The build up is about decision-making, planning, and preparation. In a police procedural or suspense story it may be quite long. This is the section where we would create moral conflict in the mind of the main character and where we create fear and worry in a reader. However, in an adventure story this section would take up far less story space.
The action is what a character does or experiences that advances the plot. This element may be fast-paced or slow paced. For example in a mystery novel, thriller or adventure story the pace is usually fast while the pace of a suspense novel will be slower in order to build fear of what will happen.
The aftermath is the reaction or change in characters or plot due to the action. This section might thrust your character into an immediate new obstacle or it might take a bit of time to analyze the emotional impact on that character. In a romance novel this section will be longer in order to show the depth of sorrow, misunderstanding or love resulting from the action.
Attention to the role of these three elements will help perfect your pacing.
Here are a few additional suggestions to keep your pacing at a level that will hold reader interest:
- Start a scene where the action starts.
- Add backstory in small pieces within the context of the current story event.
- Keep characters in motion when they are talking or thinking—twisting shirt buttons, scratching, chewing gum, pacing.
- Write some scenes that are not wild and wooly action. Give your reader a rest.
Pacing can be tricky, but it’s as essential as character development and setting. Give it the same level of attention.