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Thread: Transitions

  1. #1
    practical experience, FTW Sunflowerrei's Avatar
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    Transitions

    I know I've seen at least one thread on this topic, but I couldn't readily find it.

    My WIP is being beta read right now. So far, my beta has commented that I don't transition. Her most frequent comment is "You need a transition here." I genuinely thought that what I wrote was transitioning, but apparently not.

    So how do you guys handle transitions between chapters, scenes, and paragraphs?
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  2. #2
    a demon for tea EMaree's Avatar
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    Any chance you could post an example to Share Your Work? Sometimes if I'm beta-ing work that spends too much time describing travelling from one place to another, I'll suggest the writer uses a scene break to transition quickly. I'm wondering if it's a similar situation here or if it's something different.

    For my own writing, I try to remove as much 'fluff' between scenes as possible: day-to-day mundaneness, walking around, unnecessary personal tangents. (All the stuff that shouldn't really be there in the first place.)

    I also like to read a lot of writers with really quick, snappy transitions for inspiration. Terry Pratchett was the first writer I read who uses scene breaks well, and Chuck Wendig is my personal go-to for short and sweet scenes. I also like how Suzanne Collins ends chapters.
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  3. #3
    practical experience, FTW
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    This was something my beta picked up on as well. She said I needed to orientate the reader at the beginning of every new scene. Apparently they're not psychic after all! So instead of dropping the reader into a car park and leaving them to find out where the heck they are, I do things like:

    Half the small car park lay in sunlight that made the tarmac shimmer and glinted off glass and hot metal.
    or

    The restaurant was only by the sea in the sense that I could faintly smell long-dead fish and seaweed.

  4. #4
    The Crazy Man in the Sun. Feel me. WillSauger's Avatar
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    What do you mean by transition?

    The first transition I think of is with Omni, transitioning from characters.

    The other is transitioning actions. Instead of having to step out all the character's actions, I cut to them already there.
    Example: "He jumped into his car and drove off. Across town, Bob-" and I use this without a scene break.

    Other than that, chapters/scenes with breaks, either page or #, I don't transition. I lay the setting first (sit the reader down), project who's there, and then start the scene. I cut out anyway I wish. But that's not transitioning, it's fading in/out of the scene.
    Last edited by WillSauger; 12-24-2012 at 01:37 PM.
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  5. #5
    practical experience, FTW Sunflowerrei's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by WillSauger View Post
    Other than that, chapters/scenes with breaks, either page or #, I don't transition. I lay the setting first (sit the reader down), project who's there, and then start the scene. I cut out anyway I wish. But that's no transitioning, it's fading in/out of the scene.
    I do this, too. She didn't mean chapter to chapter transitions or even scene to scene transitions, oddly. I do a lot of page breaks between scenes or a narrative paragraph and then into the scene. Echo a thought or image from one chapter to the next sometimes. Note the passage of time with "Later that night.."

    She wanted a transition from one paragraph to the next, which confused me.
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  6. #6
    The Crazy Man in the Sun. Feel me. WillSauger's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sunflowerrei View Post
    She wanted a transition from one paragraph to the next, which confused me.
    Paragraphs, by definition, make a single point/idea. They have a similar usage of sentence, that hold the subject and their actions. Paragraphs hold a single idea.

    You don't need to transition into them (you can, but only to branch off from that point/idea). The only reason why you'd break into a new paragraph, is to make a new point or bring up a different subject, thus, transition is not needed.

    Maybe, they're talking about narration flow. For that, posting in the SYW section can help you. Typically, unless you're not leading the reader through the scene or just abruptly throwing out thoughts and explanations, narration flow is rather simple and the reader won't stab you for something that is choppy (but clear).

    The transition of actions, which skip needless details, is dealing with narration flow. Both shortening it, and allowing the reader to slide into the scene better.
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  7. #7
    Ustom Ser Itle Dgullen's Avatar
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    Those two examples feel OK to me. You're not withholding essential information deliberately, I know where I am - in the car park; at the restaurant.

    A transition is in two halves, so if the end of the previous scene/chapter ends in a promise that's not kept (e.g. a decission to go to the restaurant), and the next scene is in the car park, then I'll assume it's the restaurant's car park.

    I agree with Emaree - less fluff is better, keep focused and tell the story. You should only include something if it's contributing in some way.

    Some readers like their hands held a bit more than others, so this may simply be a matter of taste - you're the author so you need to decide if you want/need to take this piece of advice, or get some more opinions. You can always try a couple of scene transition rewrites and see how you feel about them. It's probably only going to be a sentence or two, a couple of phrases.

  8. #8
    writer, rider, reader...ex-pat! BethS's Avatar
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    We really need to see an example in SYW to see exactly what the problem is.

  9. #9
    never mind the shorty angeliz2k's Avatar
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    I haven't gotten this for my own writing, but I have given it as a suggestion while beta-reading.

    It sounds like a similar problem to the one I saw: A paragraph spoke about one thing, then suddenly we're across the room or town with nothing to get us there. In essence, there's a gap that leaves us, the reader, behind. That can be hard to detect as a writer since you know what's going on.

    But you should get more than one opinion on this. It might be that other readers will be able to follow along, but this particular reader isn't quite "getting it". Not every reader will get everything every time.
    Last edited by angeliz2k; 12-24-2012 at 06:18 PM.
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  10. #10
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    An example is required, but transitions are important, and are needed constantly.

  11. #11
    Let's see what's on special today.. Bufty's Avatar
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    It's impossible to comment upon your beta's observations without seeing text, and it's impossible to answer your transition question, too, other than generally.

    Smooth transitions mean the reader doesn't scratch his head wondering why he's no longer in the same 'place' he was a moment ago.

    I scanned a chapter in your blog and in one instance you appear to effect a transition by a tag that appears at the end of a line of dialogue that is itself in a run of dialogue. The effect was very jarring because one moment the characters are chatting while eating and suddenly a dialogue tag refers to ' ...," X said after the meal'.

    You may wish to consider using the Share-Your-Work Forum to clarify this transition issue - among other issues.



    Quote Originally Posted by Sunflowerrei View Post
    I know I've seen at least one thread on this topic, but I couldn't readily find it.

    My WIP is being beta read right now. So far, my beta has commented that I don't transition. Her most frequent comment is "You need a transition here." I genuinely thought that what I wrote was transitioning, but apparently not.

    So how do you guys handle transitions between chapters, scenes, and paragraphs?
    Everything yields to treatment.

  12. #12
    practical experience, FTW Billycourty's Avatar
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    If it is a pov change, make sure to use the pov'ers name asap. That way you can train your reader.

  13. #13
    practical experience, FTW Sunflowerrei's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bufty View Post
    I scanned a chapter in your blog and in one instance you appear to effect a transition by a tag that appears at the end of a line of dialogue that is itself in a run of dialogue. The effect was very jarring because one moment the characters are chatting while eating and suddenly a dialogue tag refers to ' ...," X said after the meal'.

    You may wish to consider using the Share-Your-Work Forum to clarify this transition issue - among other issues.
    Oh, God, that thing. She's not beta-ing that story.

    I'm hesitant to post this to SYW because I already know it's going to get cut, hacked and rewritten--not because of Beta's comments--out of the next draft.

    This is the paragraph in question:

    When Miles was a boy, his tutor, and sometimes his father, would take a switch to him. Spare the rod, spoil the child*. Whenever the girls misbehaved, their nursery maids and Delphine had meted out punishments and scoldings. The girls had rarely warranted the rod. When they did, Delphine was the wielder.
    Delphine was dead.
    "Hold out your left hand."
    Her small palm unfurled, crisscrossed with angry red impressions from the rope. The ruler hit her palm square, hard, just once.
    Alex squealed, wincing.
    "Now go sit at the table. We'll have our supper."

    *She wanted a transition there.
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  14. #14
    a demon for tea EMaree's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sunflowerrei View Post
    When Miles was a boy, his tutor, and sometimes his father, would take a switch to him. Spare the rod, spoil the child*. Whenever the girls misbehaved, their nursery maids and Delphine had meted out punishments and scoldings. The girls had rarely warranted the rod. When they did, Delphine was the wielder.

    *She wanted a transition there.
    At first I didn't see the need for any transition. 'When the girls misbehaved' connects the upcoming sentence to the two previous ones so the flow feels fine to me. I thought your beta might be trying to suggest that you take a new paragraph.

    But on a re-read, I think I understand what she means. This scene seems to switch from Miles' POV to Delphine's POV here. Am I reading it right?

    If so, I agree that there needs to be a clearer indication of the POV change. I'd usually use scene breaks for a POV change.

    EDIT: Actually, I'm just generally confused who the POV character is here (we go from a boy to 'Her small palm' so I thought Delphine, but she/he is dead). I think I'm too dozy from my Christmas Eve meal to give useful comments, so feel free to ignore this post.
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  15. #15
    practical experience, FTW Sunflowerrei's Avatar
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    No, it's all Miles's POV. He's punishing his daughter. Does it read like a POV jump, because it's supposed to be a recollection...

    I'll see what Beta says about the rest of it and deal with it then. I'm probably just jumping from thought to thought because it's all been in my head and I know exactly what's going on whereas a reader doesn't.
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  16. #16
    a demon for tea EMaree's Avatar
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    Yeah, it definitely reads like a POV switch to me. It makes a lot more sense now that you've clarified it's a flashback, so you might need to indicate that more clearly.

    It seems like a very interesting story, best of luck with your revisions.
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  17. #17
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    It does reas like a POV switch, and does seem to need a transition, but it's also a very short sample, and context may change everything.

  18. #18
    never mind the shorty angeliz2k's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sunflowerrei View Post
    Oh, God, that thing. She's not beta-ing that story.

    I'm hesitant to post this to SYW because I already know it's going to get cut, hacked and rewritten--not because of Beta's comments--out of the next draft.

    This is the paragraph in question:

    When Miles was a boy, his tutor, and sometimes his father, would take a switch to him. Spare the rod, spoil the child*. Whenever the girls misbehaved, their nursery maids and Delphine had meted out punishments and scoldings. The girls had rarely warranted the rod. When they did, Delphine was the wielder.
    Delphine was dead.
    "Hold out your left hand."
    Her small palm unfurled, crisscrossed with angry red impressions from the rope. The ruler hit her palm square, hard, just once.
    Alex squealed, wincing.
    "Now go sit at the table. We'll have our supper."

    *She wanted a transition there.
    I assume it's clear from the paragraph before that the daughter has done something and that Miles is disciplining her. If this were the beginning of a scene, it would be confusing as all get out.

    As long as that's the case, I don't see the need for more transitions here. BUT, it's a little unclear who "the girls" are and why you say both "their nursery maids and Delphine had meted out punishments and scoldings" [punishments or scoldings, I'd say, but not both] AND "When they did, Delphine was the wielder."

    First, who's punishing the girls: Delphine, or the nursery maids and Delphine? Second, why would you need to say it twice?

    In the sentence beginning "Her small palm," the phrase "crisscrossed . . . " actually is modifying "unfurled", which obviously isn't what you mean.

    Otherwise, I think this works as a brief reminiscence. "Delphine was dead" transitions us out of it pretty well.

    The beta might have been confused but not quite able to pinpoint the source of the confusion. I think it might be the lack of the clarity in the sentences themselves.
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  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by angeliz2k View Post
    In the sentence beginning "Her small palm," the phrase "crisscrossed . . . " actually is modifying "unfurled"
    nuh-uh
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  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by angeliz2k View Post
    In the sentence beginning "Her small palm," the phrase "crisscrossed . . . " actually is modifying "unfurled".
    No, it's not, as Somethingorother said. It's modifying "palm". But it might be structured a little more clearly by reversing the clauses:

    Crisscrossed with angry red impressions from the rope, her small palm unfurled.

    That makes for a closer connection to the next sentence as well.

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  21. #21
    never mind the shorty angeliz2k's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SomethingOrOther View Post
    nuh-uh
    Quote Originally Posted by blacbird View Post
    No, it's not, as Somethingorother said. It's modifying "palm". But it might be structured a little more clearly by reversing the clauses:

    Crisscrossed with angry red impressions from the rope, her small palm unfurled.

    That makes for a closer connection to the next sentence as well.

    caw
    I know it's meant to modify palm--but it doesn't really read that way.
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    WIP 5: The Cotton Wars [prequel].
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  22. #22
    a demon for tea EMaree's Avatar
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    I didn't have any problems reading that line.
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  23. #23
    writer, rider, reader...ex-pat! BethS's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sunflowerrei View Post
    Oh, God, that thing. She's not beta-ing that story.

    I'm hesitant to post this to SYW because I already know it's going to get cut, hacked and rewritten--not because of Beta's comments--out of the next draft.

    This is the paragraph in question:

    When Miles was a boy, his tutor, and sometimes his father, would take a switch to him. Spare the rod, spoil the child*. Whenever the girls misbehaved, their nursery maids and Delphine had meted out punishments and scoldings. The girls had rarely warranted the rod. When they did, Delphine was the wielder.
    Delphine was dead.**
    "Hold out your left hand."
    Her small palm unfurled, crisscrossed with angry red impressions from the rope. The ruler hit her palm square, hard, just once.
    Alex squealed, wincing.
    "Now go sit at the table. We'll have our supper."

    *She wanted a transition there.
    Actually, the transition needs to be after the two red asterisks, where it unexpectedly jumps from a summary of the past to a real-time scene.

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