Speeding And Slowing The Pace With Vocabulary

Throughout any story, an author has to increase and slow the pace in order to gain the maximum effect. This is achieved by a combination of emotive vocabulary and the length of the words and sentences used.

Shortening and lengthening the sentence

As a general rule, short words and sentences denote:

Longer words and sentences denote:

♦ contentment

♦ relaxation

You can also use longer, slower sentences to help build tension as in the following extract from Martina Cole's suspense novel The Ladykiller:

It was Saturday and George was alone in the house. After carefully washing up the breakfast things and putting them away, he made himself a pot of tea. While it brewed on the kitchen table he walked down to his shed and brought back his scrapbooks.

At first sight, this scene portrays a contented man relaxing in his home on a Saturday morning. By this stage in the book, however, the reader is painfully aware of the horrific images that George's 'scrapbooks' contain.

Now compare the lengths of both the words and the sentences in the above extract with the following passage from the same book:

The two small boys walked fast. Driving rain was pelting into their faces. The smaller of the two had red-rimmed eyes and had obviously been crying. A large clap of thunder boomed overhead, followed by a flash of lightning that lit up the sky.

(The Ladykiller, Martina Cole, Hodder Headline)

The pace of the second passage is much faster than the first. In both cases the reader is in no doubt that something very unpleasant is about to happen but in the first example, the character is content and this is reflected in the vocabulary used. In the second extract, the characters are clearly unhappy and the vocabulary is short, sharp and threatening.

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