When we talk about "pace," we mean how fast or slow something or someone is going. When pacing is used in reference to literature, it refers to how the author has structured the plot of the story to unfold quickly or slowly.
Authors control the pacing of a story through a variety of means. Authors can use imagery and description of setting and actions to slow the pacing. They can use short sentences and less description when they want to speed the action of the story along. Authors also control pacing when they use dialogue between characters.
Examples of Pacing in Literature:
In Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen uses dialogue and description to slow the pacing in certain scenes. Mrs. Bennett, Elizabeth's mother, is often used as a tool to slow the pacing. Austen includes Mrs. Bennett's lamentations about her daughters and their suitors, as well as her descriptions of the handsomeness of suitors to slow specific scenes.
In To Kill a Mockingbird, the pace of the novel is slowed by several subplots. While the main plot of the story relates to Scout and Jem coming to understand prejudice through their interactions with Boo Radley and through the trail of Tom Robinson, there are subplots, such as Mrs. Dubose's addition to morphine and her death or Scout's experiences with Aunt Alexandra that slow the plot of the novel and help the reader to better relate to Scout.
Short story plots must be paced more quickly due to the brevity of the form. In The Most Dangerous Game, the plot sequence moves forward quickly once Rainsford realizes that the general wishes to hunt him. The reader is hurled into the game of human cat and mouse and the pace of the hunt is quick, adding to the suspense of the story.
Literary Terms Examples