Picture this: A woman, sitting at her kitchen table. The sun is shining through the windows, bright and inviting, but the woman ignores it. Her attention is on a piece of paper where she is writing quickly, the pen slashing across the paper. Leaning in to look over her shoulder to see she is writing a letter, talking about how the warmth of the house is lacking. Like there is something missing. As she flips the page over to write on the back, the sounds of the room change. A dull thud thunders above, causing a glance at the ceiling to see the sun is gone, there isn’t a window, only a metal roof. Looking back, instead of the woman, there is a soldier holding the same letter, reading in the dull thud of gun fire outside.
That scene uses a transition from one location to another (not my best, but works on a fly). We see the use of transitions in books and movies. It’s how the story moves from one scene to the next. When it comes down to it, in my opinion, transitions ranks along with significant character development in regards to the importance it has in the story.
Sure, plots, conflict, dialog, they all play an integral role to stories in general, but to be honest, without a proper transition a story is like rolling down a flight of steps. Each bump jars you, making your whole body ache.
I hate it when there isn’t a proper transition, but the truth is a good transition can be hard to pull out of your hat. Some scenes are connected to each other naturally. A great example from my own writing of a scene that flowed from one to the other without much effort on my part is my story Life without Parole. Sela, my main character, had learned that the one immortal who has terrorized her for the last 800+ years is in jail, sentenced to life without parole. For an immortal, that’s a long sentence. The woman who had told her the news, Leeland, wished her a happy birthday after Sela had basically said. “Good riddance, don’t let the door hit you on the way out.”
Essentially, Sela doesn’t care and wants nothing to do with Markov (the guy in jail). That was at the end of the chapter, at the beginning of the next chapter I wrote without breaking for a breath: The problem was that after she was alone in the silence of her mind, it turned traitor on her. *Please keep in mind, I’m still editing Life without Parole so it’s not a great sentence structure wise, but it still works well as a transition.
It was like, BOOM, there and then, after I finished with my writing for the day and re-read it I was wondering why can’t all the others happen that easily. Which is precisely what happened to me several scenes later as I transitioned Sela from talking to the other 8 immortals to visiting the prison Markov was staying at to visit him. I struggled with that transition for two days (total in minutes was probably 15 to 20). I kept writing and rewriting a single paragraph to get her from point A to point B.
A simple chapter break doesn’t cover it either folks, and that’s another thing I hate when writers do that. Even though it is the next chapter, if it is a continuation of what is happening in the previous chapter, you have to transition! Do it, for the sake of all readers everywhere, don’t cop-out… please????
Here is the greatest part about transitions. The good ones, I mean the really good ones are the ones you don’t notice. They pass you by so effortlessly that you don’t think about it! Those are awesome in my opinion. Every time I find them, I get giddy once I figure it out.
I could, I suppose, go over the qualities of a good transition, talk about what they are, but to be honest, I wouldn’t do it justice… However, I do know a few posts and sites out there that have so instead I’ll link to them. Enjoy! I know I did.