Is Your Story’s Pacing Moving Too Fast?

Stakes are important in any story. In some genres, readers want to feel a sense of desperation and urgency on the characters’ behalf.

One of the best ways to ramp up that feeling is to tighten the story’s timeline and speed up events. Your characters have to disarm a ticking bomb? How much more exciting if they have to do it in five minutes rather than five days!

However, there are definite downsides to allowing your story to move too fast.

To begin with, you have to consider simple logic. Characters must be given enough time to reasonably accomplish the task. For example, maybe it’s impossible to disarm this particular bomb in five minutes. If so, the characters better have enough time to get the job done; otherwise either their heads are going to explode… or your readers’ heads are (and not in the good way).

You will also need to consider character development. For example, is it possible for two characters to fall madly in love and form a lifelong attachment in just one day? Yes.

But is it likely? Not so much.

Is it possible scumbag characters can completely turn their lives around in a day? Yes.

Likely? No.

Although, sacrificing logic in situations like these can sometimes be worth the risk of suspending readers’ disbelief in order to gain that sense of urgency in the ticking clock, never do so without due consideration.

Finally, perhaps the most important reason to slow down your story’s timeline is for the sake of impact. This becomes crucial in segments in which time is important not just for your characters’ development, but to emphasize their states of being—usually, in these instances, a state of suffering.

For example, while getting thrown into an oubliette for a day or two isn’t very fun, it won’t compare to spending months or years locked away in horrible circumstances.

This is why allowing a bit of extra time in certain stories can sometimes make all the difference in raising the stakes.

Wordplayers, tell me your opinions! Are there any areas of your story you think could benefit from a longer timeline? Tell me in the comments!

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About K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland

K.M. Weiland is the award-winning and internationally-published author of the acclaimed writing guides Outlining Your Novel, Structuring Your Novel, and Creating Character Arcs. A native of western Nebraska, she writes historical and fantasy novels and mentors authors on her award-winning website Helping Writers Become Authors.


  1. Giving my two protagonists more time to form the emotional bond they’ll need later on to survive the ‘disaster’ could theoretically benefit from a slower pace, but the antagonists being on their trail isn’t going to allow for that. I must be very, very careful how they interact with one another under the stressful circumstances I’ve put them into, so it won’t seem like it happens too quickly, even though it will be only a few days’ passage of time.

  2. That’s trick really. How many thriller movies end up with two characters in love after only a few days (or few hours)? On the surface, it might seem ridiculous, but the pacing of the story can make viewers, and readers, feel like an epic amount of time has passed.

  3. Generally at this point I can pad it out a little bit, since write now I only have a sentence to summarize each chapter of the story. (Yes a chapter, because I have a hard time with scene length.)

  4. Most chapters divide down into one or two scenes, so outlining according to chapter is rarely problematic.

  5. Another great post. I’m tempted to rush the action and agree, a good outline makes it easier to stretch out the ending. Thanks again for sharing good article.

  6. I’m usually prone to step on the gas myself. But readers (myself included) appreciate thoughtfully slow segments to balance everything out.

  7. My hero and heroine are trapped in a cistern where the water fluctuates during the changing tide, so I had to research the passage of time during a complete tide cycle in Key West. There is no way out, the tide is rising, and the dark night encourages their senses to be heightened. Panic grips them, but the intimacy that trembles between them is palpable. I’m still learning the best way to extend the tension in this scene.

  8. Great set up. Whenever the odds are stacked that high against characters, you gotta know readers will be hooked.

  9. I do try to have a balance of places where the action speeds up and then a calm after the storm, give everyone a chance to catch their breaths. I enjoy reading stories where there are breaks in the action as well, especially when I care about the characters.

  10. What you’re talking is the balance between scenes and sequels. Slower/longer timelines require the same balance as in faster stories; the difference is solely in the amount of time that passes during and between events.

  11. Oh as a general comment when writing scenes, it might be important to find a better reader that does not have a general checklist of things to knock off on any manuscripts, and treats it on it own merits. ]

    Epic Fantasy is not going to flow the same way as Urban fantasy, Space Opera not in the same way as Hard Scifi.<_< Unless I submit it to an agent, using a general check off list is not fair to me.

  12. Yes, it’s always important to select beta readers who understand the type of story you’re going for.

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