Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Handling Transitions

What I'm reading: Better Late than Never, by Savannah Stuart

Thanks to Lynda for her intriguing post yesterday. Don't forget, she's giving away a copy of one of her books to a commenter. Scroll down and read yesterday's post, leave a comment there, and then come on back. You have until Thursday. Lynda will select a winner, and I'll announce it on Friday.

Last week, I mentioned transitions, and how everything has to flow.
In our house, we have small areas of tile at the entry doors and in front of the two fireplaces. The rest of the flooring is newly installed ¾ inch hardwood. One of the challenges the contractors faced was making sure the transition between tile and wood was smooth, because the new hardwood was thicker than the pre-existing laminate flooring.

In your manuscript, you have to decide how you're going to get from one place to the next. My writing style tends to be write it, then juggle it. The danger is that things will get choppy. I don't want my tile mixed in with the wood.

The contractors dealt with sawing off a bit from the bottom of door jambs and the fireplace surround so the hardwood would fit. Given the layout of the room, at one transition point, they spent a good hour or more getting the last, narrow strip of wood to fit properly.

The bedroom created a different transition challenge, because unlike the living room, we didn't see a need to swap out the existing tile. Those tiles ended up being lower than the new hardwood. The solution here was to install a threshold molding around those tiles, creating a different kind of transition.

Since I write alternating POV scenes, there's a bit of a leapfrog mentality required of the reader. If my characters weren't together in the last scene, then things have happened to character A while we were with character B.

The last sentence of a scene often won't lead into the first of the next. There has to be a way to remind the reader of: first, whose scene this will be, and second, where the previous scene ended. And, if time has passed, there has to be a way to indicate that as well.

In my upcoming NOWHERE TO HIDE, hero Graham Harrigan has a POV scene in chapter one. We've learned he's a cop with a goal of a transfer into a detective position, where he's in competition with another cop, Clarke. That scene ends with the following:

Laughter erupted from the room. The sound of his name, coupled with Clarke's guffaws, eradicated Colleen's image like wind-blown storm clouds. Dammit. It had been five years. He was a damn good cop, and he was going to beat Clarke into CID no matter how many times the arrogant bastard tried to dredge up his past.

He appears again in chapter two, but not as a POV character. His next turn center stage is in chapter four. Here's the opening:

Graham finished filing his reports, surprised to see it was four-thirty. Instead of going home, he drove to Central Ops. Roger Schaeffer in CID might let him poke around a little. The lieutenant seemed to be one of the few who thought Graham had a shot at the CID spot. His recommendation could make the difference.

For this scene, I opened by using Graham's name (who), and also a time reference (when). Also, by showing something only Graham can be aware of (his surprise at the time), we've established it's his POV scene. If there was any doubt, the rest of the paragraph is internal monologue, thoughts only Graham would know.

Another good reason for clear transitions between chapters and scenes is because those tend to be the logical stopping places for readers. If they're not picking up the book until the next night—or later, but we hate to think they could possibly wait that long to continue reading—it helps if they don't feel that they have to back up to get a running start.

How about you? Do you have authors who are experts at making sure you never forget where you are?


Beth Trissel said...

Excellent post and point. An editor told me years ago to be certain my characters were firmly grounded in who what where when at the start of each scene or chapter. I suppose why is also appropriate to work in there. :) But doing this in an entertaining and natural way that doesn't sound cheesy is the challenge. I have to watch not overusing 'As.' As Mary walked off the cliff after eating her lunch, etc...

Terry Odell said...

Beth - so true. When offering crits to my group, I'd often say, "I need to know when I am."
And "as" does creep in there, doesn't it?

Carol Kilgore said...

Good comparisons. All the work in your house will be finished before you know it. If I mess up on this I have critique partners who are all over it. And me. They keep me on my toes.

Terry Odell said...

Carol - fresh eyes are always good.

Anonymous said...

I also have several POV shifts throughout my WIP and I agree, it is a challenge to avoid confusing the reader. Or so my critique partner tells me. LOL!

This is a good post.


Terry Odell said...

Angel--thank goodness for crit partners who don't know what's in your head. Until we can add ESP to our manuscripts, we have to keep it on the page.

Terry Stonecrop said...

I don't have POV shifts but this is interesting. Always good to learn new things.

Terry Odell said...

TerryS - even in single POV stories, you have to deal with smooth transitions.

Margaret Tanner said...

Hi Terry, very informative post. I usually write in both the hero and heroines POV. Great idea comparing it with the laying of your new flooring, it actually does make sense.


Annabelle Ambrosio said...

Interesting post and one I have used recently. The floors are very pretty by the way.

Terry Odell said...

Margaret - I'm going to tell the hubster you said I made sense.

Annabelle - thanks-and the floors look even better in person.

I'm going to continue this topic tomorrow - spread the word and come back.

Cathy said...

Hi Terry,
I tend to write everything that happened in between scenes, and then have to cut it all out, or at least down to a sentence or two. Transitions are difficult.

Jemi Fraser said...

I have the pov of 2 characters in my novel, so I appreciate the tips! Thanks :)

Linda Andrews said...

I like the floors-gives me ideas how to smooth out those transitions between the tiles and wood floors in my house.

Transitions in writing is something my CPs always ding me for, but I'm getting better. Of course, when I can just download the story from my head to the computer that won't be a problem.

Unknown said...

Great visual, using the floors. I'm sure at one point or another I will remember them when switching POV's Thanks!

Terry Odell said...

Cathy - the delete key can be your friend.

Jemi - no problem; thanks for stopping by

Linda - and you didn't have to pay for the wood or tile!

Adelle - glad to provide a visual for you.

engineered hardwood floors said...

The outcome is beautiful and very satisfying. You made the right choice, hard wood floors are practical and decorative preference aside from giving you a healthy indoor air quality.