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Transitions: Getting From Here To There

by Winnie Griggs

Have you ever heard any of the following about your work?
• It’s choppy, abrupt or jarring
• It seems to jump around too much
• It’s hard to follow
• The individual scenes feels as if they were written in ‘chunks’ and then pasted together

These are all signs that you may need to work on transitions.

Transitions are those small but oh-so-important passages that help guide your reader across story gaps, while keeping them grounded in your story.

Part of this involves knowing what to show ‘on stage’, and what to skip over or summarize. You do this, of course, by including those scenes that both engage the reader and move the story forward. The rest, the mundane and ‘boring parts’, are what should be transitioned over. But doing this leaves gaps in time, in movement and/or in point of view.

For simple transitions, you merely tell what change has occurred, by using phrases such as:
• Later that day
• When summer changed to fall
• Once they arrived at Nashville
• Halfway up the mountain

Complex transitions, however, do more than this. They also layer in additional information. Let’s talk about some ways to do this.

Use emotions/mood:
• As Elise entered her apartment, she still felt the tension thrumming through her from that disastrous meeting with her boss.
After soaking in the tub with her favorite bubble bath and good book, however, she felt ready to smile again.
Bride Next Door
Use the senses:
• Jerry stepped outside the cabin, inhaling the scent of pine needles, loamy soil and honeysuckle. He was excited to finally be able to share this place with Naomi.
Naomi could already feel her eyes water and her skin itch. Why had she let Jerry talk her into coming out to this miserable, back-of-beyond cabin?

Use a recent or anticipated event:
• That scent brought the long-suppressed memory crashing in, full blown in all its nightmarish detail. A bottle of that same perfume had been spilled next to her sister’s blood-soaked body when she’d stumbled on it five years ago. Cloying in its intensity, obscene in its sensualness…

Use a character:
• Stacey pulled into her driveway Friday afternoon, wondering how she’d let her sister talk her into dog-sitting their mutt for the weekend. She really wasn’t big into the whole pet scene.
But by Sunday evening, Rufus had wormed his shaggy way right into her heart.

Use an object:
• Roger kissed the envelope for luck, then placed it in the mailbox. Surely Barbara would forgive him when she read his heartfelt words.
When Barbara found the letter from Roger in her box, she tossed in the trash, unopened.

Use the environment:
• The autumn seemed long that year. Perhaps it was because she was so homesick for the Ozarks, where nature painted the mountainsides with magnificent blazes of color. Winter was easier, and by spring, the Texas gulf coast was beginning to feel, if not like home, at least less alien to her.

Whatever method you employ, keep in mind – your main goal is to keep your reader grounded in the who, what, where, and when of your story without their having to reread passages to figure it out.

Winnie Griggs June 2013Multi-published author Winnie Griggs is an RT Reviewers Choice award winner and the author of fifteen published novels. She’s been married to her cattle rancher husband for 37 years now and together they’ve raised four proud-to-call-them-mine children. To learn more about Winnie and her books, please visit www.winniegriggs.com.

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