Transitional Phases

For some people, the hardest part about writing is changing from one idea to the next. In one word – transitions. It can be really difficult. After all, in different styles of writing, you transition in different ways.

In APA format, it’s basically adding a new title for when your topic changes.

For school, you can add a transition word: then, finally, now, but, so, etc. And even though this is a legitimate way on how to write (more transition words here), it doesn’t always make the most sense to me.

I love flow. When your writing resembles a river of cohesive ideas, always constantly moving forward, even when you take time to step back and make a few loops before falling over the edge of the cliff for your climax or resolution, it feels beautiful. The reader shouldn’t notice that it’s a story. Everything should feel smooth and never ending.

But while it’s easy in theory, it can be difficult in context, which is why, like always, I would like to start with a good example:

“That’s all right. You two can do what you want. I’ll be gone soon.”
***
We stayed for an hour or two more, talking about other things, about that bloody porch, and then we waved goodbye and drove off and I parked the car as soon as we were out of sight of the house. “Let’s kill her,” I said. (Cornell 36)

I really liked this transition in the story called “The Ghosts of Christmas.” If you looked at my notes in the book, in which I still feel guilty for desecrating the margins, there’s a little heart with the word transition scribbled quite messily. And it isn’t all that awe-inspiring for most normal people, but it was remarkable for me.

This story builds off its natural ability of scenes, using miniature summaries like “We stayed for an hour…” to branch into the next scene (36). And this is what most transitions are: A review of previous material before connecting that idea to the new idea.

For example, in the first part of the quote, where the character is in the middle of the discussion, the transition to the next scene says, we continued the conversation for another hour before I left. That would be the transition, with an emphasis on the transitional word ‘before.’

These words aren’t a bad thing. Things like first, second, third shouldn’t be used exclusively but words like before, next, then…these help connect our ideas together.

For practice, try writing a stream of consciousness, and then make sure you show how all your thoughts connect. I was blamed as being random when I was younger, but that just means most people can’t follow my train of thought. Show me how you direct yours.

Cornell, Paul. “The Ghosts of Christmas.” Year’s Best SF 18. Ed. David G. Hartwell. New York, NY: Tor, 2013. 34-54. Print.

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