Tempo: The Speed of Your Story

SURELY we’ve all read that one story where the tempo is simply FAR. TOO. FAST. The hero is threatened, attacked, overcome, hung, and escapes before the middle of the first chapter. This happens within the first few pages. Seriously? If a writer doesn’t take time to tell the writer about important things, the reader will conclude that he doesn’t have anything of substance to say at all.

Mostly, amateur writers commit these mistakes. This can happen anywhere, but is probably most likely to occur in scenes that do happen fast. The hero has to make a decision within ten seconds, so you write up something that can be read in approximately that time.

I hate to break it to you, but that is just simply too fast. If your readers have to go back after thinking “Wait, what just happened there?” and re-read what you wrote, you’re doing it much too fast. Even though the hero may not have as much as a bearing, try to stress dramatic moments as much as possible.

Since your characters actually do not live in the land of your characters, it becomes increasingly difficult to tell your readers the events of the story in the exact pace at which they occur. If your sequence of events is “Billy then leapt out of the window and kicked into another building, where he smacked down a villain who went for his gun and after that he darted out of the room…” blah blah blah blah. Seriously?

Don’t be an amateur writer. Learn how to place the pace of your stories. How to do this? Well, well-timed commas, periods, and breaking up longer sentences into shorter ones help quite a bit, but you actually have to learn at what times the story should be slower, and at which times it should be faster.

Before I speak (or write) on this, I should introduce the banned words and phrases list when relating events: “and after that” a second “and”, more than one comma, and any occurrence of a word over twice in a paragraph (besides maybe “the”, “a”, “an”, etc.). If you want to sum this up in one rule: be careful when using a word more than two times in a paragraph.

Okay. Usually, you want the tempo to be slow. Maybe the flow of the overall story is fast (which is fine, so long as it doesn’t come off as revealing to many parts of the plot too quickly) but how you word it should be slow and methodical. You’re communicating in words, which then have to be translated into pictures into the read’s mind. Go slower.

However, if you really want to tell your story faster, you can do what I did in the above example, albeit with one difference: use strategically placed commas, section beaks (new sentences, that is), and new paragraphs. The flow of your story doesn’t get any slower, and your paragraph maybe gains in weight a little, but it is otherwise unchanged.

Tempo, both of the flow of the plot and of your wording, is extremely important. I talked to you about foreshadowing; make sure you don’t reveal too much of your plot at once or too much without it being the due time. As far as individual tempo goes, also go slowly. don’t make amateurish mistakes.

Good luck, and happy writing!


Published by Van Ghalta

A cold, dark, mysterious character who purposefully wrote a story so that he could fit into it...A story where he himself WRITES stories, practices martial arts, blogs, plays airsoft, collects MTG trading cards, plays outdated video games, and writes weird, third-person bios for himself...

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