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Stitching Your Scenes Together with Transitions

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As writers we spend a lot of time talking about plot, character, setting and description. We learn how to put all of those together into scenes and how to show character motivation with sequel. But then when it comes time to stitch it all together we often stutter… uh… okay… and then after that some other stuff happened and now I’m going to tell you about it.

Okay, hopefully, your transitions aren’t that bad, but frequently writers do spend way too much time on the stitches when they should be kept clean and simple.

How to do that?

- Give the reader something that carries over from one scene to the next like: weather, action, or an object.

Weather:

End of scene 1: “Rain beat down on her back and leaked inside her collar. It was going to be a long day.”

Beginning of scene 2: “The rain had stopped, but the sun had yet to appear.”

Action:

End of scene 1: “Jack’s date flipped back her hair and took a sip of her drink. Every inch of her was perfect. Carla looked away, hurt and jealousy making the sweet wine in her mouth taste bitter.”

Beginning of scene 2: “Carla took another swallow of the wine. It was better this time. In fact it was grand. Looking past Jack and his bitch of a date, she waved at the waiter for another drink.”

Object:

End of scene 1: “The gun clicked on an empty chamber and then another. Sweat broke out on her body. How many more until the empty chambers were all gone?”

Beginning of scene 2: “The gun was closer now. In Andi’s hand. Another click, another spin of the cylinder and then it was Margot’s turn.”

Note: these aren’t the only thing you can use to remind your reader where they are. You can try mood, emotion, or anything else that provides some consistency. You can also add power to any of these by:

- Hooking or looping the end of one scene to the beginning of the next.

One easy way to do this is with a repeated word. All three of the earlier examples use this.

End of scene 1: “Rain beat down on her back and leaked inside her collar. It was going to be a long day.”

Beginning of scene 2: “The rain had stopped, but the sun had yet to appear.”

In addition to reminding the reader of what was happening when he left off, the use of “rain” pulls the reader along.

- Be straight forward with time.

Sometimes we try to be too cute. There is nothing wrong with letting the reader know up front that a certain amount of time has passed.

Beginning of scene 2: “Two days later….”

Again you can combine this with one of the earlier techniques. “Two days later, George was gone, but the pain was still there.” (If you left off with your character breaking up with her boyfriend or slamming her hand in a car door.)

Most important is to keep your transitions clean and as short as possible – while, of course, grounding your reader so they know what has stayed the same and what has changed.

Still having a hard time? Leave them for revisions. Write your book and then go back and stitch your scenes together! Don’t let a transition hold up your progress.

Lori Devoti is the multi-published author of romantic comedy, paranormal romance and urban fantasy. She also writes the Dusty Deals Mystery series under the pen name Rae Davies. Look for her workshops at Write by the Lake (DCS University of Wisconsin), at various conferences, and here at the How To Write Shop. For more information, visit her web site. Find her on Google +
  1. Jamie Kersten says:

    Great post, Lori. Great tips and great examples. Thanks!

  2. Excellent reminders that things have to flow. So often my markups say “TRANSITION” in big, red letters. I love your examples. Most of my scenes switch POV characters, so showing the ‘same’ thing from the other character’s POV helps ground the reader.

    Terry
    Terry’s Place

  3. Transitions are not often mentioned in writing tips. Years ago I constructed a whole notebook of sample transitions, and found it just the other day. I’ll add your samples to my file.

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