Friday, July 16, 2021

Getting From Here To There: Transitions


Hello Everyone, Winnie Griggs. I'm deep in the midst of working through copyedits so I hope you'll excuse me if I reprise a post I did here back in 2009. It was the first post I did for Seekerville, waaaay back before I became a regular blogger here.

When writing your story, you don’t want to include a detailed account of every action taken by every character in your story, nor do you always want to unfold the story linearly.  Instead, a good writer will carefully select those scenes that are not only of interest but that also progress the plot in some way.  Which means, by necessity, gaps will occur: gaps in time, in movement from one location to another, in point of view, in scene focus. 

Transitions are those small but oh-so-important words or phrases that help guide your readers across these story gaps smoothly, while keeping them grounded in your story.  There are several techniques or devices you can utilize to do this effectively. 


The Direct Method or ‘Clean Break’- Simply tell the reader what change has taken place:

Early the following Monday, ...  (Time change) 

Once he reached the parking garage....  (Location change)


Mood -  Use feelings, emotions, atmosphere to help convey the change:

As Stan pulled out of the company garage onto the congested highway, his hands clutched the wheel in a death grip and the cords in his neck tightened.  It would take forever to get out of this tangle of traffic...

Once the city was behind him, however, the tension drained away and he breezed down the open road that led to his summer cabin.    (Time and Location change)

The Five Senses - Use sound, sight, touch, taste and/or smell to bridge a story gap:

Margie hummed as she applied an extra spray of her favorite cologne, enjoying the light floral scent. 

Andy’s nose started to twitch before Margie even entered the room.  Why did she insist on using that nasty flowery perfume that always made him sneeze? (POV change)


Cassie heard a distant grumble of thunder off to the east as she closed her book.  Maybe Allan was finally getting some of that rain he’d been hoping for.

Allan squinted through the windshield, looking for a safe place to pull over and wait out the violent storm.  This wasn’t what he’d had in mind when he’d prayed for a ‘bit of rain’.     (POV and location change)


An Event - Use an ongoing, recent or anticipated event to unify your scenes:

Hesitating for only a heartbeat, Lynda dropped the letter into the mail slot, determined to make the first move toward reconciliation.  When a week passed without a response, however, she began to wonder if contacting her grandfather had been such a wise move after all.  (Time change)


The near-crash triggered a memory, one she’d rather not dwell on.  But there it was, full blown and swooshing in like an avalanche.  That other crash had happened six years ago.  Her mom was driving her and her friends to the airport...  (Time change - flashback)


A Character (whether human or otherwise) - Use the mention of a character to guide us through a story shift:

Stacey pulled into her driveway on Friday afternoon, wondering how she’d let her sister talk her into dog-sitting their troublesome mutt for the weekend.  She really wasn’t big into the whole pet scene.  

But by Sunday evening,, Rufus had wormed his shaggy way right into her heart.  (Time change)


An Object - Use an object or activity to move from one scene to another without jarring the reader:

Roger halted mid-sentence as a baseball came crashing through the window.  Blast it all, he’d told Jimmy not to play ball in the yard.                 

He picked up the ball and marched to the door . Jimmy was going to pay to fix this, even if it meant he had to mow every yard in town to do it.  (Change in scene focus)


The Environment- Use weather, terrain, scenery, seasons to depict change:

The autumn seemed long that year.  Perhaps it was because she was so homesick for the Ozarks, where nature painted the mountainsides with magnificent blazes of color.  Winter was easier, and by spring, the Texas gulf coast was beginning to feel, if not like home, at least less alien to her.  

(Time change - extended period)


 These are just a sampling.  There are, of course, other ways to handle transitions.  Just keep in mind - your main goal in using transitions is to keep your reader grounded and oriented in the who, what, where, and when of your story without their having to reread passages to figure it out. 

Any thoughts on this post? Can you think of other ways to smoothly handle transitions?  Leave a comment to be entered in a drawing for your choice of any book from my backlist.




  1. This post is as timely now as it was in 2009! Thanks for sharing and good luck with your edits.

  2. Hi Winnie:

    I wish I had read this post when I started writing. Transitions are always a challenge At first it was hard for me to believe that readers were okay with just changing a scene. I always worried about how would I get "A" to new location "B"? Readers don't care unless "A" is tied up in a basement and they will want to know how he got out of that basement. Otherwise readers are happy if the next transition moves the story along.

    Actually, I really love your list of transition ideas because they offer a ready-made selection of next scene opportunities. Some of the choices will move the story along and will work but one or two choices might delight the readers!

    For example: in a first scene the young heroine is asked to the senior prom by a guy she has secretly had a crush on for three years.

    In the next seen the heroine is telling her BFF about the date, then how they plan to shop for a prom dress, then she has problems with her father who wants her home by midnight. This goes on and on.

    The above transition makes sense but many readers will want to know what happens on that date. If you want to delight many of them go to an alternate scene for the next transition. Have the guy at the front door ready to take her to the prom. The reader is happy that she gets to go to the 'good stuff' right away. No waiting! No padding! Really fast story movement!

    All your options are very valuable as a list of choices that can make the story better, more enjoyable, and extra fast-paced.

    Great post: it's short and sweet and offers the possibilities of making all your stories better at each transition point. Thanks.


If you have trouble leaving a comment, please "clear your internet cache" and try again. You can find this in your browser settings under "clear history."