Writing Advice #41: Ending Scenes/Friends as Critics

Two quick questions and answers this week…

I was wondering if you had any advice on transitions between scenes in a story. How can you link them all together smoothly?

I may have mentioned this in a previous blog, but honestly, I’ve written so many of them at this point, that I can’t remember! Anyway, here’s how I think of scenes:

Imagine that you are Spider-Man, swinging through the city. Now, when Spidey swings, he does so in an arc, right? He starts at a high point, plunges downward and picks up speed, then hurtles back up again and then — just at the last possible minute, at the highest point in the arc — he lets go and shoots out another web and starts it all over again.



What does this have to do with scene transitions? Simple.

Think of your scenes like a Spidey arc. You start off high. You gain speed as you move on. Then, when you reach the highest point in the arc — the moment of maximum tension in your scene — you jump off. You end the scene.

And start the next one.

I really believe that you should always strive to end scenes at moments of heightened tension. Why? Well, because it makes it MUCH more likely that the reader will read the NEXT scene. Also, this means that you automatically KNOW where to start the next scene — just like Spidey knows he’d better shoot out another web or he’s going to go splat.

BTW, when I say “tension,” I’m not encouraging you to give every scene some kind of melodrama or ridiculous action. Tension can be a killer breaking down the door and firing his gun, sure, but tension can also be a little girl saying, “Daddy, when is Mommy coming home?” when the reader already knows that Mommy is dead. Or has fled to Brazil with her lover. Or is stuck in the laundry room with an ocelot and an electronic accordion that won’t stop playing “Party in the USA.”

I know that this isn’t a direct response to your question, but I think that the best answer to your question is for you to think about how your scenes begin and end, which will make it easier to make sure that they flow together well.

Next up:
You said that it’s not a good idea to ask your best friends to look over your stories, but Ive found that for certain things, my best friend, who is also a writer who I believe is SO much better than me, is one of the best people to take a look at them and tell me what to fix. Is this a good idea? Or should I get someone who diesnt know me as well?

Hey, look, if your best friend is a better writer than you are AND is willing to cheerfully rip your heart out then, yeah, he’s a great person to have on your side. The two primary characteristics to look for in a critiquer are a good, critical eye and a willingness (nay, a thirst!) to be as brutally honest as is necessary. If your friend has both of these, then great.

In my experience, most best friends lack these attributes. But every rule has its exceptions, and since I don’t know your friend, it’s a decision you’ll have to make.

Another issue to consider when a fellow writer reads your stuff: Writer WRITE. So be aware when you get advice from a fellow writer. Are they trying to help you make this story the best version of the story YOU want to write? Or are they trying (most likely without realizing it) to make this into the story THEY want to write? Let ’em write their own damn stories!

But regardless of what you decide, know this: You ALWAYS need to have more than one person critiquing your work. It’s invaluable to have multiple people looking at your writing because if they all come down on you for the same thing, for example, you can be pretty damn sure that you should fix it. It’s helpful to get different perspectives.

So even if you keep your best friend, be on the lookout for some other folks, too.


That’s it for this week! Ask questions below, as always, and I’ll get to ’em.

Next week: My Method. How I write a book, pretty much from start to finish.

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