A Slow Pace Only Works If You Have An Excellent Story To Tell

2014 Artwork Slower Paced Stories Sketch

Well, a couple of weeks ago, I was getting curious about “Game Of Thrones” again. Although I own most of the George R. R. Martin novels, I’ve only seen the first two seasons of the TV adaptation on DVD. Even so, I both did and didn’t want to know what happens in the third season.

I was tempted to just read spoilers on the internet, but that would probably just ruin the show for me. Surely, there had to be another way?

Of course! The books! So, with that, I made my second attempt at reading the first “Game Of Thrones” novel. I’d tried to read it late last year but, for some bizarre reason, I’d stopped after about 180 pages. Luckily, I’d left a bookmark in there and I was able to pick up where I left off. So, I immersed myself yet again in the wonderfully varied, treacherous and imaginative fictional world of Westeros.

But, it wasn’t long before I remembered one possible reason why I’d stopped reading it last year. The story moves very slowly. I’d been reading for about forty-five minutes and I was only about fifty pages further into the story.

Martin’s prose is vivid, exquisitely descriptive and extremely well-written but, unlike the sci-fi and thriller novels I’ve got used to reading over the past couple of years – it moves fairly slowly as a consequence.

Initially, I was annoyed about this and was about to give up in despair, when I suddenly thought “Hold on a minute, I love ‘Game Of Thrones’ and I’ve got what seems like an endless supply of it right here! This is the exact opposite of my main complaint with the TV show – namely that there wasn’t enough of it. I should be overjoyed”.

And, in that moment, I absolutely loved the fact that G.R.R Martin uses a very slow pace for his stories. It means that I can spend weeks in Westeros, rather than just a few days.

Anyway, this got me thinking about pacing and storytelling in general. The fact is that, as I mentioned earlier, I usually see a slow pacing as a negative thing in stories – and in things like (yawn) literary fiction, it definitely is.

But, whilst my personal recommendation to any writer is to keep their story moving at a fairly decent pace, there is one exception to this.

If your story is extremely compelling and dramatic, if you have a lot of very interesting characters and if the fictional universe of your story is an absolutely fascinating place, then it can sometimes actually be better to use a slower-paced narrative for your story.

This is because, if your story is something that can enthral people that much and fill them with wonder and excitement – then they deserve to spend as long there as they can. They deserve to see the new and interesting world of your story in as much detail as possible (as long as it doesn’t get in the way of the story itself). They deserve to get to know your characters as much as possible (again, if it doesn’t get in the way of the story itself).

But, if you feel that your story is just “average”, if it’s a thriller novel, if it’s set in the real world and/or if it’s vaguely similar to the kinds of stories that people have read many times before, then you’re probably better off using a faster pace.

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These are just my opinions, but I hope that this was interesting 🙂

3 comments on “A Slow Pace Only Works If You Have An Excellent Story To Tell

  1. jhorta says:

    So that’s why I write so fast; my stories are just “average” lol. But in all seriousness, hadn’t really thought about this slow v. fast distinction, but does make sense.

    • pekoeblaze says:

      LOL! Don’t worry, your stories are probably much better than mine (and I always tend to use a fast pace too) – I’m seriously out of practice when it comes to writing fiction and I’m much more of an artist than a writer these days too.

      I don’t know, different paces tend to work best with different kinds of stories. But, yeah, a slow pace only really works well if a story has a very richly-detailed/fascinating setting or if it’s extremely character-based.

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