How Does the Author Use Pacing to Affect Tension in This Excerpt

How Does the Author Use Pacing to Affect Tension in This Excerpt?

Pacing is a crucial tool that authors use to enhance the tension in their writing. The way an author controls the speed at which events unfold in a story can significantly impact the reader’s experience and emotional response. In this article, we will analyze an excerpt from a thrilling mystery novel and explore how the author skillfully uses pacing to build and release tension effectively.


“The door creaked open slowly. Sarah’s heart raced as she stepped into the dark room. A faint beam of moonlight filtered through the window, illuminating a shadowy figure in the corner. Every step she took echoed through the silence, raising the hair on her arms. Suddenly, a floorboard creaked under her weight. The figure stirred, and Sarah froze, her breath caught in her throat.”

The first technique the author employs to affect tension is the deliberate use of short sentences and paragraphs. By breaking down the description into concise sentences, the pacing quickens, creating a sense of urgency. This technique forces the reader to read at a faster pace, mirroring the protagonist’s heightened state of alertness. The short paragraphs also create a visual effect on the page, enhancing the feeling of the story moving rapidly.

Additionally, the author utilizes sentence structure to manipulate the pacing. The use of fragmented sentences, such as “The door creaked open slowly,” and “Sarah froze, her breath caught in her throat,” adds a sense of suspense and urgency. By splitting the actions into separate sentences, the author creates a pause between each event, allowing the tension to build. The reader is left hanging on each fragment, eagerly anticipating the next action.

The author also employs strategic placement of longer sentences to slow down the pace and increase tension. For instance, the sentence “Every step she took echoed through the silence, raising the hair on her arms” elongates the action, drawing out the suspense. The reader feels the protagonist’s anxiousness as time seems to stretch, intensifying the anticipation of what might happen next.

Furthermore, the author uses descriptive language to heighten the tension. By focusing on sensory details, such as the creaking door, the faint beam of moonlight, and the echoing steps, the author immerses the reader in the scene. These vivid descriptions create a vivid mental image, intensifying the reader’s emotional response and increasing the tension.


Q: How does pacing affect the reader’s emotional response?
A: Pacing plays a crucial role in determining the reader’s emotional experience. By manipulating the speed at which events unfold, authors can evoke various emotions such as excitement, suspense, or fear. Faster pacing often creates a sense of urgency, while slower pacing builds anticipation and tension.

Q: Can an author use pacing to release tension as well?
A: Absolutely! Pacing is not solely about building tension but also about releasing it at specific moments. Just as the author uses short and fragmented sentences to quicken the pace and increase tension, they can also use longer sentences and slower pacing to provide relief and resolution to the reader.

Q: How can an author know when to speed up or slow down the pacing?
A: The decision to speed up or slow down the pacing depends on the desired effect the author wishes to achieve in a particular scene. In intense action sequences or moments of heightened suspense, speeding up the pacing can amplify the tension. Conversely, slowing down the pacing can provide an opportunity for introspection or to emphasize the significance of a particular event.

Q: Can pacing affect the overall structure of a story?
A: Absolutely! Pacing plays a vital role in shaping the structure of a story. An author may choose to vary the pacing throughout different sections of the narrative to create a dynamic reading experience. For example, a fast-paced opening can quickly engage the reader, while a slower middle section may allow for character development and build anticipation for the climax.

In conclusion, the author’s skilled use of pacing in this excerpt effectively enhances the tension and creates a thrilling reading experience. By employing techniques such as short sentences, fragmented structures, and vivid descriptions, the author immerses the reader in the protagonist’s heightened state of alertness. Understanding how pacing affects tension is essential for any writer aiming to create an engaging and suspenseful narrative.

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