Writing Scene Transitions

Monday, May 31

In answer to Marian's question, I decided to do an entire post. Hope it helps.

When jumping from scene to scene, it can end up choppy and confusing. This can be especially difficult for those who write out of chronological order (like me.)
So how do we smoothly stitch together all the changes in tone/setting?

Chapters are handy when there's a major change in scenery. The end of a chapter usually signifies the end of a scene and folds up the tone of the previous chapter. But what if the jump between scenes is too short?

Telling Link
However much you want the dramatic pause at the end of the scene, sometimes the transition could be a simple sentence showing passage of time.
"He watched her disappear into the rain" can be a dramatic scene ending. But what if the next scene abruptly begins with, "'I don't understand women,' he said glumly, staring into his lukewarm coffee"? The solution is a small passage telling the events that led up to that moment. Example;

He watched her disappear into the rain, unable to move. Then, with a sigh that stuck to the wet cement, he walked back inside and climbed into bed, his damp clothes still on. But he did not sleep. When the gray morning light sifted through his curtains, he fell out of bed, numbly shuffling to his small kitchen.
"I don't understand women," he told his lukewarm coffee glumly...
The transition can be used to not only meld the two places together, but to provide extra information.

Traveling Transitions
One of the more difficult transitions to write is a change in setting. They need to get from A to B, but the plane ride is mediocre.
You have two options; quickly explain the length of the journey ("Two peanut packages and a Leo Tolstoy novel later, they arrived...") or shake things up a bit ("The man to her right smiled cheerfully at her. Too cheerfully. Alice clutched her handbag firmly. He'd get a shot of pepper spray if he so much as moved. But Alice didn't see him slip the pill into her water, or notice him nod to the silver-haired woman across the aisle...")



Friday, May 28

With summer at our heels, now our excuses are gone. We have more time than ever during the year and we should be writing.

So why aren't we?

Summer is shorter than it used to be. (500 Days of Summer? I wish.) Even if we write like crazy during our vacations, if we are lax on normal work-weeks we'll never get much done. We have summer for our hobbies. But we also must find time on normal days.

Don't waste one minute. Time is precious. A simple math equation will prove that:
People say that "time is money" and that "money is power", right?



To have time is to have the power to do anything. Those who waste time will never get anything done.
Don't procrastinate. Do.


Believable Part 2

Monday, May 24

More ways to make a story Believable;

Figurative Language

If your story is set in ancient Rome, using similes like, "She screamed louder than a train whistle" or "The cat purred like a humming computer" would seem out of place.
A great way to give tone is to use similes that match the environment.
Say you're in Egypt. Try something like, "The sky grew darker than a beetle's belly" or "I wish memories were as easy to wash away as sand." (I don't know. I've never actually been to Egypt.)

Even within a setting, there are different dialects, upbringing, and intelligence levels.
Is a high school student or an art teacher going to say "She smiled quizzically, reminiscent of the Mona Lisa" or "She grinned like the Cheshire cat"?
Keep in mind where they grew up and the education they received.


Reunions are tricky to do. How would you act if you met your father after ten years? How about someone you thought to be dead?
First of all, is the character happy to see them alive and well?

In that case, I suggest tears, hugs, general jubilation, and the desire to never be parted again.

Not so happy
If it's someone you never wanted to see again, I can imagine that several painful emotions would follow. Perhaps anger or fear.

Naturally, the reactions depend on each character's personality.
In Cornelia Funke's Inkspell, the character Dustfinger returns home to his wife after years of being unable to return. When she sees him, she ignores his presence. They both love each other and are thrilled that Dustfinger has returned, but the wife is proud and hates to show emotion or weakness.


Solving Problems and Creating Solutions

Friday, May 21

It's all good and fun to heap conflicts on our characters. That's what we want, right? The only problem with problems is that we have to solve them.

Two Birds with one Stone

One way to solve is by using one problem to solve another. You wouldn't believe how often this works.
For example, I was struggling with a Character A's lack of involvement in the plot. I was also trying to figure how Character B finds out that Character C is in trouble. The solution to both? Make Character A the messenger boy.
In these cases, the two interlocking problems aren't always obvious. Try combing through your story and making a list of plot holes and problems. Then put a couple together to see if they match up. It's sort of like a puzzle; two puzzle pieces are enigmas alone, but click them together and you're that much closer to the finish line.

The Brainstorm

This is the most logical technique; sit around and think brilliant thoughts. However, for most of us, it's not that easy.
Brilliance doesn't happen under pressure. Which is why the brainstorm shouldn't be taken seriously. If you're exerting pressure on yourself to be a genius 24/7, chances are you won't be.
Trust me. I once stressed and racked my brain for an hour, convinced that the only way to complete my book was by refusing to stop my brainstorm. In a word; failure. The only thing I accomplished was a week-long writer's block.
Successful brainstorming should be relaxed musing. No pressure, there's always another day to be amazing.

I never quite know when I'm not writing. Sometimes my wife comes up to me at a party and says, "...Thurber, stop writing." She usually catches me in the middle of a paragraph. Or my daughter will look up from the dinner table and ask, "Is he sick?" "No," my wife says, "he's writing something."
~James Thurber

Change the Facts

If the facts don't fit the theory, change the facts
~Albert Einstein

Sometimes, we write ourselves into a corner. The scenario is too impossible, the conflict cannot be resolved, and the characters are dead meat. If that's the case, un-write and rewrite. You're the author. Give the villain a tendency to oversleep, make the dungeon walls hastily built, the fortress located in an abandoned quarry, the evening wine drugged (You can imagine for yourself what these suggestions would resolve.)
You don't have to make things easy for the characters, just possible.


Writer Sense Promo

Monday, May 17

Writer Sense is getting a new look and style. Stayed tuned this summer for upcoming videos and posts.



Friday, May 14

Irony: the use of words to convey a meaning that is the opposite of its literal meaning.

Irony can be used to inform or amuse the reader. They're not always obvious to the writer (most of its unintentional.) There are three types of irony; situational, dramatic, and verbal.

Situational Irony
This occurs when there's a contrast between what we think should happen, and what really happens.
This is the big twists you use to surprise and entertain the reader. I highly encourage twists. Predictable plots should stay with the fairy-tale genre. (The girl gets the prince? Wow, didn't see that one coming.)
Suppose you, the writer, were to create a big buildup around a certain character, casting them in suspicion and secrecy. Then at the end it turns out they're innocent, and even noble. Situational Irony.

Dramatic Irony
This is one of the more popular ones. This is when the audience knows something the characters don't. Think Romeo and Juliet. ("She's alive you fool!")
This is next to impossible to pull off in first-person point of view. Even in third person limited it could be difficult. But it's always tense and climatic when achieved successfully.

Verbal Irony
When the writer or a speaking character says one thing but means something else. In a word; sarcasm.
Sarcasm is encountered almost daily. (For me anyways. You might live in a nicer neighborhood.) I already provided you with a nice example in the situational irony blurb:
'The girl gets the prince? Wow, didn't see that one coming.'


Elements of Fiction: Characters Part 2

Monday, May 10

The first thing most writers need is a main character. They're often used to initiate the story, and are one of the first things to be introduced. Whether they're likable or not, they need to draw sympathy from the reader to be successful.

The most prevelent way is by drawing on the character's plight. What obstacles do they face? What do they stand to lose?

In the less than life-threatening scenarios (new school, parents who don't understand, ect.) it can be difficult to create immediate sympathy. In these situations, the character, rather than his conflicts,  needs to be the bond with the reader.

What is there to like about your character? Are they funny, dramatic, stubborn?
For an unlikable character, they should at least have the desire to do something right. Someone whose only wish to destroy and hurt others is hard to feel connected to.


Elements of Fiction: Characters Part 1

Friday, May 7

Probably the most important thing in any story; the characters. The plot, conflicts; everything revolves around them. Naturally, we need to spend some time on them.


This is the main character. He's the guy who makes the choices, it's his life you're detailing. While most tend to be likable heroes, over the past few decades readers have developed a taste for characters that you should by no means find appealing. But instead, their selfishness, cowardice, or blurry logic can make them roguishly endearing instead of evil. Perhaps it makes them seem more human.
But there's a fine line when using this technique. They must do some good things, and at least possess one good quality. Otherwise, they're just annoying.

The antagonist is the bad guy. He's not always present as a character. In some conflicts, the antagonist exists in a different form. The antagonist does everything in his power to stop the protagonist from achieving their goals, which tend to negatively affect the goal of the antagonist. For more on casting them, check out my post Creating Villains.

Secondary Character
Secondary characters, while not in the spotlight, interact by forming relationships with the protagonist and antagonist.

While minions are stereotypically the evil villain's cronies, I prefer to classify them as those who side with the antagonist. This doesn't not necessarily make them evil. Several times, this type of secondary character might do it out of fear, confusion, or naivety.

Friends help and support the protagonist. They usually influence the main character's decisions, thus influencing the plot. Some friends may have once been Minions or In-betweens.

These guys don't side with either the protagonist or the antagonist. They work for their own interests and causes.

Static and Dynamic

Have you ever stared at a static television screen? While the fuzzy black and white is certainly in motion, they seldom change into something better or worse.
So it is with static characters. Static characters are defined as any character that remains the same throughout a story. They don't really grow or change. Their personality remains the same throughout the story.

Dynamic characters are affected by their circumstances. They can become braver and stronger through their trials. At the other end of the spectrum, the conflicts can prove too much for them, and they lapse into bitterness, thoughts of revenge, or fear.
Every main character must be dynamic. If they do not develop and learn throughout their story, what's the point of it? If throughout our lives we never changed, then what would be the purpose?

Naming Your Character
I believe I wrote a post on that a while back, as well as a collection of good naming sites.


Writing In Numbers

Monday, May 3

Several times in writing you'll have a character counting, n
 umbers engraved on doors, or a rough estimate of how many guards are chasing them. So what's the proper way to write these numbers; numerical or linguistic?

The official "rule" is to spell out numbers greater than ten (10).
Eleven or more, basically

But I feel that there are some exceptions when it comes to the emotional appeal of writing a story.

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