What exactly is a transition? The dictionary defines it as ” a passage from one state, stage, subject, or place to another: change. Bharti Kirchner, Author and Contributing Editor to THE WRITER, defines it as “a tool, a bridge, a shortcut that signals a shift in the story, be it time, place, mood, tone or point of view. It connects scenes, chapters and even paragraphs, so that the story is unified and plot events make sense.” Proper transition, she says, makes for smooth reading and minimizes confusion, moving the story forward or backward in time as necessary, and shifting the location.
Two of my children have graduated from High School,each within a year of one another, and have moved on or “transitioned” into college and jobs, into adult life. My third child remains in High School, transitioning to his Junior year and to becoming a driver next year, while my forth and youngest son will transition to seventh grade. All of these “changes” move my sons forward, connecting the chapters of their lives through different scenes and locations, each moving them a step further. My marriage, buying and building homes, having children, getting divorced were all stages of my life that eventually led me here, at least until the next transition pushes me somewhere else.
In writing, we use transitions to indicate that the characters have moved from one location to another, from one day to the next, from the present to the past or vice versa and even from the physical environment of the scene to the internal thoughts of the character. In order to make the character more endearing to the reader and to help heighten the emotional stakes, the writer will dig deep into the consciousness of the character before returning back to what is actually going on in the physical scene. This trick allows the reader to stop for a moment, dive vertically -deeper into the mind of the character- while simultaneously gliding laterally foward through the rest of the story. Such transitions might be: The next day, or She stared at her for a moment before nodding and slipping out the door, or He stared at the framed picture of his father on the mantel and thought back to the time…
Perhaps in life when we must say good-bye to our child who leaves for college or to say a final farewell to a loved one who leaves us before we are ready to let him go, despite that sometimes plot events did not always make sense and his chapters were not always so unified, we could remember the many special scenes in his story that we were priviledged to be part of as we traveled alongside him through the transitions of locations, frame of mind and through time.