For Writers

Trouble with Transition Scenes | #Writing Advice

When you think of your story, you think of the Big Scenes, right? The important plot points, the vital Moments that challenge your characters and move your book along. But what about the transition scenes, connecting all those story events together? Transitional scenes can be incredibly difficult to get right. They’re a spot in your novel that’s rife for info-dumping, and a poorly written transition scene can drag like dead weight. But sometimes cutting it off entirely can mess up your story’s pacing!

A good transition scene is seamless. You don’t notice it’s a transition, because you’re engaged in what you’re reading and the information you’re being given is naturally setting up for the next Story Event. The transition gives you something — a funny moment, a beautiful description, a thrilling bit of mystery, an enlightening character detail, a hint at the conflict or tension to come — that makes it move along smoothly.

To start things off, what is a transition scene?

A transition scene is the thread connecting disparate parts of your novel. Take some of these examples from Harry Potter and the Halfblood Prince

It might be a scene of time passing, such as snow falling over the Hogwarts grounds as the seasons change:

Snow was swirling against the icy windows once more; Christmas was approaching fast. Hagrid had already single-handedly delivered the usual twelve Christmas trees for the Great Hall; garlands of holly and tinsel had been twisted around the banisters of the stairs; everlasting candles glowed from inside the helmets of suits of armor and great bunches of mistletoe had been hung at intervals along the corridors. Large groups of girls tended to converge underneath the mistletoe bunches every time Harry went past, which caused blockages in the corridors; fortunately, however, Harry’s frequent nighttime wanderings had given him an unusually good knowledge of the castle’s secret passageways, so that he was able, without too much difficulty, to navigate mistletoe-free routes between classes.

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For Writers

There And Back Again (Wait, Where Did We Go???): Juggling Lots of Locations In Your Fantasy Novel

One of the writing classes I’m taking had a forum discussion where writers posted some of their most prominent worries when it comes to their novels, and one of the questions posted really struck me: the writer felt like their fantasy story was whisking from one location to the next too quickly. The reader, they worried, would get whiplash zooming around their fantasy map, seeing too many locations without any one of them leaving a deep impression.

Cue me quietly sweating onto my keyboard, because this is the realest concern, for any fantasy writer.

When you’re writing speculative fiction — or, really, any story that has a big, big world for the character to explore — there’s an instinct to show off that world. To move your character around a lot. Usually, it’s because the story requires it — characters have quests to go on, wars to fight, journeys to undertake, sacred mountains to hike up, haunted forests to fight through, scaly slobbery monsters in vast acid-filled lakes to bring fabled jeweled tea cups to — you get the idea.

* Is this … not … a normal plot point for any novel?

But, sometimes, we writers can get carried away. It can be fun, and fruitful for your story, to take your characters on a dizzying roller coaster ride across your fantasy map. But how do you know when you’re taking your readers on too dizzying a ride? How do you keep that fantasy map from becoming one big, confusing, smeary blur in your readers’ heads?

Keep your fantasy map from dizzying readers by giving each location emotional and story significance for your characters.  

Your character, especially in a quest or journey-based fantasy novel, shouldn’t just be walking through a sideways scrolling sequence of set dressings. Every location you showcase in your story should be there for a reason

As far as I can tell (and I am by no means an expert on this), the trick is to make sure the locations have emotional context for the characters, and to root your settings in your story’s plot. Make your locations matter, in other words, to both your characters and to the story at large.

Let’s get a little deeper into what that means…

Rooting Your Locations In Your Story’s Plot

Let’s say your character is going on that epic journey where they hike up that sacred mountain to retrieve the mythical teacup, fight through that haunted forest to reach the acid lake, and then row across the poisonous waters to meet the sea creature whose ire can only be assuaged by the delivery of that bejeweled cup. You might have noticed something about each of those locations I listed…

They all have a clear purpose related to the story. 

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For Writers

Developing A Fictional City ~ Worldbuilding for Fantasy Writers

Creating a city from scratch can be an intimidating task for a fantasy writer — you want your city to feel like a living, breathing place, with its own personality, elements of fun and fantasy, and believable enough and descriptive enough that the reader can imagine themselves plunked down into the middle of it.

Consider some of the best, most vividly written cities in fiction. Closing your eyes, you can see the snow-capped cottages of Hogsmeade that look like illustrations on Christmas cards; you can see the colorful and extraordinary shops of Diagon Alley, cluttered with stacks of cauldrons, barrels of beetle’s eyes, hooting owls in ironwork cages; shoppers in ankle-length Wizard robes. You can see the stone buildings climbing up the mountainside of Gondor, you can see the shifting grass plains of Rohan, can picture the Shire with its farms and flowers and so many green hillocks punctuated with round front doors.

Ugh. You can literally smell the honeysuckle and the pies cooling on windowsills.

Fantasy villages, towns, and cities are scrumptious to read about, they’re visceral and eye candy and exciting. So, how do you go about creating one such (or many such) cities for your own fantasy novel?

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For Writers

Dragon Gods and Demon Sea Monsters: Religion In Your Fantasy Novel

Creating a fantasy world from scratch is a daunting enough undertaking, what with having to decide what it looks like, how its culture works, if the world has magic, or dragons, or sea monsters. You need a history, a timeline, a sense of logical consistency. And, unless your fantasy world is steeped in science and Atheism (which, now that I think about it, might be awesome) you’re probably going to need a religion.

Religion has, from the times of men looking up at lightning and surmising a god must be up there throwing down electric bolts, stemmed from a need to explain the inexplicable. And, in a fantasy world, there’s probably a lot that’s inexplicable. A fantasy world might fear sea monsters as demons, might revere dragons as gods, might think magic comes from people touched by the heavens — or by those sprouted from hell.

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For Writers

Sickles and Sixpence: Writing Currency in Your Fantasy Novel

Today, we’re talking about money. Moolah. Coinage. Currency, whether it be in bills or beans or other shiny things.

moneyhobbit

There are two facets to fantasy money important to consider in world building — what counts as currency/trade in your fantasy world, and what do you call it?

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