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Scene Transitions

When I′m writing, I often visualize my stories as being movies, TV shows, comic books, etcetera. It′s just the way my mind works, I guess. I picture the characters, the backgrounds, the musical score, the movement of the camera…it′s a part of me putting every part of my story together in sequence, and actually seeing things as they play out in my head so I can effectively describe it for everybody else who might be reading. And just like movies and TV, a vast majority of stories are told in a way where one important scene switches to another important scene, often with some time passing between the two. When you write, it′s a ′fable′ that you’re creating. It′s a heavily edited documentary on a fictional character′s day to day life. You don′t want to hear about what this character had for dinner. Your readers aren′t really interested in his homework, or what he watched on TV that night, or how long he spent playing his Playstation online. (UNLESS, of course…it relates to the story being told) So I ask for us all to think about what we′ve done in the last 24 hours of our lives. Every last little detail. Write it down and see how interesting it would be to anyone else who′s reading it. If I asked you what you did yesterday, would you spend two hours giving me every little detail, or could give me an abridged version and wrap the whole thing up in two minutes instead?

Yeah. Give me the latter. That’s all I need.

Every single moment of our lives isn′t interesting enough to put into our book. And a lot of moments that ended up being truly important in the long run? We probably thought they were pretty mundane at the time until all the dominoes fell into place and we looked back to see where it all began. These are moments that we don′t include in our stories for a reason. We only tell that parts of our characters′ lives that are essential to the plot. So we may skip some of the more uninteresting parts where our character is combing his hair, or brushing his teeth, or taking out the garbage. And that means finding a way to jump from scene to scene smoothly, without having it feel ′jarring′, ′jerky′, or confusing in any way to the reader as to what′s just happened.

Today′s topic? Scene transition! And how to walk the fine line between a potentially good transition, and a potentially bad one.

I will begin by letting you guys know one of the FIRST things that I′ll tell any author when reading and reviewing their work. And I say this with no judgement or disrespect at all…but I will always go out of my way to mention to other writers to lose the visible ′text breaks′ in their stories. Every time. Maybe it′s just me, but I find that highly distracting when I′m reading. It′s almost a cheap way of switching from one scene to another in your story, and it′s something that can usually be solved with a sentence or two, where those breaks wouldn′t be necessary at all.

Examples:

″- – – – – -″

″(A few hours later)″

″(Insert special graphic to separate scenes here)″

Or any kind of visible break that is meant to let the reader know that you′re changing scenery or a character’s point of view, jumping forward or backward in time, or just switching to a different situation entirely. Yeah. Sorry. Hate to say it, but I would definitely advise against ever using those breaks in your stories to signal a scene transition. I;d say to avoid it at all costs. Have faith in yourself as a writer. If you′re writing about one set of characters, emotions, or a certain situation…and then decide to move on to something else…then practice making a smooth transition to a new concept. Don′t take the easy way out and figure, ″This will let the readers know that I′m switching gears without me really having to explain it in my writing.″ Spoiler alert. NOPE! Hehehe, the switch is just as jarring if you don′t ′pad the connection′ as it would be without your specially designed graphic put in place. I think you guys would be better off with an extra sentence or two to imply a change of scenery than you would be with a paragraph break and a few internet symbols to send a vague message that, ″Hey, we′re going over here now! Keep up!″

I’ve done the transition break thing myself in the past, and I don’t anymore. It’s just as easy to end one paragraph with a character thinking, “It’s been a long day. I need sleep. Maybe I’ll be able to see things clearly tomorrow morning.” and then starting the very next paragraph with, “The sunlight poured in through my bedroom window, waking me out of my sleep.” There it is. Done. You know where one scene ends and the next one begins. The readers are following along, they can sense the change in scenery and tone, and no line breaks or graphics are necessary. Even if you’re changing character points of view, there are clever ways to get around that as well. It’s a bit more difficult, but it can be done.

Example…let’s say you’re writing from two different POVs, Mike and Brian. Maybe you’re following Mike’s story right now, and at the end of his scene, you mention, “As much as I like him, I really doubt that Brian has any reason to like me back. He’s probably not even into guys.” Then, you end that paragraph, and your very next sentence is…

“Mike! Dude, are you spacing out on me again, or what?” I didn’t even realize that I wasn’t paying attention to him anymore. Sometimes, I just start daydreaming about Brian without even thinking about it. I wish I wasn’t socrazy about him. It makes it hard to concentrate.

Now, there’s no real visible cue to show that you’re switching characters…but as long as you ‘complete’ the scene with one character, and then begin the next scene by establishing a change in tone and action, your readers will still be able to follow your story without much of a problem. A few cues can be used to end one scene and start another. The change will be established through the storytelling itself, and not the graphics on the screen.

Now, one thing that I want to warn you guys about, is the dread ‘3B’ issue! Hehehe, it’s dangerous when it comes to the smooth flow of a story! What is the 3B issue? 3B stands, quite simply, for ‘Blah Blah Blah’!

If you have any ‘blah blah blah’ moments in your story when making a transition…go back and change it. Sometimes, we want to get from one amazing to another in our writing, and we try to hurry up and connect two completely different events with something that gives the illusion of storytelling, but it really isn’t. It’s just…’blah blah blah’.

“So these two guys worked at the same pizza parlor, and they started flirting with each other by the end of the first week. They were really sweet on one another, and ended up kissing that weekend. Then…’blah blah blah’…they got together and had sex.”

Hehehe, yeah, that little 3B moment? You need to go back and decide whether it needs to be there or not. Now, of course, a writer wouldn’t actually use the words ‘blah blah blah’, but the writing that they use to connect the first kiss to them having sex is obviously JUST thrown in there to connect the first kiss to them having sex. It’s a race from one big moment to another. So that means that the information being delivered has either added something that was never needed (in which case, why is it in your story?), or it needs something that was never added (Which, again…why is it in your story?). If it’s unimportant, then take it out. You won’t miss it, and neither will your readers. And if it IS important, then treat it as such, and give your 3B section some added detail and depth so that it flows with the rest of the story. Don’t skip over it and figure the audience is in a rush to get to the naughty parts. Take some time and develop the story you want to tell. Otherwise, it’s almost like the writer is telling you, “Blah blah blah, whatever. You get the point. Let’s move on.” No…they don’t get the point. You’re the author. You’re supposed to flesh out the point on the page in your own words and paint a clear picture for the people enjoying your work.

Imagine seeing a half finished painting of the Mona Lisa, and on the blank half of the canvas, you see a post it note saying, “Whatever. It’s supposed to be a woman smiling. You get the gist of it, right?” Hehehe, how frustrating would that be? If you’re going to transition from one major scene to another, either find a way to do it smoothly without adding unimportant fluff between the two scenes…or give the moments between both scenes the depth and meaning that they deserve, so it doesn’t come off as something you just kind of threw in there at the last minute. You actually send a message that you think your 3B moments aren’t worth writing about. And if the writer doesn’t care, the reader won’t care either.

Just something to think about.

Alright, I’m done gabbing for this month! Hehehe! I hope you guys are still enjoying these! It’s fun to share some of the things I’ve learned over the years, and I’ve still got a lot more to learn. So I’ll be sure to share even more as I pick up new tricks and tips along the way! Take care! And I’ll see ya next weekend!

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