes and chapters to reach the end of their story. Pacing differs with the specific needs of a story. There are times when you will want to slow things down or speed them up. If an event in a story is important, slow it so readers can linger over it. If it is not, speed through it so you can quickly move to more interesting scenes. To understand the variables involved in pacing, we need to understand the relationship between scenes and interludes.
Interludes happen between scenes. During an interlude characters think about or discuss with another character what happened in the previous scene and then decide what they will do in the next scene. Interludes should happen more quickly than scenes. Interludes can be a couple of pages long or as short as two words: “Two hours later…”
In a scene, a person or a situation must be altered. If nothing is changed, it’s an unnecessary scene. Pacing can vary inside a scene. For example, the scene’s opening is usually not filled with action. In pacing terms, it should happen fast and be over quickly. The action part of a scene should be full of conflict, and needs meticulous attention. This means showing in such a way that everything essential to the scene is described in vivid, sensory detail.
• Create scenes that read slowly, are packed with action and engender some intense emotions in your reader.
• Focus on your character’s movements, emotions, attempts at solving his problem.
• Use sensory details to create a feeling of immediacy and urgency. This makes a scene feel faster even though it takes several pages to read. Let your reader see the gaping wound, experience the fear, see the sweat.
• Buildup to the scene’s climax.
• Keep sentences short. Use some fragments.
• Replace adjectives and adverbs with strong verbs and nouns. • Keep dialogue tight.
• Create interludes that read fast and allow your reader to catch her breath.
• Use descriptive passages such as culture, character background, local color, clothing, and weather.
• Have your character think about his situation, make decisions and plan his next action.
• Use longer sentences with more visual details.
• Accompany dialogue with more description.
Pacing is a complex literary skill. Consider carefully how you will pace the events in your story.