Monday, April 13, 2015

Transitions Between Chapters - Not Just "Insert Page Break"

The goal of an author is to get that reader hooked as soon as possible and keep them reading. Our goal with our stories is to get those readers to the point they simply don't want to put the book down. It is that sense of saying "Just one more page." I recall a friend of ours who got hooked on the OUTLANDER series when it first came out. She was so hooked, her daughter actually hid the book from her so she could have some time with her mom. Now, in this case, it was not an issue that her mom thought Jamie and Claire were totally hot together (which I know many of you will argue). What worked was the pacing. What worked was the ability of Diana Gabaldon to keep you moving through the book.

The biggest place where this is going to occur will be the transitions you put in that connect each of your chapters together. Some writers misapply the concept of the "cliff hanger" to these transitions. While we are going to use an element of this, there is so much more to it.

If you think of a transition, I always like to use the concept of a train. To keep the trains connected together, the builders of the train add in what is known as a coupler. In simple terms, it is a piece that
connects to each of the cars. That piece connects with the other coupler, and viola, the cars are connected. We will use the same concept when it comes to writing.

At the end of a chapter (or even a scene if you are shifting within a chapter) you want to bring that scene to a close. Maybe not a full conclusion, but the message, theme or task you had going on in that chapter needs to be somewhat resolved. Maybe the goal of the chapter was for the hero to find out that it was his best friend who was causing all of the problems in the company. When we move to the next chapter, we have to see a "connection" to that learning and now on to the next layer of the story. We are essentially saying, "Now what?"

The author has a choice here. The transition/bridge, can occur either at the end of the previous chapter, or at the start of the next chapter. The idea is to simply show the reader what the actual connection might be.

Let's say we put it at the end of the chapter. Once our hero finds out it is his best friend, we add in the connection of the fact that not only was it his best friend, but it was also the girl he was getting ready to propose to that evening. Now what?

We now start into the next chapter with the heroine getting ready for dinner making a simple comment of "Today was perfect and tonight would be even better. Nothing was going to ruin this great dinner with her boyfriend." For the readers, they know and see what that problem is going to be. We are now engaged enough to want to read more. "How will they work through this situation?"

I think right now, I am seeing far too many authors with chapter or scene breaks for simply practical purposes. My chapter hit a page count so it is a time to shift. I need to get to a new point of view, so I just shift. The end result is often a story that doesn't flow, or one that feels very episodic to the reader.

Take the time to really examine those transitions this week. You might find your stories will flow much better with something as simple as re-working those starts and endings to your chapters.

1 comment:

  1. Soaking up all your fabulous craft tips. Thank you-much appreciated. x ms