Stories have settings, characters and action. Great! Easy. Let’s get writing!
A-hem. One of the hard parts of writing is getting the pacing of a story correct. You need to slow things down and speed things up in the right places. It may seem counterintuitive but the place to speed up is often in the set up. Readers don’t need a lot of set up. You (and they) can fill in the details as you go along. Again, oddly enough, the place to slow down can be the moment when you reach the action.
Trained by Hollywood as we are, we tend to think of ‘action’ as fast-paced, the bit where the cars come screeching down the hill, the rocket blasts off, the volcano erupts. But in a story, the ‘action’ is simply ‘the stuff the characters do in an effort to get what they want’. When your characters start taking action, that might be a flag for you to slow the reader down, tease the moment, with some details, thoughts, frame-by-frame storyboarding of the scene.
Take a moment, right in the heart of the action of your story, and increase the tension by slowing it wa-a-ay down with granular details.
Take us through every muscle that tenses as the hero prepares to run;
Take us inside a woman’s head for every random thought that flits through it between the words “will you marry me?” and her answer (“Did I leave the iron on? Oh gawd, I cannot believe I thought about that right now. Look, he’s on his knees. He’ll ruin his trousers. Focus, woman! Look at his face. That mole really needs checked out and oh no, this moment has gone on too long. Must answer. Must answer. Should I cry? I don’t think I want to cry, but it seems like the kind of thing I should do. I wish he’d stop staring at me like that…”)
Detail the painstaking preparations the surgical team makes, in silence, before the lifesaving operation.
This might not be the most successful story you ever write, but it’s a worthwhile technique to practice. You might just find a brand new tool to put in your writers’ toolkit.