Managing Pacing in Your Narrative

Pacing is like the constant, rhythmic heartbeat of your story. As writers, we use pacing to regulate the speed and intensity of our narrative and carry readers through the plot’s twists and turns. Learning the art of pacing is so important for captivating your audience and keeping them there in a state of bewilderment.

Understanding Pacing: The Rhythm of Your Story


Pacing is the speed at which your story unfolds. It’s as simple as that. It’s not only about how fast the plot moves but also how the reader perceives time and action within your story. But there’s no such thing as too fast or too slow when it comes to pacing in a story. It’s all about how you use the speed of pacing to weave everything together.

An action scene will obviously have quick pacing to build that heart-pounding tension. But a first kiss or having your character discover a new land demands slower, more careful pacing.

Take a look at these two made-up excerpts:

  • Bad pacing: “Mac woke up, got out of bed, went to the bathroom, brushed his teeth, had breakfast, drove to work, spent his day at work, drove home, had dinner, watched TV and then went to bed.”
  • Good pacing: “Mac’s alarm clock blared, wrenching him from sleep. The day rushed at him—a blur of toothpaste, coffee, traffic and an incessant office clock. Before he knew it, he was back home, the hum of the evening news droning from the TV as he drifted to sleep.”

Do you see and feel the difference? Both excerpts depict the same events, but one unfolds much the way it would in real life. The reader is experiencing the morning with Mac rather than just being told about it.

Pacing and Genre: How They Interact

  • Thrillers: These are fast-paced, filled with action sequences and tight suspense.
  • Romance: This genre often has moderate pacing, allowing for character and relationship development.
  • Literary fiction: Uses a slower pace to explore complex characters or themes more deeply.

Techniques to Control Pacing in Your Narrative

  1. Sentence structure: Short, clipped sentences speed up the pacing, while long, descriptive sentences slow it down.
  2. Detail: More detail can slow the pace, while less detail can speed it up.
  3. Action vs. dialogue: Action scenes often speed up the pace, while dialogue or introspection can slow it down.

Common Pacing Pitfalls and How to Avoid Them

  • Inconsistent pacing: Keep your pacing consistent with the genre and mood of your story.
  • Too fast: Don’t rush through important scenes that should be savored.
  • Too slow: Don’t dwell too long on insignificant details or events.

Quick Tips for Effective Pacing

  • Keep scenes dynamic by balancing action, dialogue and narrative.
  • Use cliffhangers at the end of the chapters to quicken the pace.
  • Vary the pace to match the emotion of different scenes.

The Art of Pacing Learning to manage pacing in your narrative can transform your storytelling. It’s an essential skill that can help you engage your readers, build suspense, and deliver a story that resonates.