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October 11, 2010

I love this time of year. Actually, I love all the seasons and am grateful that I live in an area where they are all different.

In Pennsylvania, each time of year has its own seductive charm, from the spare elegance of a bare-limbed tree in winter to the extravagant bounty of a summer garden. But my favorite seasons are spring and fall. They are less intense than the periods that precede and follow them, but to me, they are more interesting. Lacking extremes of heat and cold, the transition seasons are more gentle. They are also less predictable. Each day begins with a decision: T-shirt and shorts? A sweater and jeans? True, that’s a trivial decision, but if you don’t get it right, you’ll have an uncomfortable day. Even if you do get it right, there’s a good chance it’s just temporarily so. By mid-day, something as capricious and beyond your control as the weather may force you to regret your choice, maybe even change.

I think transitions in novels are like that too, both in that they are more gentle (they are not the scenes of intense action, but those moments of introspection that follow the action) and less predictable (when readers wonder how characters will react to events beyond their control). These are the scenes in which the characters have an opportunity to change and grow. They have to make choices, some of which may be trivial in themselves, but they can produce unexpected results and lead to other, more difficult choices, which in turn, lead to more changes.

Transitions show the characters in their more reflective moments. It  is here, in the periods of less intense action, that we get to know the characters, to understand why the choices they have to make are difficult for them, maybe even identify with them.

I think of these scenes as bridges – where the writer guides the story from beginning to middle to end and, if they’re good at it, they make it look easy, as natural and inevitable as the changing of the seasons.


4 Comments leave one →
  1. October 11, 2010 8:30 AM

    Well said, Sandy.

    I love transitions. They bring you closer to the character.

    A fast paced thriller with no transitions doesn’t do it for me. Without transitions, you never get to know your characters.

    • October 11, 2010 9:42 AM

      I agree, Carmen. Even the most fast-paced thrillers need moments of reflection so that readers can catch their breath.

      Thanks for stopping by.

  2. October 22, 2010 11:28 AM

    Transitions make the reading flow. I don’t like the sudden jumps you occasionally find when there’s nothing to lead from yesterday to tomorrow or a new scene such as the family picnic to a back alley. I always have to go back and see if I missed something.

    Seasons are the same. I feel like I missed something when we jump from winter to summer in an afternoon (as can happen here in South Carolina).

    • October 22, 2010 12:10 PM

      Ellis, I do the same thing when there’s an unexplained jump in the story. I’ve never lived where the seasons don’t change, but I feel certain that I would miss it.

      Thanks for stopping.

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