The Pace Race
There are two elements to pace that you need to be aware of. There’s the sensation of pace and there’s contextual pace.
If I put you in a vehicle travelling at 1000 mph, then you will feel you are moving quickly based on how it feels to you personally.
If I tell you the journey you’re on is to another planet 10 million light years away, then 1000 mph doesn’t feel so quick after all.
This is true in story terms too. It’s possible to create the sensation of moving quickly, but to get a true sense of pace you need to know where it is you’re going.
Setting the pace
A man is told on the phone that his girlfriend is in danger from the criminal types he used to hang out with. He rushes out of the house and notices how beautiful the flowers in the garden are.
This is going to slow the pace, but NOT because it is slowing down his journey to the car, which will get him to his girl etc.
Consider: The same man rushes out of his house to rescue his girlfriend, but he is intercepted by his parole officer who is there to check he isn’t consorting with nefarious types, otherwise it’s back to the slammer … What does he do now? (Can parole officers do that? I don’t know, I’m making this up).
Even though I am slowing down the character’s progress, I am not slowing the narrative. Because pace isn’t about how long it takes to get to the next thing, it’s how long it takes to get to the next interesting thing.