Monday, November 2, 2015

NaNoWriMo - Day 2 - Learning to love transitions.

I've discovered a new joy in writing.

Creating transitional scenes has always been difficult. These are scenes where the characters are walking, driving, standing around, or just thinking. I get bored with them.

I try to outline my stories chapter by chapter before I write. It helps to organize my thoughts and ideas. But I never outline transitional scenes because I never thought they were important to the plot.

"If you hate them, why write them?" you ask. Well...have you ever sat through an action movie that jumps from one action scene to the next? Something by Michael Bay perhaps? After about an hour it feels like you're the one getting pummeled by giant robots. Transitional scenes help slow down the pace of the story, and if properly balanced it can be a powerful tool in helping to build tension and setting for the next the scene. I'm finally beginning to understand this. And it's a blast to write.

For example, the story I'm writing for NaNoWriMo is about a 16 year old girl who moves to Maine to live with her estranged mother for the summer. When I created the opening scene the story  jumped right to the girl sitting on an airplane and she's reluctantly talking with the dirty old man beside her. This is important to the story, though the reader does not realize it at this point. I created it to be the introduction to the girl, the old man, and to the girl's mother. It's a funny scene and I'm happy to finally have written it.

But when I began writing yesterday I decided that it might be more interesting to include details about the girl's journey. Suddenly, all the terrible experiences I've had in airplanes and airports over the last decade and a half came flooding back to me. I'm not just talking about the long lines going through security. That's all people focus on when they share traveling experiences, but it's really not that bad. I'm talking about waking up early, finding parking and shuttles, long layovers, sitting alone in an empty terminal in the middle of the night, shrink-wrapped day old sandwhiches, trying to find an empty stall in the bathroom, trying to find your gate as people scramble past you in the hallways like it's Walmart on Black Friday. And don't get me started about flying with kids. That's a whole other monster.

In addition to these inconveniences, your first time flying can be frightening. And it would be a far more horrific experience if you did it alone. Adding some of these details helped make the scene on the plane much more powerful.

Even after the girl lands in Maine, I included a transition scene between the airport and when she meets her mother again. Originally, I had her getting off the airplane and going directly outside where her mother is waiting with the car running. But this is not interesting and the tension is flat. Yes, by this point the reader understands what a terrible person the mother is. It's discussed in the previous scene. But wait, do they? NO! They don't! I've told you about it, but I haven't shown it yet.

So...

Instead, I have the girl walking through the airport. She's exhausted, confused, and lonely. In a daze, she wanders outside only to realize that her mother is not there! She calls her mother to find out where she is and it turns out her mother forgot!

Drama! Tension! Excitment! Now the reader really hates that terrible old wench!

Finding herself stranded at the airport, the girl is on the verge of a meltdown. But someone unexpected is there to help her out. Who? Why, it's the creepy old man from the airplane, of course! He offers her a ride. Tired, angry, and desperate, she accepts. Now, when she finally meets her mother...

Drama! Tension! Excitement!

Used properly, these short, seemingly unnecessary scenes can be powerful for building up to the next plot point. As you can tell, I find myself enjoying them like never before.

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