Thursday, January 7, 2010

How Do You Get There From Here?

Okay, so, today's post doesn't have much to do with the previous three posts. I wish it did, because it would feel so awesome to have a sort of series feel going, but I'm moving on to another topic today. Actually, there was a transition between the two ideas, but I won't waste your time with it. (If your curious, the whole thought process started with Susan R. Mills.)

Today, I'd like to talk about transitions. While there are many types of transitions, I'm thinking, at the moment, mainly of those of time. A while ago, there was a very good post about this at the Literary Lab, which I highly recommend.

When it comes to passage of time, in my current WIP, at least, I seem to favor what Mr. Bailey calls the "Just do it" approach. I tend to have a scene break or a chapter break and then begin by explaining roughly how much time's passed and maybe mention if a few things changed the reader might incidentally care about before jumping right back into the action of the story.

This didn't strike me as a problem. I didn't see a need to kill time until the important and interesting things were occurring. I don't remember Trig homework being interesting to do in high school, and I don't think it'll be so fascinating when my MC does it for three pages when nothing else of interest is occurring in her life. I skip over those days when not much is happening. Concentrating out the useless bits. (I'm tying back to a previous post. This makes me oddly pleased. Anyway...)

One of my betas, however, didn't care for it. In her eyes, it seemed there ought to have been subplots or some other story arc occurring in that time instead of just skimming over it. I believe she means something along the lines of -- in Harry Potter and The Sorcerer's Stone the Quidditch scenes might not be key to furthering the Voldemort (yes, I said the name) plot, but J.K. Rowling shouldn't have just cut them. They're interesting, can serve a good purpose later, and help pass time before Big Events. Without other details, by just skipping around, she says it feels like I'm just bouncing from Big Event to Big Event. She thinks I need more transitions.

Admittedly, there are a few leaps in Miss Snitch. One, I think, is a bit more than a fortnight long. I guess I can see how she'd feel that way. However, it's not in my nature to 'transition' so much, as it were. If feel like my readers get the point that time is passing without needing to see what's happening as it goes on, and I often worry that I'm wasting their time by including things I know don't go into furthering the plot, even if those things might be interesting.

How do you feel about transitions? Do you use them? How do you like to transition between Big Events?


  1. Good questions. I think transitions can be very tricky. One of the most annoying things ever, for me as a reader, is when I'm reading and realize that stuff is just in there to either amuse, give unnecessary back story, indulge in extra characters, or just a device to move time along when it could have been done more simply. It just feels like a waste of time. The Quidditch matches work in Harry Potter because they provide a sub-plot arc to the main-plot arc - they serve to give the main plot more texture, more meaning, and they actually affect the character development. So they work. Rowling was very smart to incorporate them as a time-passer, as well. When something can work on that many levels, it's usually always a great thing.

    Good luck with your transitions!

  2. I end up using the Just Do It approach most of the time, I think. And, it's funny that you bring up Harry Potter, because I always thought the whole discussion of Quidditch was random. I only read the first of the series though.

  3. Every book I've read on the craft of writing suggests skimming over times of little interest. I'm definitely leaning toward the use of the Just Do It approach. Thanks for the shout out, by the way.

  4. Transitions work differently for every story. Let's face it, whether you love or hate the Twilight Saga, Steph Meyers gave many readers chills in New Moon when she simple wrote the name of a month on each page for several pages. That was one powerful transition. Simple but powerful.
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  5. Glamis -- I have the same worries about transitions. I wouldn't want the reader to think I'm wasting their time. Personally, I'm a fan of the Quidditch scenes for many of the reasons you listed, and they don't feel like a filler.

    Davin -- I like the Just Do It approach as well. It's certainly to the point, which is often nice. The Quidditch is a bit random is the early books, but it's often useful in the later ones.

    Susan -- The Just Do It approach seems very popular. The shout out was my pleasure. :)

    KAH -- I loved the transition in New Moon with just the month names. It seemed a very accurate description of the MC's perception of that time.