Pace is a really important aspect of a good novel, and you need to have the skills to put on the brakes or put the pedal to the metal, as appropriate.
In this article we’re going to have a look at slowing the pace in your novel, but you might also want to see Head Scenes and Tail Scenes, which is highly relevant to this topic.
Why would you want to slow the pace in your novel?
You might think that slowing down the pace sounds like a bad idea – slow = boring, right? Well, it’s not quite as simple as that. Here are some reasons you might want to slow it down.
Interest comes from contrast – if you ate Peking Duck every day, then plain toast would seem like an exotic alternative eventually. In music, songs have alternate slow and fast sections to emphasise each one – three fast sections in a row have nowhere near as much impact as a fast section sandwiched inbetween two slow ones.
Time to take a breather
If your novel is high octane, fast-paced relentlessly, all the way through, then readers will get excitement fatigue and will either feel too exhausted to keep reading or will simply shut off and become desensitized to the action, no matter how highly it escalates. By having slower, calm wind downs inbetween the action, you give them (and your protagonist) a chance to regroup, straighten out, then hunker down for the next conflict.
Atmosphere, tension and suspense
By slowing down the tension you can add layers of atmosphere, tension and suspense. Readers will be on the edge of their seat as you keep them hanging, knowing something is going to happen… any… minute…
Okay, so how do we control pace in a novel?
This is the most subtle way to slow pace without interrupting the story. Simple things such as longer sentences with sub-clauses, and longer paragraphs, all serve to make the pace more leisurely.
While the character is lost in reverie, there isn’t much action happening, and it gives an opportunity for reflection and consideration of how to proceed, ensuring the reader believes the character is behaving realistically (by which we mean in character, not necessarily sensibly), as they understand the motivations.
New writers often play fast and loose with flashbacks, thinking it’s a great way to get in backstory or explain the motivations of their characters. But flashbacks should be handled with care, as they completely shatter the forward momentum of the story. Used carefully, they can help with controlling pace, but beware of throwing your reader out of your story-world, when you’ve just spent however long getting them immersed.
If you enjoyed this post, then you should probably check out the Novel Factory.