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Balancing Action and Pacing in Fantasy Novel Narratives

Open book in the clouds containing a forest river and waterfall, balancing action and pacing, fantasy novel

How do authors balance action and pacing in fantasy novels? They are two distinct elements in storytelling, particularly in fantasy and science fiction genres. Pacing refers to the overall speed and rhythm of the story, while action specifically refers to the physical or dramatic events that occur within the narrative. Pacing sets the tone and controls the flow of the story, while action provides moments of excitement and moves the plot forward. Both elements are essential in creating a well-paced and engaging fantasy novel. By balancing world-building with action and plot development, having clear goals and conflicts, and finding a happy medium between description and action, you can create a well-paced fantasy novel that keeps readers engaged from start to finish.


Action refers to the events, deeds, movements, and gestures that occur in a story. It is the physical or dramatic activity that propels the plot forward and engages the reader. Action scenes are typically fast-paced and filled with excitement, such as fight scenes or chase scenes. Action scenes can increase the overall pace of the story and create moments of tension and suspense. However, action should be balanced with other elements like dialogue and reflection to maintain a well-rounded narrative. Action can weaken when characters spend more time thinking than doing, leading to a slower pace.


Pacing is the speed at which a story is told, not necessarily the speed at which events occur. It is the rhythm and tempo of the narrative, determining how quickly or slowly the story unfolds on the page. Pacing plays a crucial role in maintaining reader interest, building tension, and conveying the emotional impact. It is determined by the length of scenes, the speed of action, and the rate at which information is provided to the reader. Well-paced stories effectively balance moments of high intensity with slower-paced sections to create a dynamic reading experience. Pacing can vary depending on the genre, with comedies generally moving faster than dramas and action adventures moving faster than suspense.

Tips for Balancing Action and Pacing

balancing action and pacing, dragon fight with knights

Authors use various techniques to maintain good pacing in fantasy novels. Here are some of the best tips to balance action and pacing in your fantasy novel narrative:

Use Dialogue, Action, and Narrative

Most of the time, we want to balance our scenes using three elements of fiction: dialogue, action, and narrative. Showing a character dealing with problems in a dramatized scene with dialog, action, and internalization typically moves the story and the pace. By balancing action scenes with more reflective, internal moments, you give the reader an equal dose of excitement and reflection.

Utilize Breathes

By balancing action scenes with more reflective, internal moments, you give the reader an equal dose of excitement and reflection. Utilize breathers, or moments in a story where the action slows down, to give your readers a chance to catch their breath and process what has happened.

Tension, Suspense, and Emotional Impact

Novel pacing gives authors another way to generate tension, suspense, and emotional impact within a story. By controlling the speed or pace at which events unfold, authors can create a sense of urgency and heighten reader anticipation.

Understanding Speed

Certain moments in a narrative tend to move at a faster pace. In general, the opening scene, the middle, and the climax will move quicker to keep our readers engaged by introducing change, conflict, and intrigue. However, this doesn’t mean you rush or create a contrived element to move the story from one point to another. Rather, as with any piece of storytelling, it must be relevant and intentional.

Balance Dialogue with Action and Narration

Your scenes should balance dialogue with action and narration. The way a character talks and how they say the words can reveal how they're feeling. Your scenes should balance dialogue with action and narration.

Use Action

Action scenes can be used to speed up the pace of your story. They can be used to speed up the pace of your story. Additionally, action scenes can be used to create tension and suspense, and to move the story forward.

One Small Step Writing Services is Here to Help

As you start to develop your fantasy stories, keep pacing and action in mind. An even mix between both is necessary to create an engaging and exciting reading experience. If you are unsure of your story pacing, or struggling with the action in the narrative, we can help. One Small Step’s developmental/content editors provide feedback on the overall structure, plot, pacing, characters, dialogue, and other important elements of the manuscript. We’ll provide suggestions for how to improve pacing and action, such as creating a sound structure, helping readers understand the main characters' goals, and balancing action scenes with more reflective, internal moments. Contact us for more information, we can play a crucial role in helping writers create a well-paced and engaging story that keeps readers invested in your work.

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