Scene Transitions as Semicolons and Conjunctions

semicolonI’m rubbish at scene transitions.

There are times when you can just end the scene and pick up the next one at a different time or place and that works. Other times you need a smooth bridge between one scene to the next. It’s like a semicolon or a conjunction. Consider your scenes as main clauses. You want to connect them in the most efficient way possible without boring your readers.

For instance, scene one is set at a rowdy party. Scene two is the morning after. Like in the movie Animal House. One minute your witnessing college students going wild, the next shows the aftermath of the party. That transition between the scenes is a semicolon. It divides the scenes, but tells the viewer they’re related.

On the other hand, you might want to end a scene only to move the characters from one place to another with the promise of something exciting to come. That’s when you use a conjunction. The conjunction in this case should identify when in connection to the previous scene, where, who’s there, etc.

It’s that transition, the conjunctive transition that I fumble with. The bits of action that move from one scene to the next with a short lapse in time. The website Men With Pens says, “Your transition needs some structure, and it requires thinking ahead. You have to think about where your character has just been to wrap up your scene, and you have to know where your character needs to be next, so you can make the transition between both scenes a smooth one.”

Sounds easy.

I tend to over-tell at this juncture. Producing a shopping list of movements documenting what the characters do as they move from one scene to the next. Wasted words.

As I work on the second draft these clunky transitions are clear. It’s time to smooth them out. I know where they’ve been and where they’re going, now I need get them from point A to point B without any fuss.

  • Yeah, I like this analogy. Sometimes I prefer a “period” transition — just cut it off at the end and begin at the next important beginning. Readers are smart; they’ll make the transition themselves, most times.

    • M. Frye

      I like “period” transitions. They’re easy. I tend to dump a lot of useless info into the conjunctive transitions.