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April 16, 2011 / afizawati

Rhythm and Pace

by Afizawati Ayub

Imagine a group of kid playing musical chair during birthday party. Moving in circle around the chairs to the beat of Kitaro’s hit song, Matsuri, from slow to fast tempo. It was as exciting and fun as the heart beat to the rhythm. Using music analogy, this demonstrates rhythm and accentuates varying pace.

Similarly, rhythm helps to create a visual mood and leading much to reader’s imagination. Visual mood can be strengthened further by the use of pace. Thus, keeps the reader paying attention and longing for more.

Choosing a right word is one way to produce a compelling story. For instance, the usage of short and rolling verbs and action verbs create a fast moving feeling. Slow and melancholic feeling inspired by using amble verbs.

Length of the sentence also plays a crucial role in science writing. Short sentences can be use to introduce new subject and excellent for emphasize important point, whilst long sentences great in elaborating the point. Some readers seem difficult to follow with long sentence but if it is properly constructed, it may be easier to read than short ones. By mixing up the sentences, a short sentence, long sentence and again short sentence can let readers experience variety in rhythm. Punctuation marks also help in creating rhythm in writing.

Secondly, write as you speak. Reading the writing aloud using natural rhythm of human speech helps to identify words or phrases that do not sound well.

Another way to add variety to rhythm in writing is by alternating between narrative and summary. For instance, introducing first-person account at beginning then summarize at end by using third person account. Other than that, by alternating between facts, action, third person narration and direct quotations keep the writing more lively and it is kind of rhythm which give the readers a sense of compelling.

The Door Close Button in Faster: The Acceleration of Just About Everything by James Gleick illustrated the speed of elevator towards humans behavior. From only a yes-no and start-stop transportation, elevator has developed into thirty feet per second travelling compartment (mostly in Japan). Though it is fast enough to start an airplane, people  fail to cope with their patience.

Gleick successfully used different rhythm to explained the story. At the beginning, the evolution of elevator was delivered in fast pace motion which represent the idea of elevator as a fast moving object. Then the rhythm was slowing down to describe the human behaviour while waiting for the elevator to arrive. As in his writing,

“Waiting, some stand still, others pace, and another may make small gestures of impatience such as foot tapping, jiggling change in a pocket, scanning at the walls and ceiling with apparent concentration… Men, but hardly ever women, may rock gently back and forth” (Gleick, 2000)

The above stated content brings the readers close to the moment.

Overall, rhythm is not meant only for mysteries, science fictions and fantasy novel but it can be use in all types of writing. Varied rhythm in writing contributes to the smooth flow of motion, gives emphasis to important points and makes for easy reading.


Gleick, J. (2005). Faster: The Acceleration of Just About Everything. London: Abacus

Kendall-Tackett, K. (2007). Add Variety to the Pace and Rhythm of Your Story. Retrieved from



Leave a Comment
  1. habasabah / Apr 16 2011 3:31 pm

    Hi Afizawati!

    I think this must have been a difficult topic to break down and explain, you managed to tackle it from different angles and bring up some great points. I’ll just pick out a few points you made and make comments as I deemed it necessary!

    Firstly, you mentioned how rhythm and pace is used in several different texts, not just written. Where you stated; “Visual mood can be strengthened further by the use of pace. Thus, keeps the reader paying attention and longing for more.” – if we take films for example, the pace of background music is often quickened or slowed to indicate the mood of the scene or the situation a character may be in.

    Where you talked about wording; “Choosing a right word is one way to produce a compelling story. For instance, the usage of short and rolling verbs and action verbs create a fast moving feeling. Slow and melancholic feeling inspired by using amble verbs.” – here, most people know that action verbs are just used to show when someone carries out an action (eg. The girl jumped off the roof!), but maybe if you gave an example for what you mean by short and rolling verbs, like possibly; He rushes to the door. He slams it shut. He then opens it in horror. I believe this is what you mean by short and rolling, is this right? 🙂

    I also wanted to comment on the point you made about alternating voice – it’s usually a general rule that novels adopt a single approach to point of view (throughout the course of the novel), however, there are exceptions. Apparently in one of the Harry Potter books, the narration goes from third person to first, but I don’t know which one – and I can’t really remember this (if anyone wants to clarify!?). Although, the fourth book in the Twilight series, Breaking Dawn, is not only told from the first person view of Bella, the protagonist, but there are several chapters dedicated to several of the main characters, in that the story is told from the point of view of that character, for the duration of that chapter.

    Anyway, I’d like to ramble on for much longer! (But I won’t!)
    Thanks for the engaging blog!


  2. clayte01 / Apr 18 2011 5:33 am

    I don’t know where to stand on your comment. I largely agree with what you’re saying, but oh! using Twilight as an example….
    But, you’re right for using a “popular” example.

    I also really liked the point about rhythm being used to strengthen a visual mood. I think this is how a lot of cinematography works, like when you see an introduction into a film that slowly pans through a scene is builds intrigue, but it suggests a plot where the interest is drawn from dramatic conflicts, rather than an action introduction, which might have a lot of images shown at a fast pace– it sets the scene. The pace and rhythm of the music in this situation also has a big effect, check out this it really shows what I mean (I hope you’ve all seen the actual film, otherwise it might not make much sense).

    I would like to suggest reading some Douglas Adams, in reference to the choice of verbs. Actually, scratch that, read some Douglas Adams for anything about use of pace and rhythm.

    Adams is known for his deep understanding of literary techniques, his subsequent blithe disregard for them. In action scenes in The Hitchhikers’ Guide To The Galaxy (any of the six books in the trilogy of five) you will find long, convoluted sentences. Adams does this in a way that few authors achieve. Rather than using short, snappy words and sentences to create a fast-pace action atmosphere, Adams uses fastidiously constructed phrases, which build anticipation by carrying on rather longer than you would expect, when all other signposts are suggesting that action is happening.

    Another method of contradictions that Adams is prone to is the use of language. As I was suggesting with his use of action verbs, he chooses verbs which are very particular and descriptive. Again, he breaks free from the normal approach, by using more obscuring verbs, rather than common, quick verbs, so that the reader has to think about what they are visualising, rather than getting a mental image that is the product of easily recalled common action verbs.

    As with your comment, Sabah, I’ll leave it there, but I hope I’ve added some things to think about. Rhythm and pace are such important literary devices, but it’s not often you’re brought to think about them, so I’m glad this post made me do so. Thanks Afizawati


    • habasabah / Apr 18 2011 9:46 am

      Hi Evette,

      I wasn’t sure what you meant when you said you didn’t know where to stand on my comment…are you referring to where I’m asking about the Harry Potter books? Or are you grossly put out by the horrible choice for an example (Twilight) – ha yeah sorry I had to use Twilight as an example, but obviously it’s a well know series and one that uses alternating narrative voice 😛

      Anyway, great points there Evette!

  3. Evette Clayton / Apr 19 2011 1:18 am

    Hey Sabah, yeah, I was referring to your use of Twilight (eugh!) as an example, but as I said, it’s a popular book, so it was a good example. I don’t know about the Harry Potter example, but it wouldn’t surprise me.

  4. afiza / Jun 6 2011 3:17 pm

    Hi all,

    Thank you for all the comments. Yes, I admit it was really hard for me to write this blog, especially when comes to the third point which was alternating between the narrative and summary.During my research on this topic, I was confused with this point at first. I tried to find an example but could not manage to get one. However, thanks to Sabah who use Twilight as an example. So, maybe I should get one copy though I am not a fan of in this genre.. hhehehehhe.


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