What is Pace?

My recent college class was quite thought-provoking.  In the first class exercise we put our hands flat down on the table, our feet level on the floor and closed our eyes.  As soon as a piece of music started playing and we could imagine an image then we picked up our pens and wrote as fast as we could.

As it happened three out of the four pieces of music we listened to were quite slow and relaxing, whether some of them contained words or not.  However, the remaining snapshot of music encompassed sets of very recognisable words to a catchy beat; this made it really difficult to write.  You may like to have a go at writing to this music to see what I mean:


Trying to write to this piece of music slowed our writing pace right down.  This was because as we attempted to write, our brains tuned in to the words of the song rather than our own thoughts. This caused the group not to write as much (speed writing) with errors and no corrections (also known as monkey-writing).  Our writing felt awkward, it was hard to concentrate.

It’s interesting to note that supermarkets/other busy shop outlets play fast music in order to increase the pace of the shoppers moving throughout the store at peak times and they also slow the music down when they want them to stay.

So the results to the experiment were common sense really, we acknowledged that it was easier to write to slow classical music rather than to fast or awkward music.  The right music can allow our brains to think clearer and write better by blotting out background distractions.

We also discussed that to prevent the reader from falling asleep whilst reading your writing then your plot should not feel as though it just contains one pace, or in other words be one-dimensional.  If you don’t establish a character flaw (which can have an effect on the pace by causing conflict) and you don’t structure your chapters so that there aren’t any proper peaks and troughs of excitement in your writing, then it will appear that your character will be carrying on running.  If you add pace to your writing it will give your story some zest.  You must be aware though that an action packed story can also be exhausting and in turn will also appear just as flat.

A real page turner of a book has to comprise of peaks and troughs of excitement.  One author we talked about in class (who is a master at creating thrills) appears to use a formula in their writing.  This author likes to have one main character with several sub characters in each novel.  Each character is incorporated individually within their own chapter and each chapter is given a climax at the end.  This method results in keeping the reader on the edge of his seat at all times and keeps them reading.

Another useful experiment that you could try at home is to watch this Youtube clip like we did in class:


Make a note of what the camera is looking at.  Watch how the camera narrates the scene and what are you forced to watch.  Take a note of whether the pace is slowing down or speeding up.  Write down what you see.

The class concluded that interruptions and monologues are as per each discourse.  This scene actually set itself up with the arguing; shouting and pauses for the main character (the president) to walk in and take a pitch.  It’s crucial to note that if an important piece of information is dropped into a hectic scene then it risks being lost or quickly forgotten by the reader.

We noted that short sharp sentences were used for scenes of conflict creating a quicker pace.  Also, that dialogue can be used as a tool to shift the pace along; whereas description slows the pace of your writing down.  Showing email; text; reports and letter snap shots in your text can be used as a device to change the style of your writing.  Style can also either speed up or slow down pace.  It was noted that long sentences create relaxation, a slower pace.

To complete the class lesson we chose one of our own monkey-writing pieces that we produced at the beginning of the evening whilst listening to excerpts of music with different tempi.  We chose the piece of writing with the most useful amount of information in it and then we refined it to create the desired effect that we really wanted for our work.  If it was a conflict scene it was edited to contain lots of short sentences (approximately 11 words or less to create speed and punchiness).  A relaxing scene had to be written with longer sentences to reflect a slow pace (with sentences containing 20 words or more in each).  In years gone by lots of lengthy descriptive sentences were the norm; these do not appear to be in fashion any more.

To conclude we must remember that if the writing does not further itself by dialogue or give the desired pace then the writing should be removed.

If you have enjoyed this article then please feel free to share, any comments are most welcome.  🙂





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