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How to find the right balance between action and introspection.

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Finding the right balance between action and introspection can be hard. It’s all about knowing when to move forward and when to ‘pick daisies’.

There is pleasure for the reading in the contrast between moving forward and pulling back. Take for example the story of Macbeth. Stories have to pause long enough from time to time to develop roots.


Audio From Kim Wilkins – Suspense and Pace


There is pleasure in the contrast of moving forward and pulling back in stories. Listen as Kim explains how to create suspense and pace in your novel.

Don’t forget to download the audio notes below too (available in PDF format) before you listen to this week’s lesson so you can take notes.



PDF (right click and ‘Save As’): Audio Notes – Lesson 17 – Suspense And Pace

Use this document to help to organise your notes while listening to the audio on ‘Suspense and pace’.


There are times for forward motion and times for reflection. Look at your scene list:

  • Find a scene that runs on drama, action or suspense.
  • Look to make contrasting scenes around it.
  • Don’t make it predictable.
  • Have you got a good mix of scenes?
  • Is there a balance between introspection and action?


Scenes negotiate the distance between the promise of the beginning, to the fulfilment of the ending.


There are various types of suspense:

  1. The cliff-hanger: Put your character in the middle of a situation and go to a scene break.
  2. Introduce secrets and mysteries.
  3. Foreshadowing: Hint beforehand that something is going to happen and then stop foreshadowing in the middle.


Pace isn’t just about forward motion, it is about managing the ups and downs of the story.

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red avatar 5EXERCISE: Suspense and Pace

Create a suspenseful scene. One of Kim’s favourite kinds of suspenseful scenes is a snooping scene, where a character is trying to find something important or dangerous, and they risk being discovered.

  1. Come up with a character who is a snoop, somebody who is likely to get themselves into a suspenseful scene.
  2. Come up with a suspenseful setting for a snooping scene, one that adds extra pressure to the scene.
  3. Write a paragraph or two of a snooping scene, where your character is snooping in your setting.
  4. Post your finished scene to the Suspense and Pace Forum for everyone to read.

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red avatar 5EXERCISE: Suspense and Pace In Your Story

Look at your scene list.

  1. Can you see any places where you could moderate the pace in your story with action?
  2. Can you see any places where you could moderate the pace of your story with introspection?
  3. Can you organise some of your scenes so the pace is more interesting?
  4. Create a suspenseful scene, or part of a suspenseful scene (maximum 600 words) from your novel to submit to your tutor for feedback. If you hadn’t had a suspenseful scene in mind, now’s a great time to make one up! Let you imagination run wild.
  5. Submit to your tutor by email to this address: [email protected]
  6. Make sure your subject heading is: ‘YONline – [Insert Your Name Here]’. If you do not appropriately label your email as specified in the subject heading you may not receive feedback on your piece.


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