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8 Techniques to Increase the Pace of Your Story

Major plot points need speed in narration. You can slow them at intervals to portray a character’s thought process and emotions, but for the most part, the story needs to be at high top speed. A story can be fast-paced on a line-by-line basis (micro-pacing) or as a whole (macro-pacing). To achieve both forms of fast pacing, here are eight techniques.

1. WORD CHOICE AND SENTENCE STRUCTURE. A way to speed up a story which many fail to notice is through language usage. Using concrete words and active verbs and cutting down on adverbs increases the readability of your narrative and consequently increases the pace as well. Try breaking down long sentences and lengthy, involved paragraphs. Creatively embellish sensory information. Trim every sentence of unnecessary words and irrelevant prepositional phrases. Scan your story for passive linking verbs and exchange them for active ones.

2. SUMMARY. Use scenes to highlight major events in your story. And the passage of time, where nothing much occurs, should be summarized. Summaries will help you greatly to reduce your word count and go straight to give readers what they are anxiously waiting for. You can summarize an era where little occurs to impact the story, as well as backstories and descriptions.

3. ACTION. The action scene is where readers see what happens in your story. When you write them in short or medium length sentences, they speed up the pace of the story. Action scenes are straightforward and focus on action with less description, limited character thoughts, and zero transitions. When the action takes place in a crisis situation, where all that matters is survival, reduce introspection and description to only a few details that heighten emotions.

4. A SERIES OF INCIDENTS IN RAPID SUCCESSION. Another technique to accelerate your story is to create interesting main events occurring back-to-back in the narrative. These events are usually presented with limited transitions, leaping from scene to scene by using jump cuts. Jump cuts or scene cuts move a story to a new location without explanation because readers already know what is happening in the new setting. They also speed up your narrative.

5. CLIFF HANGERS. Nothing makes the pages flip faster like a cliffhanger. Readers can’t wait to get to the next chapter or the next scene when the current one is left hanging. Uncertainties keep them turning the pages, so supply plenty of unfinished action and interruptions in your scenes. This doesn’t necessarily demand something huge, like the main character about to be shot at the end of a chapter. You can end a scene in the middle of a dialogue where a major revelation occurs or a threat is issued.

6. PROLONGED OUTCOMES. Though it may seem like prolonging an event would reduce the speed of your story, the opposite is actually the case. The suspense and speed of your narrative are increased when you drag out outcomes. This is because readers keep flipping the pages vigorously to know how it all ends. If the detective will crack the case on time before the criminal strikes again, or if the hero will arrive at the scene on time before the villain wrecks unrepairable damage.

7. DIALOGUE. A dialogue that involves an argument or a confrontation is exhilarating when it goes back and forth with limited description and introspection. Imagine an interrogation room with a suspect and a detective; both engaged in a tense conversation, written with minimal side notes, like descriptions and reactions. The most exciting dialogues are pared down, an abridged version of a real-life conversation saturated with tension.

8. SHORT CHAPTERS AND SCENES. Short chapters and scenes are easy to read quickly, and they still portray a complete action. These short segments don’t slow readers down with complex actions, transitions, introspection or lengthy descriptions. Thus, they are an excellent way to press the pedal on a story and keep it moving with speed.

Written by Readers’ Favorite Reviewer Frank Stephen