I don’t know about you, but any time I’m writing a scene with a lot of tension, I type faster. Words fly onto the screen because I’m really invested in what happens next. And this means that the reader will be too.
Donald Maas of the Maas Agency and WRITING THE BREAKOUT NOVEL says that stories should have tension on every page. Your character always needs to be striving for something. That goal needs to be consistently out of their reach, or questionable as to whether they’ll be able to achieve it. This adds interest to your story. But how to accomplish tension is something of a head-scratcher for many newbies. And that brings us to pacing.
I like to describe pacing in terms of musical beats. How many beats does it take for your character to turn around after she sees the bad guy coming? How many beats does it take her to start running, for her breath to become ragged, to turn back and see that he’s chasing her, for her heart to beat faster and louder in her ears, to stumble over that dead branch, regain her footing, reach the gate, and then for his fingers to narrowly miss her as she shuts the gate in his face?
That’s pacing. Describing all of the things that happens before she narrowly escapes, adds tension. I could have just as easily written, Gabby saw Mikel in the distance. She began to run. He started to chase her. But she made it to the gate on time, and he just missed catching her. But that’s not as interesting as taking the time to draw out the tension by describing every single thing that happens between the moment she sees him and the moment his hands reach out.
To have effective tension, you have to have effective pacing.
Readers come for the tension, so give it to them. It’ll make your story better and your writing faster. It’s a win-win.