1. Ged
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    Ged Senior Member

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    Pacing

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Ged, Jan 4, 2010.

    I remember often reading about this elusive term, but so far I haven't been able to look at a piece of writing and say: "This pacing is good/bad (fast/slow, whatever)."

    I began working on a critique for a short story on this forum and I came across comments about the story's pacing. What is pacing? Can you give me some concrete examples?
     
  2. DragonGrim
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    DragonGrim Contributing Member

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    I have not read your piece, but events are either moving too fast, or they are moving too slow. Unfortunately, it’s not very easy to give an example, and I don’t know how much good it would do. There usually isn’t a problem with pacing. It’s the choice of the writer. But if the story is like watching a movie in fast-forward, or is like going through it frame by frame, then there is a tangible problem with pacing.

    Long sentences, detail, conversation, thoughts by characters and explication, and exposition all slow down the pace. To move the story faster, one has to focus on the most important details and leave out everything else. Action is a good time to speed up the pace.
     
  3. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Also, the story shouldn;t all move at the same speed (pace). High action should be at a faster pace than an awkward conversation. If you are in a hospital waiting room, waiting for word on whether an injured character will pull through, the pace should be slow to enhance the mood.

    Short, simple sentences convey a faster pace than long, complicated ones. Plenty of description also slows the pace, so you should generally limit description during intense action sequences.

    Pace is like the tempo of music. It is another means of expression a good writer uses to his or her advantage.
     
  4. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    That's how I've always thought of it.
     
  5. Destin
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    Destin Senior Member

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    I'll give you an example.

    First, something happening at a slow pace:

    So the only things that have actually been accomplished in this paragraph were: a) I took a step. b) I touched my temples.

    Now the same thing happening at a quick pace:

    Doesn't have the same effect does it? Pacing goes hand in hand with show and tell. Telling tends to quicken the pace. Showing can be misunderstood. Not everything needs to be shown. Telling is good for things that are boring. For instance, I don't want to read about someone's uneventful walk to the store. "Bob walked to the store," will suffice. Sure it is telling, but when a scene isn't engaging, you shouldn't waste the reader's attention with showing.

    On the other hand, as above, when something needs to be emphasized and is important to the story, it is the time to show. How much you show is how you fine tune the pacing.

    Hopefully that helps you get on the right track with pacing.
     
  6. Ged
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    Ged Senior Member

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    @Destin: yeah, very useful, thanks a lot :D And of course, my thanks go out to everyone else who's replied as well.
     
  7. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    to me, pacing is only noticeable when it doesn't work... i'd notice if a work proceeded too slowly, or too quickly, but wouldn't even think about it, if it's 'just right'...
     

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