Shelley Widhalm

Transitioning to Transitions 101

In 52 Writing Topics, Shelley Widhalm, Writing on November 25, 2012 at 11:00 am

Transitions are the go-between, the white space surrounding dingbats and a way to get from here to there.

I realized in my quest to write about 52 writing topics in 52 weeks, I forgot about this writer’s tool.

There’s a reason for that – transitions are one of my least favorite things in my toolbox, though they are a necessity.

Readers notice the lack of transitions and quickly become annoyed if the story’s direction is unclear. The writing skips awkwardly along from one time or place to another, confusing readers as they try to figure out where exactly they are in the story.

They might think they and the point-of-view character are in a coffee shop and suddenly they are in some memory about traveling to another country.

Transitions serve as a bridge that signals a shift in the story, such as a change in time, place, mood, tone or point of view.

They mark a scene break, or a change in scene, which can be indicated with dingbats, asterisks or extra space. The break in scene ideally cuts at the moment of heightened suspense, causing the reader to want to know what happens next.

The point-of-view character’s physical environment, or what’s happening around her, can transition into her internal thoughts, memories or reflections. She may see a type of flower or a ceramic vase that triggers recollections of some event from her past.

The recalling of past events in the present through flashback interrupts the flow of narrative.

Changing the tense – such as present to past or past to past perfect – is a way to enter and exit out of the flashback.

Using sensory impressions is another way to invoke a memory, such as Proust’s tea, or to return the character to the present moment, such as the howl of a coffee grinder.

Or dialogue can cause the character to come back to the scene at hand, though she might ask, “What? What are you talking about?”

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  1. Another helpful article on another trouble spot for this frustrated writer! Thanks!

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