Thursday, April 15, 2010

Writing Tips #3 - Transitions -- Keep the reader reading!

For all the writers out there, thought I'd jot down some of my thoughts on transitions, scene breaks, chapter endings and changes in point of view.

Great transitions keep the reader reading.  Poor transitions make it easy for the reader to put down the book.  Some common traps to avoid:  Putting your character to sleep at the end of the chapter.  When the protagonist goes to bed, it often provides a good place for the reader to put down your book and also go to bed.  Try to avoid this type of chapter ending.  You don't want to encourage napping!

Consider these craft techniques:  End a chapter in the middle of a scene, perhaps with a question asked by one character, or the entrance of a new character into the scene, or a change in the point of view.  All of these type transitions will encourage the reader to turn the page.

When breaking between scenes and chapters, think about finding a connective link ... a repetition of a word or a theme or a thought can sometime provide an almost subliminal connection.  For example, in a book I'm current writing one of my characters is desperate to be a mother and has just learned that the baby she wants to adopt may not be an option.  My next scene moves to another character who is having trouble dealing with her ailing mother ... it's a subtle connection but one that provides a smooth transition and links by the word mother, and the theme about mothers and children that plays a role throughout the book.

Another tip, taking the chapter ending a bit further, is to end the chapter with a question.  But don't provide the answer in the next scene, make the reader wait, introduce something else that's new and compelling.  One cautionary note -- if the next scene isn't compelling, you may annoy the reader by making them wait so make sure it's a good one!

To keep the reader turning the pages, vary the tempo of your book, emotional scenes might move a little slower than action scenes.  Use short, rapid dialogue to increase pacing.  And after you've written your first draft, be a ruthless editor. Don't let yourself fall in love with all of your words.  If sentences or scenes don't move a story forward and wouldn't be missed if they were gone, then take them out.  The reader will love you for it!

Anyone run into any transitional type issues?  Ask away.  Maybe I can help.

1 comment:

  1. Perfect timing for your blog, Barbara, I was just wrestling with a tricky transition and I loved your tips! Thanks. And by the way I just finished On Shadow Beach and thought it was amazing. I read it in one sitting. Can't wait for the next book.