Transition to Flashback

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The First Recollections)

A 120 years ago, when film was still in its infancy, the first flashback sequence was conceived of. Before it gets to that, though, the french film Histoire d’un Crime opens on a burglar breaking into a house, killing a man, and robbing the place. Then he is arrested the next day while enjoying wine with friends at a café. As he sleeps in his jail cell the painted wall above him pulls away, revealing an inner world of his own memories. The flashback. The audience watches how the man once had a happy, family-centric life, but became enslaved to alcohol, until he finally performed the crimes we saw at the beginning of the film.

To be honest, it’s a very clunky transition, and if it weren’t for the fact that I had already been told this was a flashback, I probably wouldn’t have been able to follow along. Contrast that to the far superior flashback we get at the start of Citizen Kane.

In that film, news reporter Jerry Thompson is trying to dig into the life of Charles Foster Kane, after the business and political magnate has died. Thompson’s research leads him to the memoirs of Walter Thatcher, a banker who established a trust for Kane when he was still a boy. Thompson reads the following line in Thatcher’s memoir:

I first encountered Mr Kane in 1871.

The camera pans across the line very slowly, soft, tinkling music plays, and then the page fades away into a scene of a boy playing with his sled in the snow. Unlike the burglar’s story being acted out on the wall above his cell, I immediately understood that I was being taken back into Kane’s history.

Of course, Orson Welles, the director of Citizen Kane, had the benefit of forty years between these two films, during which time cinema had learned many fundamentals of how to communicate its transitions to the viewer. Soft tinkling music, a blurred frame, fading from the image of an adult to that of a child; these are all cues that cinema learned for how to communicate a transition to the past, some of which Orson Welles used.

Coming Back Again)

Of course, transitioning to the past or a dream or anything else is one thing, but what if you need to come back again? How do we signal when we are back in the regular, current world?

Well, the most obvious choice is to reverse the events that brought you into the alternate scene to begin with. So consider the example of the 2007 animated film Ratatouille, when the famous food critic Anton Ego tastes the titular dish cooked by the star of the movie, Remy. Anton clicks his pen, ready to write out his critiques, then puts the first bite of food into his mouth. Suddenly his face drops all of its tension, his eyes go wide, and the camera zooms out from him, exiting through the similarly-drooping eyes of a young boy in his mother’s kitchen.

We understand that this is the same character, Anton Ego, as a youth. It doesn’t take much to convince us of the fact, because by this point flashback sequences have become so numerous and varied that audiences just know to expect them. Anyway, we see how Anton’s mother makes him a dish of ratatouille to comfort him after he scraped his knee on a bike. The young Anton takes his first bite of the dish, smiles at the camera, which then zooms into his eye and back to the scene of old Anton sitting in the restaurant. The exact process that brought us into the flashback is played in reverse to return to us to the modern day.

Text Transitions)

So far we’ve been looking at transitions in film, but how about in a written medium? Well, because it is written, it is possible to call the transition out far more explicitly. You can write “seventy years ago” as a header before the flashback starts, you can say “Egon was taken back to a moment as a young boy,” and you can return to the original scene with “back in the present day.” In short, the written medium allows much more explicit transitions which don’t require an audience to be trained to interpret them.

But sometimes a story wants to do things without being so blunt. Visual mediums are so prevalent in our society that often a story wants to emulate their nuances, including their smooth transitions. The story that I am currently working on is going to feature several flashbacks, and I knew it would feel clunky if every few chapters I kept on saying “seven years ago” and “back to the present day.”

If you go to the end of Part Two of The Salt Worms and the start of Part Three, you’ll see that I made an effort to create just such a seamless transition. First, I stopped the dialogue that was going on between Nathan and the leaders of New Denver. Time froze as we went into his inner thoughts about this conversation, and I mentioned that the account of the past he was giving was different from the actual events.

Then dialogue returned, but it was something that Major Hawlings had said. That had said is meant to be a very subtle indicator to the audience that we have now traveled back to the time that Nathan was just thinking of, much like the transition from Thatcher’s memoirs in Citizen Kane.

Then, at the end of Part Three, I come out of the flashback by reversing the sequence that brought us into it, just as with Egon’s memory in Ratatouille. First I let go of the dialogue, shifting seamlessly into exposition. I mention the fact that the worms now lay their eggs on the surface, which was the very last thing that was said before I went into the transition in the first place. Then dialogue resumes in the present day with Nathan continued his account to the council.

All in all I’m pretty pleased with the effect, but I’m going to have several more of these flashbacks, and hope that I’ll be able to keep all of them seamless, yet clear. I guess we’ll see!

Write What You Know . . . Then Surpass It

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Places I Know)

Last Wednesday I posted the first half of my new story, Secrets in the Mountain, and it was a very easy piece for me to write. In it we had a man arriving at an office building, going up to his third floor cubicle, and pacing the halls with his headset during a meeting.

And all of this was biographical. During my previous job I worked in the exact building I described, with the same cubicle layout that I mentioned, and having the same sorts of conversation as the main character was having.

Not only this, but during that job I had the same lethargy that he had, the same longing for a life more meaningful. I have had mornings like him where the lights were off, hardly anyone had come into the office, and I had this inexplicable feeling that work didn’t matter because something important (I didn’t know what) was about to happen. In short, I have been that exact character in that exact place with those exact feelings.

Now at the end of the piece I started to build towards something more fantastic. The character’s premonition of important events coming starts to come true as a strange heat signature comes from the middle of a nearby mountain. In the next section the main character is going to walk to the glass wall of the building and watch as the heart of the mountain suddenly bursts apart!

And that will happen because that is exactly the fantasy I had one of those real-life days in that real-life office. I was longing for something mythic in my life, and as I stood at a glass wall staring at the nearby mountains, my brain imagined the whole thing exploding from a beam of light bursting through the rock.

That was a fun thought, and no sooner did I have it than I started to wonder, “well why would that happen? Is there some mythical being that was trapped in there? How would everyone in the building react? What would I do? What if I wasn’t afraid of it? What if I was somehow connected to it without even knowing it?”

And from that I started to piece together a story idea that I’d love to write out one day. A story that went from the mundane to the fantastic in a single, explosive moment, just as I now had a moment of pure creativity that randomly sprang from an ordinary day in my ordinary life.

Write What You Know)

Now I am far from the first author to take my real life, and from it concoct a story that blends authenticity with grandeur. Herman Melville is most famous for his epic novel Moby Dick, which follows a sailor on the Pequod, a whaling vessel whose captain is obsessed with catching and killing the eponymous whale.

Melville’s details of the whaling vessel are extremely precise. Take his description of the crow’s nest:

In shape, the Sleet’s crow’s-nest is something like a large tierce or pipe; it is open above, however, where it is furnished with a movable sidescreen to keep to windward of your head in a hard gale. Being fixed on the summit of the mast, you ascend into it through a little trap-hatch in the bottom. On the after side, or side next the stern of the ship, is a comfortable seat, with a locker underneath for umbrellas, comforters, and coats. In front is a leather rack, in which to keep your speaking trumpet, pipe, telescope, and other nautical conveniences.

As you might have guessed, Melville comes by this stunning level of detail because he is writing from his personal observations. He served as a sailor on both a merchant and a whaling vessel, and experienced firsthand the very settings that he describes.

But Moby Dick tells a remarkable and shocking story, and the sea voyages that Melville personally took did not culminate in his ship being destroyed by a massive, white whale and every crewmember drowned. Yes, some ships of the day were destroyed by whales, such as when the Essex was sunk in 1821, an incident which directly inspired Melville’s novel, but even real-life events like these were not as dramatic and mythical as those in Moby Dick. Melville had taken a foundation of authenticity, but then grafted an epic fantasy onto it. And because he was so intimately familiar with the craft of whale-hunting, he knew the perfect places that the fantastic could be welded onto the realistic for a seamless transition.

Even a narrative that leans even further into fantasy can still have its roots in the author’s personal experiences. Stephen King witnessed the death of a friend while still a young child. The event was so traumatic that he has been unable to recall the actual event, but it is a likely source of inspiration for his famous horror stories. Another real-life source of inspiration for King was his fight to regain sobriety after years of an alcohol and drug addiction. This is a common theme throughout his works, such as in Doctor Sleep, where the main character Danny Torrance must fight through the same alcoholism that plagued Stephen King…as well as psychic vampires!

Imagination Bolted Onto Reality)

In short, even the most fantastic of stories can have roots in the author’s reality. When I stared out of my office windows on a boring day, thinking to myself “imagine if something fantastic happened right now,” then I knew the exact right moment for the mundane to make a left turn into the amazing.

In reality, everyday life doesn’t suddenly burst into huge explosions, albino whales, or psychic vampires, but the wonderful thing about stories is that the fantastic absolutely can invade the mundane. In fact it must!

Why Do You Write That Way?

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It Once Was Much Worse)

At the end of my last story piece I mentioned that I had run into a little bit of trouble when transitioning from one scene to the next. It felt awkward even as I was writing it, and it sounded wrong when I reviewed it after the fact.

But let me be more precise about how it “felt awkward” as I wrote it. I think the best way to describe it would be that I felt detached from the experience. Where I usually feel like I am actively exploring the world with my characters, here I felt like I was simply typing out random words as a disinterested outsider.

And scenes that are written by a disinterested outsider are usually the least engaging ones to read as well. When an author is not connected to their own creation, then it is very hard for the audience to be.

I wanted to learn from this experience, so I decided to save the awkward segment for review. Here is how the scene originally played out.

The boy hesitated a few moments more, eyes locked on Tharol in distrust. Then he scrabbled about in the dirt, picking up each coin, then turning and running further down the alley and into a door at its end.

Tharol shook his head and started to make his way back how he had come. He only made it as far as the adjacent alley, though, when he found his way blocked by a bearded and cowled man, peering at Tharol curiously and stroking his chin thoughtfully. Tharol shoved the money bag back into his side pocket, afraid that he had just met a more capable thief!

"Well that was an interesting thing to do," the man said.

"What?"

"Giving that boy half your money after working him over like that."

Tharol shrugged. "I suppose he needs it more than I do."

"A strange sentiment to be sure. Most people feel they always need more of that stuff."

"Well I didn't need those coins," Tharol said darkly. "If you must know, they were a bribe, and I didn't want to be tainted by them."

There are still a few typos and awkward phrases that I decided to leave for to keep this snippet authentic. But for a moment set those aside, and consider only the cadence and structure of the piece. Doesn’t it just feel off?

Getting Specific)

But why does it feel off? It’s all well and fine to know that a scene is bothering us, but if we can’t verbalize why, then we can’t correct it in an intentional way. All we can do is rewrite the piece over and over, hoping by pure dumb luck to find a version that works, with no guarantee that we ever will.

So I took the time and asked myself “why is this wrong?” And I found myself immediately gravitating to the first paragraph of the above section. It is made of of a flurry of rapid and excited statements in quick succession. Scrabbling in dirt, picking up coins, turning and running. Then I noticed this same pattern continued as I transitioned into the next scene. Finding his way blocked, bearded and cowled, shoving the money bag out of view. This sort of quick, dramatic phrasing doesn’t signal that we’re about to have a conversation with this new stranger, it seems to suggest that another fight will break out!

Of course it’s no wonder why I was writing it this way, I had just come out of a fight scene, where this sort of rapid pace was exactly what I needed. But now I needed to transition into something more measured, and doing so required me to pause and intentionally reset my own, personal rhythms.

Once I had done that, I ended up with the following.

The boy hesitated a few moments more, eyes locked on Tharol in distrust. Then, all at once, he scrabbled about in the dirt, picked up each coin, and ran down the alley, disappearing into its murky shadows. 

Tharol watched the dark corner that the boy had disappeared into for a few moments more, shaking his head back and forth. Then he took a deep breath, turned, and started to make his way back to the market. He hadn't gone more than five steps, though, when he heard a voice tsk-tsking behind him.

Startled, he spun around and saw a tall, lanky man nestled into the corner where the two alleys ran together. There was no other entrance by which he could have entered without Tharol seeing, so...

"You've been there the whole time?" Tharol demanded incredulously. 

I still start off the same way, because I am still wrapping up a fast-paced scene, and I need to not shut it out too abruptly. So there remains the quick phrases about the boy locking eyes, scrabbling in the dirt, picking up coins, and running down an alley. But now I have a turning point with the final phrase of that sentence: “disappearing into its murky shadows.”

The transition here is subtle but important. This last detail is appended to a list of actions. But it is not an action itself, it is a description. Thus in the extent of a single sentence I am seamlessly shifting the reader from thinking about actions to thinking about the little details.

I complete the transition by then describing Tharol standing still, bringing a sense of closure to the previous scene, and a reset before beginning the next. Now when he encounters the thin stranger it was far more natural to write out their exchanges at a slower, more gradual cadence.

In Summary)

So there you go. What I wrote the first time wasn’t working for me, but there was a reason why I was writing it that way. Once I understood the reason, I was able to pause and shift my frame of mind. Then I could write the necessary transition more naturally.

The important lesson here is to be mindful and intentional while writing. It’s easy and fun to just enter a state of flow where the words run out of your fingers as quickly as you think them in your mind. But every now and again it’s important to pause, think, and write what you write intentionally. I’ll try to remember this approach as I continue with the next section of The Favored Son. Come back on Thursday and I’ll let you know how that approach went.

Let Me Interrupt You There

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Talking It Out)

Being interrupted is one of the most hated parts of communication. Every idea that we speak of comes with it a desire to be completed. To be stopped short of doing so is like feeling a sneeze that never comes to fruition. Understandably, interrupting another is therefore considered bad manners, and yet sometimes we feel the need to do it even so.

Conversations are not lectures, and the purpose of them is not to have one person express their opinions only. Each side needs to feel understood, and will therefore pull the conversation into a different direction as needed for them to be able to attain full expression.

A poor conversation will therefore become a constant war of jerking the focus back and forth. Each individual sees the other person’s expression and their own as being mutually exclusive, thus only one perspective can be conveyed, and so it must be their own. These sorts of conversations are called arguments, and they represent the worst possible form of communication. The inevitable result is that neither side receives full expression and both leave dissatisfied. This might occur by each escalating until they are shouting over one another, or else one turning submissive and just tuning out the ranting of the other.

That type of conversation is combative, whereas the ideal conversation would be collaborative. In collaborative discourses each side is actively trying to help one another to express themselves. They are each seeking to understand the other, as well as together uncover a shared middle ground. Each side leaves not only feeling fulfilled, but also larger in insight. Where argument shrinks you further into your own perspective, healthy discussion broadens it.

Interestingly, though, interruptions still occur in healthy conversations, they just take a different form. Instead of being competitive such as “oh never mind that, listen to this…” they become clarifying statements such as “hang on, I didn’t quite understand you there, did you mean…”

Positive conversations can also use gentle interruptions to cue where you think greener fields lie. They are a succinct way of asking “can we talk about this other matter now?”

 

Isn’t This a Story Blog?)

Thanks for that friendly interruption, guess I got a little off track. Because yes, all this does relate to story-telling, and I was hoping this conversation would steer towards that at some point!

In the end, a story is made up of many different parts, all of which need their say in the overall conversation. Plot needs to be thickened, characters need to be arced, tension needs to be built. A sloppy writer will slap these things back-to-back with no thought for how they gel together as a whole. It will make for a story that feels like it is combating with itself, each scene being a rude interruption to the one that came before.

But a skilled writer will let each scene seamlessly transition from one to the next in a way that collaborates in a cohesive narrative. Just as how two courteous conversationalists will take the last statement of the other as the launching point for their own piece, the next scene in the story will wait for a lull in the action of the current, segue on a shared theme into the new premise, and then proceed to express itself more fully. Even if the new scene is thematically contradictory to the prior, it will still feel like the two belong together and form a shared message.

Consider how this is accomplished in the example of Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. Two of this book’s voices are quite opposite to each other: one being that of rousing, epic action, and the other being of calm respites with fanciful fantasy characters. Are these two halves of the story breaking the overall narrative? No, they actually support one it together.

This is because one of the story’s overall themes is that good things are worth fighting for. The heroes of the story are convinced that there is a beautiful world which is deserving of their sacrifice to be preserved. In order for us to be convinced of this point as well, we need to spend some time in those beautiful places. And so an extended deliberation among Ents provides essential depth to the world and making the stakes of later conflict feel like they truly matter. We are intrigued by the odd mannerisms of the passive creatures during their entmoot, and then invigorated to see their race rescued through the rousing battle at Isengard. Each of the two sections combine to form a satisfying arc for the species.

 

Characters Arguing)

There is an example of interruptions in story-telling with my last entry of Washed Down the River. Here I had one character pick another up in his car, and then the two of them discussed the details of the case they were working while driving to their next lead. As they went, the discussion of the case was suddenly interrupted when Daley suggested doing something rash in regards to it. This derailed everything, and soon the two men were arguing about Daley’s aloofness to his friends, family, and life. Each of the two interrupted the other, and each tried to force their own perspective on the other, much like how the narrative forced this scene of conflict out-of-the-blue upon the reader.

Of course neither character was left satisfied by the conversation. Each became more entrenched in their own perspective. Then, right on cue, the two men arrived at their destination and the argument was put on pause as the case interrupted into the fore.

The sudden transition from case to argument and back to the case might seem disjointed, but it was so intentionally. The staccato of quickly moving pieces was meant to reflect the tension playing out in those scenes. At the same time, necessary housekeeping tasks were accomplished, such as reminding the reader of other threads that are a part of the story, and also of providing a distraction while loading in the next scene.

In the end I think I wrote scenes that feel chaotic and disjointed when taken individually, but which smooth out the overall narrative when viewed as a whole. One might say that I am trying to take many jagged parts and fit them into a unified mosaic.

With my next post we’ll be continuing that process, and along the way I will try to utilize each transition in as effective of a manner. Come back on Thursday to see how it turns out.

Update on My Novel: Month 8

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DECEMBER STATS
Days Writing: 7
New Words: 1,964
New Chapters: 0.5

Total Word-count: 25,907
Total Chapters: 7.5

Well, I knew that in December I was going to be limited in my work on With the Beast, and perhaps having already made that expectation it became easy to not prioritize it each day. I think I could have accomplished a bit more if I had tried, though just how much I can’t really say.

To be fair, though, it’s not as if I wasn’t writing anything during this month. I am rather proud of how I was able to maintain both this blog, and the spiritual one that I write. After doing those, and all the many other family/holiday activities, I simply found myself sapped of energy to write my novel.

And the section I am working on now definitely requires energy. I am about 25% of the way through the story and coming out of the first main transition. This is the point where we change from the first act into the second, and I am introducing the problems that will shadow the main characters from now until the very end.

Because of the narrative importance of these chapters, I have found myself writing and rewriting each passage over and over. It is slow, but it is progressing. With January I should be able to get myself firmly into the second act, and hopefully the work will pick up more quickly there. Even if it doesn’t though, that’s alright.

For this month my goal is to write during 22 days. I want to finish the chapter that I’m in the middle of, and add at least one more, maybe two. I’ll see how it goes, and will give you an update on February 1st.

Time-Shifts

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Time is an interesting thing in stories. Where in life we are constrained to move only in one direction and at a constant rate, stories give us a higher level of control. The author possesses the unique ability to travel forwards and backwards in time, to pause it, to speed it up. They can even break time if they so desire.

Consider Darren Aronofsky’s poetic epic: The Fountain. This film takes place across three different timelines, one in the past, another in the present, and another in the future. In each of these timelines different incarnations of the same man run into the same fundamental problem: the death of the woman that they love. Each one of them quests to save her in their own way, but each is missing a piece of the puzzle necessary to do so.

Then, at the film’s dramatic climax, the three timelines begin to reach through their own temporal constraints to deliver comfort and closure to one another. There has not been anything previous in the film to suggest that this is possible, but on the other hand there was also nothing to suggest it wasn’t. I think it works really well for that story, and it gives each arc a hefty emotional resolution.

It’s not as though this film was doing anything very extreme either. Every story breaks temporal rules, even when its characters never do. From the reader’s perspective flashbacks are time travel, switching scenes is teleportation, and knowing a character’s thoughts is telekinesis. One of the reasons we love stories so much is because they allow us to view the world in a way we simply can’t in real life. We sidestep all of the mundane time-and-space-constraints that otherwise define our world, and instead cut right to the chase.

But while authors can make sudden leaps of time and space in their stories, they need to have respect for the fact that this is fundamentally different from the reader’s regular life experience, and therefore inherently unnatural. Therefore one must take care to make that transition as smooth as possible, or else you’ll start to give your audience whiplash.

Over the years there has been a language of transitions established, ones that readers have been trained to understand and expect. They are so ubiquitous that its almost hard to even notice when they happen. One doesn’t know why the story they are reading works so well, just that it does, and they wish that they could do the same in their own work. Well let’s pull back the curtain and see what these tools of the trade are.

 

Change of Pace)

Perhaps the most common superpower an author uses in storytelling is the ability to speed time up and slow it down. Real life is comprised of sudden and significant moments preceded and followed by long durations of monotony. It wouldn’t do to translate this same experience to the page, no one would read a story that recounted every second that the main character slept at night. Every author naturally wants to blitz from one high point to the next.

On the other hand, those moments of intense significance might bear dialing the timelapse down to “super-slow motion.” The author dramatically captures the microsecond where the sword makes contact with the iron shackles, giving off a thunderous clang, a shower of sparks, and thus frees the dejected captive.

This problem of shifting between two different timescales was one I encountered in just my last post. In part three of Power Suit Racing I needed to cover a wide ground of character growth in as few words as possible. I needed to turn up the speed from giving the action second-by-second to week-by-week. If this were a movie I would have cut to a montage sequence, but this is a written story so a montage wouldn’t work…or would it?

The fact is that one form of storytelling can teach audiences new patterns which can then be translated over into another medium. We have all grown up watching movies and television, and most of us visualize the stories that we read as if they were being filmed by a camera. With that in mind the author can borrow some narrative tricks from the more visual mentality.

With my story I established a trajectory with the last scene of the slower timescale. Taki was determinedly marching off for his next race. Then I just continued that same trajectory with the following scenes of those races, it just so happened that they were brief glimpses separated by hours and days from one another. Hopefully because there was a shared through-line between the greater detail scene and the more sparse ones the transition came off naturally.

 

Change of Setting)

That idea of transitioning based on a shared through-line is going to show up several times in this study. It’s simply one of the best ways to keep the reader in a familiar context while the set dressing changes around them.

Speaking of changing the set, what about when an author wants to change from one scene to another, but doesn’t want to lose the thread that they were following? Do you remember that scene in Star Wars where Obi-Wan Kenobi rescues Luke from the Sand People? Luke has questions for Kenobi, but he suggests it might be safer to discuss them back at his home. The screen wipes to the interior of Kenobi’s home and their conversation continues. It’s essentially a continuation of the same scene as before, just divided between two locales.

And this transition is able to work because a musical cue begins at the end of the first setting and carries through to the second. It forms a bridge that the viewer’s subconscious uses to connect the two scenes. Stories obviously don’t have musical cues, and they don’t have the ability to softly fade from one image to another, but they can still provide bridges between different settings.

Consider this example:

“Please don’t leave yet,” he said. “I’d like to talk more.”

“I don’t know,” she sighed indecisively.

“You said you were hungry, right? Come on, I’ll show you where to get the best wings in the whole city! I promise you’ll be licking the extra barbecue sauce off your fingers.”

Well, he was right, she thought to herself while taking the last bite of wings fifteen minutes later. They were at a corner shop next to…

By finishing one setting with an item and then starting the next setting with that same item there is a bridge formed. It creates a natural continuation between the two, and once again both halves are sharing a common trajectory.

 

A Distracting Bridge)

There is another kind of bridge you can use as a writer, and this is the “distracting bridge.” In this one you want to join two scenes that don’t naturally fit together. The second scene isn’t such a natural continuation of the first, but you want to move to it quickly without coming to a cold stop in-between.

I wanted to do this exact thing in my first entry for Power Suit Racing. Taki had his heart broken by Rhuni, and then I needed him to appear in the underbelly of the city next to the racing circuit. I needed a way to connect the two scenes, and so I decided to craft a bridge that flowed from the first scene, twisted round, and then connected with the second.

So what did I do? Taki leaves Rhuni and begins wallowing in self-pity. This is the first bridge, and the reader is seamlessly transitioned from the actual conversation to his thoughts about that conversation. He starts wondering what is left for him in life now that all of his dreams are gone.

At this point the twist occurs. His thoughts take a subtle sidestep into reflecting about his finances. This is still related, because he is wondering what to do with all of the money he had been saving up for his future with Rhuni. Now that the question of what to spend his wealth on has been raised, though, we are able to touch down with our second scene. He hears a street vendor offering competitive prices on a Power Suit, and he comes out of his reverie to pursue his new future.

Sometimes your character is going to naturally come across a mire of unimportance. The next meaningful moment is coming up soon, but you need to get the reader through an idle moment on the way there. It is at these points you use the “distracting bridge.” It’s a magic trick where you wave one hand to capture their attention, and then use the other to stuff the rabbit into the hat.

 

Not a Transition At All)

This other trick of the trade is so obvious it’s easy to overlook. This is when you don’t need a seamless transition. It’s the full stop, fade to black, forget-about-this-last-scene-and-get-ready-for-the-next. For that the process is simple: just finish the chapter and start a next one. Reader’s have learned to see these large breakpoints as a signal to let go of their current context and start the next area fresh. It’s completely second-nature.

 

Every now and then it is import for an author to pause and review the fundamentals of storytelling. No matter how good your ideas are, you still need to know enough of the technical details to bring them to life. Management of time and place is one of those techniques that is one of the easiest to overlook because it is so ubiquitous. In fact you’re already doing it whether you were consciously aware of it or not. Usually the first time you realize that you were doing it is when you find that you were doing it wrong.

A movie could be comprised of the most phenomenal writing, acting, and filming, but if the man in the editing room doesn’t know how to weave these elements into a smooth and cohesive whole then the entire thing comes apart. Make sure that once every so often you don your own editor’s cap to ensure that your own transitions between time and space are both intentional and comfortable.

In my next post I’ll be publishing the last section of Power Suit Racing. It will open with a simple conversation in a single setting. That conversation and a second begins, which remain in the forefront while the characters walk to a different location, creating a seamless transition of space to a second setting. That conversation will end on a particularly charged note, one that will create an emotional and physical trajectory that carries clear through the last scene to the end of the story. See if you can pick out those moments when I publish the piece on Thursday, and until then have a wonderful time!