What Did You Learn?

December 31, 2009

General Writing: Transitions

Filed under: General Writing — Tags: , — ax20 @ 2:04 pm

Now this is a tough one. I know that for me there’s always been an issue with ending one scene and beginning the next. I’ve read books where authors have had this same issue. In Eragon for example, most scenes end with the main character passing out. For me, I used to always have people walking out of the room or going to sleep. But I’ve been working on it.

One thing I did that really helped was I started re-reading some of my favorite books and paid particular attention to the beginning and ending of each scene. This gave me a better idea of what does or doesn’t work. Think of it like a TV show or movie a little: scenes end abruptly or jump right into the middle of something that’s already happening. You want to stick to the things that will hold readers’ attention.

On Rick Riordan’s website, he has some particularly good advice relating to this:

  • Most readers, from time to time, have skipped over portions of a chapter to get to the “good stuff.” For instance, many readers will skip a long paragraph of description so they can find the next line of dialogue. One trick for keeping the reader’s interest is to zoom in on the content they want to see and leave out the rest. Writers, especially beginning writers, tend to over-explain.
  • Beginning writers tend to believe that they must “set things up” before they get into the real meat of the novel. They want to introduce characters, history, and setting before they start on the central dilemma. Chapter one is often limp, because of this. Even worse, some writers are so hesitant to get to the point in chapter one that they put off the action even further by writing a prologue. The problem is, until we know the dilemma, we won’t care about the set-up. Get to the point! Often manuscripts are better if they start with chapter 2.

While he talks more specifically about chapter one (and prologues), I think this applies to transitions as well. We tend to think of things in complete packages and so we write out every bit of what happened when cutting out some of it would keep everything moving. gen


1 Comment »

  1. Excellent advice on narrative transitions. Here is a complementary article on expository transitions: How to Teach Transitions

    Comment by Mark Pennington — January 17, 2010 @ 12:02 pm

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