This week the Finding Your Writers Voice Meet-Up dived into the world of scene transitions. What makes a good transition in your story? Where should you use transitions and what are the key elements of a successful transition? The scene was set for a lively discussion and we had some new members join us this week, as usual, all new community members are very welcome and we hope they received some value from the evening and will come back again for more!
The discussion was prompted by one of our long-standing members with the question, am I doing scene transitions as well as I could? To prime you for the discussion have a look at the video below from a fellow writer, Brandon McNulty.
The first article we reviewed was from a country down under, not that one, or that one. The Writers Write blog and website from South Africa is filled with great tips and advice on everything literary. The title of the article was ‘6 Tips & Tricks for Writing Scene Transitions’. This article would break down the mystery of scene transition into six simple steps.
In summary, those steps were:
- Arrive late, leave early (my personal favourite!)
- Leave us gasping with a cliffhanger (not a hangover as I kept referring to it!)
- Establish the speaker as soon as possible
- Establish where they are
- Has time passed?
- Change the mood.
I loved the ‘arrive late, leave early’ approach to scene transitions. Just dropping the reader into the middle of the action and into a scene that is filled with tension! What better way to transition and orientate the reader. Mia Botha gives an example of this type of scene transition and I’m going to give another one here, just for comparison and hopefully to get your creative juices going.
‘Susan started to walk quicker. The wind quickened and started blowing strongly through the towering trees surrounding her. She looked behind her, was someone following her or was it just the winds and shadows of the night?
Another favourite is the cliffhanger, but leave the reader guessing. Like those old black and white weekly movies that left you hanging on the edge but the following week the previous ending was ever so slightly changed to allow the action to continue. A modern version of bait and snatch, before the days of suspicious internet links and headlines.
Another key point made by Mia is scene transitions are essentially devices to be used that influence the pace of your story. They are pacing devices as she calls them. The other, obvious point, is that of orientation. The reader needs to be oriented appropriately. Switching scenes too abruptly and without context will obviously leave the reader confused.
We then moved onto an article from Nownovel, with the headline, ‘Writing scene breaks and transitions that develop your story’. This article approached the topic of scene transitions from three angles:
- Using scene transitions to shift between time periods
- Use scene or chapter breaks to switch between characters’ POV
- Change settings through scene breaks and transitions
One controversial approach to scene transitions is to employ them within chapters. The example of Zadie Smith in her book White Teeth is called out. Some found this technique helpful to the reader whilst others found it confusing. It can be an interesting techniue to employ in your writing but be aware of the potential impact on your readers.
The final article we discussed was from The Editors Blog, with an enticing title of ‘Mastering Scene Transitions‘. We moved from a simple definition to mastering in just a few lines. Here we covered the key elements that scene transitions need to address, namely to identify one of the following:
- Viewpoint character
This article covers the ways time and place can be established and also delved into in chapter scene transitions. Also covered in this article is:
- The length of scene transitions
- What scene transitions are used for
The article ends with some good examples of scene transitions using the same character but different styles of stories.
There was one article we didn’t quite have enough time to cover, from Ignitedinnkwriting, How to Format Transitions: Scenes., Points of view and Time.
Some additional points and questions raised by the group on the night were:
- How do you know what’s your style of writing (I feel an evening Meet-Up on this topic)
- Zoe Heller was called out as an author that manages scene transitions incredibly well, so off you pop to read some of her work!
- How detailed should you get with character descriptions? Should you get into the details of what they eat? What clothes they wear? What about the perfume or aftershave they wear? It was agreed that any details divulged on your characters should only be shared if they are important to the story. Adding unnecessary details for the sake of it can be a real turn off for the reader.
- Some authors called out to brush up on were:
One final treat to digest post main course was shared after the Meet-Up ended. From Reedsy – First Line Frenzy