Last week, we compared a novel to stoplights along a busy road. The red traffic signal may make a driver pause long enough to take in the views. The green may cause an increase in their speed, or the yellow may cause the driver to linger in the moment. Similarly, we can cause readers to pause, fast forward, or slow their speed by how we write.
Have you ever wanted more from a character or scene? In great novels, this is deliberate. Writers master pacing by focusing on specific features within the text that can make a reader linger or crave for more.
Let’s discuss some of these features together:
1.) Action- Using action, you can drive a reader forward. Action increases the novel’s tension and excitement. It makes a reader guess at the character’s next move, while making the pace quicken to a nerve racing intensity.
2.) Dialogue- Writers can use dialogue to break apart scenes that might otherwise linger or slow a novel. Great dialogue bounces between characters with natural flow. It champions the tension, rising the improbable odds and clashes between characters.
3.) Scenes- The end of most scenes and chapters should leave you desiring more. Although cliche, the cliffhanger is a real tool in every great writer’s repertoire. By ending a scene early, you make the reader long for more and page turn ahead.
4.) Conflict- The conflict can race ahead at times or bog down with more dilemmas. A wise writer uses conflict and complications to adjust the novel’s pace. At times, the characters should seem so overwhelmed that their troubles can’t possibly reach a solution, while at other places the novel may slow with a more satisfying ebb.
Writing plays a careful balance with the heart of the reader. Pace a novel too fast and the reader may not have enough time to invest in the characters, but pace a novel too slow and the reader may lose interest in the plot. If a scene doesn’t interest you, it probably won’t interest anyone else. Change the pace by adding conflict, cutting the scene’s length, introducing dialogue, or building in more action.
With these tools, you can alter the trajectory of your story. Take the time to edit again. Look for scenes that slow your pace. Is this intentional? What will drive the reader back to the page?