What Is Narrative Pace?

Pace plays an important role in the narrative. Through the correct use of pacing, the writer can keep the reader on the edge of his seat and then give the same reader a bit of a reprieve when the plot becomes tense. This element of writing determines whether the person reading the book continues to read or puts it down because of boredom.


Narrative pace determines how quickly or how slowly the writer takes a reader through a story, explains Writer's Digest. The story itself determines the pace of the story. It relies on the combination of mood and emotion as these elements play out in the dialogue, setting and action. For example, a story such as Dan Brown's "The DaVinci Code" has a much faster pace than Elizabeth Gilbert's "Eat, Pray, Love." Additionally, the pace of the story varies; the opening pace may feel very different from that of the story's climax.

Upping the Pace

Fast action and rapid sequencing put a little spring into the narrative's step -- as does the cliffhanger. Both of these narrative elements make the reader want to go on to the next page to see what happens to the story's hero. Action sequences containing little dialogue and few thoughts from the characters best create this feeling. Using short transitions in between scenes works in tandem with the action sequences to get the story moving. Also related to these literary devices is the use of rapid sequencing. If big plot moments happen one right after the other, the pace of the short story or novel feels faster.

Slowing It Down

Narrative passages that contain a great deal of detail -- slowly establishing scenes and containing longer sentences -- feel slower than other parts of the story. Additionally, writing longer chapters or switching the narrative's focus to another subplot conveys a passage of time. These elements bring the pace down, building suspense or allowing the reader to catch his breath between visceral action sequences.

Striking a Balance

The most interesting stories contain sequences that move at different speeds. These keep the reader engaged. In "The DaVinci Code," the author accomplished this by juxtaposing chapters that featured mostly dialogue that imparted information about the relics the characters where seeking with fast-paced action sequences. Generally, the book moves very quickly, but chapters with a more leisurely pace helped keep the tension high and the story moving without allowing the reader to become bored.

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