How to Write a Compelling Transition Sentence

From Anne R. Allen’s Blog… with Ruth Harris:

At a writers’ workshop, I once heard a beginning writer talk about how it had taken him almost all day to write a paragraph describing his character waking up in his bedroom upstairs and going to the kitchen downstairs to make breakfast.

“He made eggs and toast,” continued the writer.

“And then what happened?” I asked.

“He got some strawberry jam out of the refrigerator.”

Not much of a story, I thought. “The jam was poisoned?” I prompted.

He shook his head. “He found a body near the stove.”

Which meant the writer needed to beware the dreaded narrative-crushing, throat-clearing set up.

Which also meant he needed to learn how to write a compelling, effective transition sentence.

What is a transition sentence?

Transition sentences are the crucial bridges that link one thought to the next or one scene to the next.

Well-constructed transition sentences, unlike London Bridge, do not fall down. Instead, they structure a smooth-flowing story, ensure forward progress, escalate suspense or tension, and, in turn, create page-turning, can’t-put-it-down fiction.

We’re talking about the hard working sentences that move your story from here to there, from him to her, from good guy to bad guy.

The transition sentence seamlessly moves the reader from one character, scene, place or mood to the next.

For example:

“As up-and-coming country singer, Joe Bob Smith, knocked on the door of the Memphis company’s hottest hit maker, in cold, snowy Moscow, his sister, CIA super agent Daphne Smith, bundled in thick sheepskins, skulked along the wall surrounding the Kremlin.”

So here we are: all the way from Memphis to Moscow, from pop music headliner to tense thriller in a single sentence.

The transition sentence can also link one thought or mood to another:

“She loved him, but she was already late for work and he’d left the car’s fuel gauge pointing to empty. Which meant she would have to stop at the gas station first and would make her even later.

“Which also meant she wanted to kill him.”

Three sentences that shift the mood.

Whether the tone is mystery, thriller, or comedy depends on genre.

How to write a powerful transition sentence.

The transition sentence must be clear, simple, and direct as it moves the reader’s attention from one focus to another and provides the connective tissue that supports compelling narrative.

It might link AM and PM, Wednesday and Friday, Spring to Summer — or one place to another — from Memphis to Moscow, from the kitchen to the living room, or from one thought or mood to another.

“Leaving the hot, steamy kitchen and the winey beef stew for which she was locally celebrated, Linda Jones checked the mirror to refresh her makeup and tidy her hair. She wanted to look her best when the tall, Cary Grant lookalike United Parcel man rang her doorbell even as she fretted about what she could do to keep her husband from finding out about him.”

The well-crafted transition sentence can compress or expand time.

“As Henry Tailor gunned his silver Ferrari into merging traffic, he recalled the time almost fifteen years ago when he’d been dead broke. He’d vowed never to be poor again, and he’d lied, stolen and cheated to make his way to the top of the Hollywood heap as CEO of Colossal Pix.”

Link to the rest at Anne R. Allen’s Blog… with Ruth Harris

1 thought on “How to Write a Compelling Transition Sentence”

  1. I buttered and jammed my toast without paying much attention; I’d been following the delicious political scandals unearthed by the local news targeting my ex-husband’s new wife.

    So, you can understand how I managed to trip over her dead body on my way out the door.

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