T Is For Transitions

For the Blogging From A to Z Challenge I’m doing you all a huge favor and filling you in on the 26 Things To Hate About Writing.** I’m hoping by the end of April, I will have convinced all of you not to indulge in the wild insanity of becoming a writer. If I can save even one person from offering themselves up in sacrifice to the mad and fickle word gods, I will have done some good in this world.

Check out each letter’s post here.

TRANSITIONS

So you’re writing a book, and it starts off in the rural countryside in the mid-1700’s, then it jumps to the year 2065 in a colony on Mars. Sure, why not? Things change, characters grow. But how do you get from pre-industrial revolution to Mars? It’s very messy and sticky and complicated, so it’s best just to write A FEW YEARS LATER at the start of the next chapter and begin on Mars.

No? One of the worst things about writing is creating adequate transitions, that don’t jump too far ahead without providing the necessary information to make the transition smooth. It can jar the reader to do otherwise, even if the description of your book says, “From his humble beginnings as a farmhand in 1700’s rural America to his journey into space centuries later…” I mean that’s cool and all, but how did it happen? Here’s why transitions are hard and suck:

– Important details need to be addressed. You can’t always gloss over chunks of time. It’s important to know your space-cadet farmer also became a vampire at some point, that’s why he lived so long.
– There’s lots of ways to create transitions: chapter breaks, time jumps, outright statements like “a few hours later,” or by making the transition obvious by showing your character has aged or changed their underwear. It takes creativity and just a smidge of frustration.
– If your transitions are too difficult to create, maybe you started the story in the wrong place. Maybe it’s not important that your Mars vampire used to work on a farm in the 1700’s. Just tell us about that in a dream sequence, because everybody loves a dream sequence.

Smooth transitions move the story along at an interesting and satisfying pace. They help jump over unimportant details that would bog the story down. They make reading a delight, because we all wish we could skip the boring parts of life like showering and work and go right to the bar to play pinball.

A FEW MINUTES LATER…

I still hate writing.


**Disclaimer: If you haven’t figured it out, these posts are pure satire and simply a humorous way to vent my writing frustrations. No offense is intended to anyone. Please, become or continue being a writer. It’s awesome, I swear. It’s super…duper, awesome…heh heh.

32 comments

  1. “So you’re writing a book, and it starts off in the rural countryside in the mid-1700’s…” …is it A Tree Growing Alone In The Forest?! 😉 (I may be obsessed.)

    More seriously though, transitions do suck! I know when I edit my A-Z challenge story (after lots of sleep) there will be many transitions to figure out. And removing lots of talk about walking to/from places as an uninspired transition.

    Now I’ve painted a lovely picture of my story XD Here’s my “T” post (there isn’t any transitioning in it!) 🙂 http://nataliewestgate.com/2017/04/trapped-secret-diary-of-a-serial-killer

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  2. I’m pretty sure your sample farmer-vampire-spaceman-with-fresh-underwear was in a book I read once. At least, some of the books I’ve read sure feel like it.

    I’m really enjoying your A to Z! Sarcasm is such a gift.

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  3. Okay, now I totally want to write a book where it jumps 350 years with no explanation. I mean, there will be an explanation if you keep reading, but I really want the reader to think there’s chapters missing.

    That being said, transitions are hard. Even for simpler things, like having two really cool scenes with important plot details that happen in the same time and place, and not having a logical way to get between, is a pain in the butt. Sometimes it just feels forced to put them together.

    T – Toronto’s Ill-Fated First Hanging

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    1. You may take my idea and run with it, if you wish. 😉

      It’s true, writing can be difficult. You might have to try a couple different things before something works and sounds right. Writing is HARD! Are you people LISTENING to what I’m trying to say/complain about here???

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  4. I am having this exact problem with one of my original stories (I’ve been writing a LOT of fan fiction lately). I’m starting it in ancient (and I mean ANCIENT) Ireland…so far back the name Ireland won’t be thought of for quite some time yet. My main character is granted immortality by a Celtic goddess (naturally) and so is still around in modern times. My problem is how to show just enough of her life at each stage so the reader gets the idea of what’s going on and sees just enough of her life to actually become invested in it and wanting to know more, without getting bogged down in the little details (for one) and spending too much time in each era, but also without leaving too much out (huh? Wasn’t it just 1192 and Robin Hood just came back from the Crusades and–oh wait, wrong movie! But weren’t there just knights and castles and dragons and—how the hell did we just get to Victorian London?!?). Especially since there will still be castles and such, they’ll just be moldering piles of rubble (or appear to be, anyway) and there will be cars and motorcycles (although not flying ones, that’s been done) and eventually laptops and cellphones and mp3 players that want to be annoying and quit working after two months….you get the idea. 😛

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    1. I think if you show something important in each time period–something that happens to her that is impactful and moves her story forward–you can definitely pull this sort of ‘time traveling’ off. If you make it more about the story than her surroundings, it might make those transitions much easier.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Hey Megan. I haven’t read in a few days, but find myself with some time this morning so will try to fly through a few posts. You know what drives me nuts? The trend in television shows now to show the crisis moment in the first scene and then flash the 18 hours prior script as they go back and tell the first part of the story. I suppose I am too linear. But I get your point of this post. I will be sure to keep my 1860s historical fic in that time frame. No skateboards or Nintendos, no sir! or ma’am!!

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    1. Ha! I agree with you on that. Unless it’s done really, really cleverly, entire stories being told in flashback is kind of annoying. If I’ve already seen what’s going to happen, it takes some of the impact out of it.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. You know? It’s kind of weird make fun of transitions, becuase I’ve seen them done in so many different ways that should have worked but did, that I can’t think of anything to say.
    So I’ll shut up.

    @JazzFeathers
    The Old Shelter – 1940s Film Noir

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      1. You don’t know that. If the villagers didn’t kill the monster, then it could and lived forever. The monster was created from necrotic tissue, meaning that it was practically dead.

        And the stitching coming loose can be re-tightened.

        So what else do you got that a Frankenstein monster can’t live forever?

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