Written by Sarah Yoon

_201_koi_lake_by_365_daysofdoodles-d7sk4krIn the first part, we jumped from Potter to Poirot and explored the different versions of macro pacing, where the plot arc climaxes and the story sucks the reader in. If you keep your eyes open, you’ll find incredible variety from story to story. And your own plot needn’t strictly follow their example. That is the beauty and the terror of being a creative. You have freedom, but learning what to do with it can be difficult. How do you create the same addictive draw of your favorite authors?

Cause tension

If you want a reader to stay invested, you need her to stay curious or even worried about the characters.

  1. Movement creates a flurry of adrenaline and pumps into both your characters and your reader. Simple actions keep the plot rolling and keep the reader interested.
  2. Conflict transforms interest into investment. Your reader’s general curiosity becomes worry as your character faces a roadblock—whether it is literal or metaphorical.
  3. Suspense occurs when the reader is painfully aware that she doesn’t have all the answers. Make sure to keep the plot and action understandable, but hold back just enough to create a sense of mystery.
  4. Urgency is a tension bonus: explosives ticking down, hourglasses marking impending doom, or an important rendezvous that your character cannot miss. Use urgency to emphasize specific conflicts.


Allow Rest

Tension is exciting, but you can’t leave your reader behind and rush onward in a flurry of swords clashing and clanging, with people running, falling, tumbling, screaming—it becomes too overwhelming to track. You need rest.

  1. Pause the action once in a while. If your character never sleeps, eats, or longs for rest, you have a big problem on your hands. Let him breathe and absorb it all before jumping into the fray again. Your reader will thank you.
  2. Normal life alongside action creates a poignant foil. Your character surely has friends or family who don’t know what is going on, and they force him to stop. Your audience relaxes in this safe house, still aware that the timer is ticking down.
  3. Conversations make you to process information. As characters interact, you can show character development while helping your reader track with the plot.
  4. Description slows the scene’s pace while reflecting tension, with flames licking up the sides of buildings or the stars winking out one by one. You have a chance to refresh your surroundings and update the reader’s imagination.


The two key factors of pacing, tension and rest, require careful balancing. You don’t want your readers to be so stressed out that they throw your book across the room, and you don’t want them to fall asleep to the lull of your character’s monologue about the beauty of sunshine. It takes time to blend the perfect mix, which is why you should give yourself time to edit, share your work, and edit again!

Stay tuned for an exploration of scene work and micro pacing, as we discover how dialogue can create just the right cadence for a truly thrilling ride.

“#201 Koi Lake” graciously provided by Gabriel Picolo! See more of his work at: http://365-daysofdoodles.deviantart.com