Posted by: Phil Anderson | September 13, 2015

Pace Yourself

As I work on learning to write, I see a lot of advice on pacing. There are numerous articles and blogs and books about how to keep the reader engaged. Character development, backstory, and drama have to be built into the action. If a story doesn’t constantly move forward, readers will get bored and close the book, ready to move on to something more interesting.

I can’t argue with that advice. It makes sense and I experience it myself when I find my attention waning. But it wasn’t always this way.

I’ve always enjoyed the Oz book series by L. Frank Baum and his successors, and I re-read them every few years. They were written about a century ago and have amazing inventiveness and creativity, but they could never be published today because they don’t conform to modern ideas of pacing. Long chapters are spent exploring and describing fanciful people and places that have no bearing on the plot of the book. Favorite characters are included because they’ve been popular in previous books, even if they’re not involved in the current story. A few of the books climax early and spend the last few chapters with lengthy feasts and celebrations after the main action is done.

Slightly more recent examples can be found in old movies and television shows. We’ve been watching the original Star Trek series at my house, and each episode features scenes with lengthy dramatic dialogue, long pauses in the action to establish characters and setting, and frequent extended close-ups of someone’s intense expression.


I suppose this is all a symptom of the fast pace of our society. Technology is quicker, work is done more easily with less labor, and entertainment has to keep up. Fast food has supplanted the home-cooked meal. Writing with pen on paper has been replaced by word processing. Google has eliminated the need for encyclopedias. High speed cable internet has outdistanced telephones and dial-up connections. Digital publishing and e-book readers allow us to carry an entire library of media in our pockets.

Everything is faster and better now. Or is it? Do you enjoy a slow, carefully drawn out drama or mystery? Or do you get bored and seek out non-stop action and excitement? Leave your comments below and join the conversation.



  1. “A few of the books climax early and spend the last few chapters with lengthy feasts and celebrations after the main action is done.” Sounds like the end of Return of the King. 🙂

    • Movie version that is.

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