Janet Reid has a post up about query stats for last year, in which she says, “The most consistent flaw in requested mss was pacing and tension. Without tension there’s nothing to hold my interest. If I’m not actively wondering what happens next by page 50, it’s an almost certain pass.”
Then she wrote a post to illustrate what she means by tension and pacing with reference to Casablanca.
Tension rises when French police captain Renault tells Rick that notorious freedom fighter Victor Laszlo will be in the cafe that evening, and that Laszlo is in dire need of exit visas.
(A character must want something for there to be tension; Laszlo wants the visas. Often in editing notes this is noted as “what does the main character want?”)
Each step of the way through the movie, Janet notes, “tension increases because . . . tension abates when . . . tension increases again as possible solutions disappear . . .”
It’s a pretty good post, especially if you’re a fan of the movie.