1. liusaidh

    liusaidh New Member

    Apr 15, 2015
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    Paragraph transitions

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by liusaidh, Apr 16, 2015.

    I'm awful at scene changes. One moment my character can be driving to their destination, and then the next they're talking to whoever. I need advice on transitioning from scence to scene. When I try to write them, they always come out clunky and weird.
  2. Ozzy

    Ozzy Member

    Apr 15, 2015
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    Can you give an example of your 'clunky and weird' transition? What kind of transitions do you want to use? I use different styles for different scenes.
  3. jannert

    jannert Super Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

    Mar 7, 2013
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    Better to come out clunky and weird than to leave the reader in total confusion as to what is going on. Just joking of course, but there's a grain of truth in that.

    My own personal 'rule' is always orient the reader at the start of a new scene. If you want to jump straight into dialogue, see what you can do at the end of the previous scene to get us ready for it. You can do things like:

    Jason couldn't be bothered studying any more. He decided to head downtown for a drink instead. Fred owed him one from last time, and with the World Series on the big plasma screen, Fred wouldn't be anywhere else tonight. (end of scene)

    (start of new scene.) "Jason! Hey. What's your poison?" Fred flipped his wallet expertly, catching it in midair with one hand.

    "Um ...a Bud?"

    The barman, unaffected by Fred's mini gymnastics, ambled off to serve a blonde girl seated at the other end of the bar instead. Jason didn't blame him. That girl was hot. Fred? Not so much.

    Don't be afraid to end a scene with some idea of what the characters will be doing next. Then the next scene won't need much introduction, if it follows directly afterwards.

    If there is going to be a big change, either in time or location, or characters, however, you might need to do more. Let the reader know immediately at the start of the next scene, who is in it, where it's taking place, and, if necessary, how much time has elapsed—especially if you're changing characters from the previous scene.

    End a scene with: "Wayne swore and threw his phone at the wall." And start the next one with: "On Sunday, Mary and John Ingalls were out walking their dog near the railroad crossing, when a yellow Audi sped past them and bounced over the tracks, only a few seconds ahead of the approaching train. Mary felt her heart stop for a beat or two, and John let out a gasp. Even the dog cringed, and stopped tugging the leash. "

    Phrases like "three weeks later," or "at lunchtime, the next day" can come in really handy. They're not clunky. They're signposts to keep your readers on track.
    Last edited: Apr 16, 2015
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  4. minstrel

    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

    Jul 11, 2010
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    Near Sedro Woolley, Washington
    Transitions aren't as important as they may appear. Readers are smart and they'll follow you even without a transition.

    An example: Early in the movie Big Hero 6, the MC (whose name is Hiro!) has been betting on robot fights, and that's illegal. He flees the fight, and his older brother is there with a motorcycle to save him from the other angry bettors. He gets on the back of the motorcycle and they ride down an alley, only to see police cars block the end of the alley.

    Cut to Hiro in jail with a cop slamming the bars closed on him.

    There's no transition. There doesn't need to be. We don't need to see the confrontation with the police, the arrest, the trip to the police station, any of that. All of that is a waste of time. We get it - we infer it all from the situation.

    If you set up the situation, you don't need the transition. Your readers will follow you without it, and they'll thank you for not boring them with it. :)
    Shadowfax and jannert like this.

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