Thursday, January 7, 2010

Transitions and Pacing

Sometimes readers of this blog ask questions that are good ones to share with everyone. This blog reader ask a question related to pacing, which was how to create effective transitions. Transitions are connected with pacing because they are used to move the character from one situation to another, and when the change doesn't move the story forward or make an impact on the character's goal, then it can be short, providing the reader a sense of place or a new situation.
Here’s his comment:
Hi Gail, Thanks for your blog. What a blessing it is. On the subject of pacing, I'm questioning how you show the passage of time, fast or slow, without being boring. For example, I get tired using phrases like "after a while" or "in a few moments." Do you have any answers to these particular cliches. I've just written: "He rolled over, cradled his head in his arms, and sobbed, allowing the tears to flow. After a while, he raised his head and wiped his dirty face on his sleeve." but it doesn't feel right.

Mike’s concern regards the bolded phrase. The phrase drops into the paragraph to show time passing without capturing the flow of the writing. In this case, the transition can come in a variety of ways, but it is best when the author can retain the emotion that the character is feeling.

My response included these possibilities for the phrase: After a while.

After his tears subsided, he. . . This shows passing of time but with more detail of what is happening.

Drained dry, he. . . (Same as above.)
Wiping the last tears from his eyes, he . .. This includes time passage while offering character action.

Frustrated with his own weakness, he... This shows character emotion and broadens characterization.

Slamming his fist into the pillow, he wiped his dirty face on his sleeve, tired of his struggle. Action and emotion.

Struck by an idea, he. . . This reflects hope, brightening the emotion and broadens characterization. It also moves the story forward with the possibility of resolving a conflict or at least changing it. This transition also adds the possibility of conflict

When showing the passing of time from one action to another, use phrases the leads the reader to the next emotion and tells us something about the character. Is the character relieved he'd cried and rid himself of the emotional weight? Is he frustrated with himself, angry, thoughtful? Has he made a decision about what to do? This provides his crying with a double purpose -- to express his emotion and to lead the character forward with his purpose?

This is only one kind of transition, showing the passing of time during a single action. Next blog, I’ll talk about other kinds of transitions that helps move the story along, especially in moving characters from one place to another.


Michael said...

This article - especially the examples - is very helpful. I look forward to your next post on transitions. Thanks!

Gail Gaymer Martin said...

Hi Michael - Thanks so much. I'm glad you found the info helpful. These are simple things that we sometimes don't think about. As authors we need to always look for ways to make everything we do in our books meaningful to the entire story and characters if we can.

Wishing you blessings in the new year.

Faithful said...

I bet this article would help Michael a lot. I know I have come across the same kinds of problems when I'm writing. It was insightful to understand what a few words can do to describe an emotion, an action, or a decision.
Thanks, Gail.

Gail Gaymer Martin said...

Glad you find the topic helpful. Wishing you great writing.


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