Is it true that to slow down a story, you add descriptive words in place of an action?

I feel like the pace my story is going at, I'll finish it in less than 200 pages. It just doesn't feel right to end it so short.

I just made the MC meet the MV and I feel like the last time the villain was mentioned he was fighting an angry pack of wolves, and he was unfamiliar with the surroundings and culture he was in (he's an alien).

So, at this point he had just gotten a group of his men and found a hover scooter for each of them. And they somehow already found the MC.

Like, do I expand on the villain's thoughts and feelings to better slow the story, or do I keep it how it is?

With nothing to do, Haku took the chore of exterior design, and lifted the sloping roof, repainted, and replaced the decks boards with wood that he cut out of the forest near the house. This happened fairly quickly and only took him a few hours to complete. Haku wiped his forehead on his arm, removing the majority of the sweat that culminated there. His ears picked up a distant noise and he swerved on his heels, making a full 180 turn.

Motorized humming emanated from the East and several hover scooters rode up to the house. The guy in the front dismounted his scooter and lifted his visor up, his face was completely alien. Haku got a closer look at him as he confidently strode up to where Haku was. His features were all off, they were pointed and sharp, and his eyes were too...discolored. They were a bright turquoise that were filled with life. Haku was skeptical and pressed a button on his watch, notifying KoKo that something was wrong.

“Cute house,” the man said, almost sarcastically. His voice was soft and angelic. It filled Haku with dread, though, because he knew that wasn’t an ordinary human quality.

“What are you?” Haku asked, not caring that it was inconsiderate to ask that.

“I’m really glad you asked that, human.” The man started, he took his helmet completely off now. He had ears that were pointed at the top, not in a ‘birth defect’ sort of way. “I am what you would call an Elf, young one. I am Prince Vincent.” He bowed towards the very confused Haku.

“I come from my home planet, Morbus, to reactivate our interdimensional contract. It was a lawfully bound promise to keep each other thriving. Your NOVA went back on their word to help us, and now my home is dying,” while the man was speaking, Haku noticed a hint of fangs in the stranger’s mouth, his hair was the same color as his eyes, and his eyes looked reptilian.

Haku had a memory of his father mentioning NOVA one time, apparently, they control the workforce and careers for able citizens around the world. They were also the lead sponsors for the earliest space explorations. That will explain why there are otherworldlies here.

  • Is there a reason you can't put the MC on the other side of the planet?
    – Amadeus
    Feb 8, 2018 at 21:40
  • he is, I ignorantly neglected to add that Feb 8, 2018 at 21:47
  • Through beta reads (or workshopping) it becomes more obvious where additional info should be added. Even short critiques can help. I don't have a sense from your blurb how many scooters (~3 I guess) pulled up or anything about the setting beyond the roof/wood, forest, and the scooters. I don't have a sense how Haku feels. He sounds calm. Is he panicked? he has described Vinnie's appearance, but I have no good idea if he is curious or other. Those would be places that could use more words. If we are in Haku's PoV then it's hard to inform us of V's feelings except through his behavior.
    – SFWriter
    Feb 8, 2018 at 23:28
  • I don't see what the blob of text adds to the question. It is very hard to read. Feb 9, 2018 at 16:50
  • 1
    @AspentheArtistandAuthor no worries... the question stood well by itself Feb 9, 2018 at 17:11

5 Answers 5


One way to break down a story is intention versus obstacle. The intention is what the protagonist must accomplish, and the more necessary the intention is, the better.

At the same time, the obstacle is what prevents the protagonist from realizing their intention, and just as necessary as the intention should be, so insurmountable should be the obstacle. It doesn't hurt for the reader to think the obstacle is completely impossible to overcome, at first.

If your protagonist is realizing their intention(s) too quickly, then probably you have not made the obstacle(s) as strong as they should be. As the parentheses in my previous sentence suggests, another approach or outlook is to have smaller intentions as part of the larger overall intention, and likewise smaller obstacles that block the success of the smaller intentions. That is how a serial TV drama stays interesting over (hopefully for the writers) over 100 episodes. You could use the same technique with chapters.

Either way, it's best to make things really impossible for the protagonist.

At the same time, one piece of advice I've heard lately that makes a lot of sense to me is to write out your whole first draft before you do any edits or rewrites. Get it all out there and then you have something you can look at as a whole and figure out where the real issues are. This also helps prevent a problem of constantly rewriting the first 100 or 200 pages and never getting to the ending. And you still may have a lot to learn about your story that will help inform your rewrites.

  • 1
    I have almost 100 pages, and it's all in the draft. But my personal problem is that I don't not want to change anything in the draft. Feb 8, 2018 at 22:02
  • @AspentheArtistandAuthor: Note that if you change the draft, you don't have to throw away the old version. You can just make a copy and change that, and if you don't like the result, you just dismiss the changed version and try something different starting again from the original draft.
    – celtschk
    Feb 10, 2018 at 16:13

Is it true that to slow down a story, you add descriptive words in place of an action?

No, it isn't. Although descriptive words can slow down a story, you do not add them with that specific purpose. If you add them, it is with the purpose of clarifying your setting or creating a certain mood. The slowing down is a consequence, not a purpose. There's little as annoying as going through a story that throws descriptions at you just to slow the narrative.

I feel like the pace my story is going at, I'll finish it in less than 200 pages. It just doesn't feel right to end it so short.

Why doesn't it feel right? I have read long short-stories and short novellas that are perfect in terms of rhythm, events and cohesion. Lengthening them would have destroyed them (IMHO).

If what doesn't feel right is the rhythm, then I'd suggest going over the structure and revising it carefully. Besides, I doubt descriptive words could bump the page number that much.


I should think your villain is not well developed, or your hero is not sufficiently motivated. What has the hero been doing all this time, and why does s/he see the villain as a threat? What has the villain done that s/he knows about and is willing to take the risks of a battle to stop?

When the hero meets the villain for the first time, they are generally not successful in any attempt to thwart them. (In real life maybe, but in fiction it does not make for a good story). The hero must struggle or the victory is empty, like the victory of successfully laundering a load of shirts.

If your natural inclination is they meet quickly, say due to the technology of the alien or something, then you need to have that meeting result in a stalemate, or (non-lethal) defeat for your hero. In fact, in most stories we expect your hero to have a series of more defeats and losses than wins, and your villain to have more wins than losses, so the final victory of the hero means something.

  • 1
    So why wouldn't the ancient being just make this hero able to defeat the alien without any fight at all? The ancient knows the future, why wouldn't he make a teen that can pulverize the alien the moment he find him? Why does the alien stand any chance in this fight at all?
    – Amadeus
    Feb 8, 2018 at 21:59
  • 1
    Why did the Ancient being, knowing the future, make a hero to kill the alien with this flaw of mercy that would defeat the entire purpose of making the teen? If the Ancient can see the future, then the moment he made this teen, he should have seen the future in which the teen fails in his one and only mission, and unmade him and made him again a teen without mercy. A Terminator.
    – Amadeus
    Feb 8, 2018 at 22:04
  • 1
    @AspentheArtistandAuthor I just want to talk about "It's too much work [to edit my question]". First, it's a bit of work for us to write our answers and comments. The only thing we ask in return is that you might put in the same amount of work into refining your question. That way everyone wins. Second, the more work you put into writing the more you honor and show respect for the reader. Just something to think about in general. Feb 8, 2018 at 22:06
  • 1
    @AspentheArtistandAuthor What exactly are the intentions and obstacles in your writing don't matter. I don't need to know them. You just need to make whatever obstacles there are harder to overcome. That's how you slow things down. Feb 8, 2018 at 22:09
  • 1
    @ToddWilcox Okay. To make the obstacles harder for the hero and the villain to overcome... Sounds like a really dramatic action story. Thanks for your input! It really helped! Feb 8, 2018 at 22:11

I would be thinking in terms of descriptive passages, like "It was a dark and stormy night, when..."

Such passages give context to your characters' actions. They also provide a clue to their emotions, because most people will think and act differently on a "dark and stormy night," than on a "bright and sunny day." All other things being equal, of course.


First, finish your first draft, just because at the pace your going at feels like it’s too short, doesn’t mean that’ll be the reality of it. Then take a look at your characters, if you had someone read your first draft, do you know a lot about your main villain? Is he this serial killer who has been around for thirty years, murdering rivals in his profession, yet still protects innocent bystanders from senseless violence while on a venture of self-destruction. Or is he just kind of a dick? Developing your villain and other important characters in subplots from different POVs can both enhance your story, and lengthen it.

Having said that, don’t just make it longer because, “it’s under 200 pages.” If in that time you’ve told a cohesive, well developed narrative with interesting characters. Then don’t try and just pad or pages because it’s “too short”. There are many great novellas out there that’s aren’t that many pages, such as the infamous Jekyll & Hyde.

TL;DR (Kind of): If you feel like your novel is incomplete try developing your villain and supporting characters throughout subplots or POVS. Or Maybe the protagonist beats the antagonist too quickly and needs more of an uphill battle. Just don’t artificially extend the length to make it longer.


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.