Pacing and Transitions

Pacing is the time you take in a story to present the reader with information. It is important that you know how to effectively manipulate the pacing of a story to create a believable plot. There are two types of pacing: slow and fast. There are several points in which to implement both types of pacing. Let’s start with slow pacing.

Slow pacing is very important in creating believability. You need to use it regularly throughout your story for the reader’s sake. Slow pacing is often used at points that the writer wants to create emphasis on a subject that will be common through the story. For example, in a fantasy novel I am writing, I have a character that was born with very dark magical abilities that are strengthened and become harder to control when he experiences negative emotions. I make this very clear shortly after I introduce his character, going into high detail about how he always has to stay happy and positive to avoid losing control and hurting the people he cares about. Then, throughout the course of the story, I have little bits where something happens to him emotionally and things happen. At one point, he and his travelling company are resting for the night and he becomes angry, the sheer anger radiating from him turning their campfire black.

Taking the time to slow your pacing to convey important information can save you a lot of trouble later and allows you to reflect on this moment during fast-paced scenes, ensuring that you don’t have to slow down the pacing for the sake of explaining yourself and maintaining believable pacing.

Slow pacing is also used after a dramatic scene to create an emotional impact. For example, let’s say you write about someone watching their friend get hit by a car. Have this happen suddenly. The two characters are outside together. Maybe they are walking home after attending a party. Have the character whose perspective you are writing from, witness the other character be involved in this hit and run incident. Create panic as the character tries to warn their friend of the approaching vehicle, describe how the warning came too late, squealing of tires, sickening thud, shattering of glass etc. At this point, slow time down. Tell of the character being frozen in shock only to be broken out of it when the driver of the vehicle drives off, leaving their friend barely alive, crumpled in the middle of the road. The character runs to their friend, calling for help. Keep milking this scene for all it’s worth, describe emotions, thoughts, little details. In this scene, the seconds should feel like hours to the uninjured character. In this case, the reader may be in shock at the events of the story and will need slow-pacing to get their bearings and truly understand what happened.

Fast pacing is a little less complicated. It’s used to create a sense of flowing, quick forward motion in the plot. Dialogue is a good way of achieving this illusion. It moves the reader through scenes of action in a seemingly faster way than pure narrative does.

This pacing is also used in full out action scenes such as fighting scenes. In these scenes, in order to speed up the pacing as it should be, don’t use long, flowery sentences or long paragraphs. Just use simple bits of information that are either jointed or not so much:

“The creature managed to land a blow on his shoulder. Cyril yelped in surprise and dropped his gun. The creature rose up on its hind legs, readying its claws to strike. Just as it brought its lethal attack down, Cyril dodged it, rolling to the side to retrieve his weapon”

As you can see, these scenes shouldn’t be too descriptive. This gives the idea that the character locked in battle is only aware of basic movements, making the thoughts of the character more believable. Also, consider using sentence fragments rather than full sentences. This quickens the pace even further.

Transitions are just as important. They are words or key sentences that bridge one idea to the next. Be careful when creating these. Too many transitions can be just as confusing as too few. In order to create believable transitions, don’t use them between every idea and sentence but try to create one between each paragraph. There’s not much else to say about transitions as they are quite similar and tie a lot into pacing. While writing, just keep an eye on how you go about transitioning from one idea to the next depending on your pacing.


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