Monday, January 18, 2010

Transitions in Fiction: From Place to Place

My last blog covered transitions within a single action—crying while time passes and then crying stops. I shared ways to use the transition to broaden characterization and generate emotion. Other types of transitions from one place to another can also provide new information and be a useful tool to add excitement to the setting.

Transitions from one location to another often happens during a new scene or new chapter. These transitions are usually understood by the reader. The key is to use the POV character’s name immediately so that the reader understands who has the POV.
Example: John stared out the window of his condo.

Two problems are solved. The reader knows the POV character and where he is. This is a simple transition when opening a new scene or chapter. Transitions within a scene is when it becomes more complicated.

First if the change of location is known by the reader—they’ve just discussed going to lunch at a small café nearby—then the transition can be as simple as: Once in the car, they pulled into the café parking lot in two minutes. This allows the reader to recognize the new location but what happens in that transition was insignificant. They may have discussed the weather or remained silent in their thoughts or even sang to the music on the radio. Nothing more needs to be done.

But sometimes these transitions can provide needed information. Let’s say the trip to the café goes through a bad part of town, and perhaps this part of town will be significant later in the novel. In this case, the author can broaden the scope of the trip by providing details that will have greater meaning later. For example: John grimaced as he crossed the railroad tracks. High rise buildings gave way to the stench of the ghetto. Men sat on apartment stoops, cigarettes hanging from their lips and giving the passing cars a scathing look. Boarded up buildings, some burned out from vandals, said all John needed to know about the area. A shiver rolled up his back, and he wished he’d chosen another street to travel.

Here you can see that the transition offers a dramatic look at the city and John’s emotional reaction. This could set the scene for something that will happen later to involve him in this part of the city. If the author only wants to create an image of the city without foreshadowing an event, the narrative could read something like this.
Example: Heat rose from the pavement as residence crowded on the stoop gasping for air from their stifling apartments. John kept his gaze forward, thankful for his air-conditioned condo.

In this case, foreshadowing is not evident in the passage, but readers receive a glimpse of John’s values and a sense of place as he travels through the urban area.

Use transitions also to introduce a new conflict. Example: John edged through the traffic, his eye drifting to the dashboard clock. The minutes flew faster than the inching car in front of him. He slapped his hand against the steering wheel. If there was one thing Jake hated was his being late for their meeting. He drew in a breath and released it in one blast. He was late already.

Obviously, the reader feels the inching traffic, John's tension building, and the ultimate conflict awaiting him.

While transitions are to get the characters from one place to another, they can be used to heighten information, create conflict, foreshadow events to come, and to expose emotions. Use them so they work for you in your novel.


Faithful said...

Thanks, Gail. You are truly helpful

Gail Gaymer Martin said...

Glad you find the information helpful.


Anonymous said...

Transitions material is extremly helpful. Lyn

Gail Gaymer Martin said...

Thank, Lyn. I'm glad its been helpful to you. Nice to know that the blog is making a difference for other writers.


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