The Magic of Good Pacing

By now, you should have caught on that I tend to write on whatever entertainment I’m currently consuming, and recently I’ve been watching Sonic. Welp, I guess this is as good a time as any to speak about pacing–haw haw. I was planning to make that joke later, but it just kinda…came out. (No. Not today, Satan. I’m not making that joke.)

So…I believe I’ve spoken on pacing before (I think there aren’t many things I haven’t spoken on before, so arduously do I labor to bring you good content) but, even in light of everything, I’ve decided to once more address the topic with Sonic 2 as a standout example.

I probably didn’t touch on this before, but I remember that Sonic 2 had amazing pacing. Again, pun unintended. The whole movie was basically a series of fetch quests until the mcguffin at the end was claimed and put to use. There was also a hefty half hour or so of runtime added in the sequel that wasn’t in the first movie, so it should have been a drag…right?

Well…no, actually. That’s owing to the stellar pacing. Spoilers follow for Sonic 2: the plot of the movie is as follows: Sonic & co. need to find the Master Emerald, but the only way to do that is to follow a map Longclaw gave Sonic to a compass, which will in turn lead them to the Emerald. But oh no, Eggman swipes the compass and gets to the Emerald first, which he then uses to build a massive robot, which Sonic & co. then need to fight, but then they realize they have to grab the emerald, so they grab it, and then they need to keep it away from Eggman, and then it falls apart, and then Sonic becomes a golden god and starts flying, and then…

Just from the plot synopsis, I’m getting Rise of Skywalker vibes. Making your story seem like a mindless set of “grab X, kill Y amount of Z enemies, go place 1, grab thing” is an excellent way to kill the story for your readers. Whatever you’re doing, it not only has to BE relevant, it has to FEEL relevant.

Lemme put it this way: in RPGs, I was never much of a side quest guy. Usually, the rewards aren’t that great and they’re not worth the time it takes to go after them. And especially when there’s that juicy main story you could always go after instead. The audience comes to see the main story playthrough, not the side quest completions.

“But,” you may say, “everything you just described is crucial to the plot!” Right again, dear reader, but if I had a penny for every story that felt like it was dragging on when something really important was happening, I’d be rich and famous. A long and windy plot is not necessarily bad, but with a mediocre or bad writer at the head, it’s easy to completely screw up the pacing to make it seem like a bunch of unimportant side quests. Soon the question turns from “Will the hero make it out in time?” to “When is the story going to be done?” and eventually to “Where can I get my money back?”

So…how does Sonic 2 avoid falling into this pitfall? Well, quite a few things…and, by my estimation, a good writer should be able to evaluate and use about half of these techniques for their book. But it just goes to show that the difference between a good idea and a good movie is skill.

Number one: Sonic 2 relied on fun fight scenes, choreography, and jokes to keep the pacing going. This isn’t as much something you can rely on in your story, but Sonic 2 has a lot more fight scenes than the first movie, and they’re far better done. I’d say the same for the jokes, but in this case they’re fewer but better done.

The formula here is to keep the adrenaline train moving even when you focus on things that aren’t relevant to the plot. Even that little subplot with Tom’s wife’s sister (I forget names, okay? Leave me alone) I enjoyed, not because it was relevant to the plot but was a character I cared about at least a little, and the acting and editing was amazing. So if you take anything away from that, take this: when you’re writing a scene that isn’t really relevant to the reader, make it the best-written piece of writing you ever set fingers to keyboard to make. (that sounded cringey as f*ck. Moving on…)

The second thing Sonic does to alleviate bad pacing (and this one’s the most important) is being pure fun and advancing the plot at the same time. You have movies based on plot, and then you have movies that are just dumb fun to kill an hour or two. Sonic 1 fits firmly in the second category, but Sonic 2 proves that you can have the best of both worlds.

You see, the farther you get into Sonic 2, the more you realize that without a coherent plot, the movie is just dance fights with massive robot battles and a moral or two sprinkled in. It makes perfect sense that this movie would just be another mindless dump of special effects and fanservice.

The difference here is that there’s actual compelling writing to back all of the special effects up. The moral of the story? Readers will excuse literally anything if you make it worth their time. If you give the reader (or viewer) a sense of progress and interest, they will literally watch or read through anything.

That’s all.


Be sure to check out my latest novel, Book 1 in the Praetors of Lost Magic Series, and our Publications page. Plus, I mean, it wouldn’t hurt to check out the Resources tab. It’s full of super helpful material and I promise it will help you out. Until then, writers!


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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