Timing and Pace

By Kristen
Updated November 24, 2007

Later that day...

You can mark a passage of time with a blank line.

...and then the curtain fell.

 

    Two hour later, Mark arrived with...

You can also mark a passage of time by describing what happened during the time that passed.

...and then the curtain fell.

    Joanne spent the next two hours in her dressing room, happily writing in her journal until Mark walked into the room with....

Pay Attention!

If you want your reader to know exactly what happened, step-by-step in a scene, you need to throw it into slow motion, so your readers can see each moment. You do this by describing the activity in detail.

...and then the curtain fell.

    Joanne walked past the stagehand, through the back hall, and into her dressing room. She stumbled through the doorway and flopped onto her favorite couch. Her journal was still on the coffee table next to the purple pen. She picked it up, opened it, and flipped through the pages again. She was tired of reading over her past glories. It was time to write something new. She picked up the pen and placed it on the crisp white paper.

August 1, 2000

    I don't know why it's been so long since I've written in this thing, but...

This method is perfect for describing key moments of a story and action scenes.

Get to the Point.

If you want your reader to know what happened without describing every tiny detail, give a summary of the activity.

...and then the curtain fell.

    Joanne spent the next two hours in her dressing room, happily writing in her journal until Mark walked into the room with....

This method is perfect for filling the reader in without paying too much attention to actions that aren't the focus of the story.

Suddenly...

Unless things have been moving along rather slowly and you need to wake your reader up, avoid using the word suddenly and, instead, just describe the action. Notice how suddenly can just get in the way of the action and takes your reader out of the scene.

Gordon heard a rumbling in the distance. It grew louder and closer every second. Suddenly, the floor began to quiver, the walls began to sway, and the plate flew off the shelf and smashed into tiny bits on the tile floor.

Now without suddenly:

Gordon heard a rumbling in the distance. It grew louder and closer every second. The floor began to quiver, the walls began to sway, and the plate flew off the shelf and smashed into tiny bits on the tile floor.