Wednesday, January 12, 2011


I recently read the second installment of a series I'm really enjoying, but for the some reason the author used a different transistion between scenes in the second book that really threw me out of the story, over and over again. I'm not going to mention the name of the book, as I don't want to point fingers, but I thought this would make a good discussion on what works for some people and what doesn't.

The transistion of jumping ahead in the next scene, followed by a few catch-up sentences, is commonly used, but what jarred me this time was the leap into outer space instead of a gentle hop across the pond.

Here's an example of what I mean (disclosure... this example is completely made up on the spur of the moment, no actual books or scenes were harmed in the making of this post)

Cue on scene: Jim and Jane are sitting in a roadside diner just outside Orlando, a coffee stained map of Disneyland forgotten on the table as they argued over who'd forgotten to fill the petrol tank before the left home. They'd never make it in time now.

Usually, this would be an expected transition used for the next scene:
A loud bang rang in Jane's ears. She looked up to see a waterfall of colours explode the starry night sky.
Jim pulled her into his arms, almost unbalancing the ferris wheel car. "Isn't this romantic?"
Fireworks and ferris wheels... Jane smiled and snuggled deeper against his chest, perfectly content. Jim had come through at the last moment, throwing caution to the wind and ringing up a taxi to take them the last part of the journey. They'd made it. They'd met on this ferris wheel five years ago and returned every year, on the same night, to celebrate their anniversary.

Okay, now this is closer to the transistion used in this book:
A loud bang rang in Jane's ears. She looked up to see the smoke cloud mushroom above them, swallowing up the view of Pisa's city lights.
Jim pulled her into his arms, protecting her from flying debris as the Leaning Tower of Pisa crumbled to the ground around them. "This wasn't the kind of romantic I had in  mind."
Explosions and demolition... Jane groaned and snuggled deeper against his chest, horrified. Jim had come through at the last moment, throwing caution to the wind and declaring it was due time he showed her Italy, the country of his birth. They'd caught a bus from the diner to the nearest airport and here they were, twenty hours later, in Pisa. Just in time to witness the catastrophic event.

I'm sure you can guess at which moment I started hitting the Prev Page on my kindle, sure I'd missed something. The first time I came across this form of transistion, and after I'd gone back a couple of pages to check if I'd slept through something important, I actually chuckled and thought, "good one."
By the 10th time, I don't know if I was more angry at the author or myself. I knew what she was doing, but I still couldn't help paging back, just to make sure.

Some would say this transition method is ingenuous. It certainly keeps up the shock level and excitement factor. I'm not sure, though, that the author meant for the reader to be back-paging quite so often. But perhaps that is just me, I tend to be stubborn and once I've got an idea in my head that pages are missing, knowing this shock tatic is deliberately being used doesn't change my mind.

What do you think of this? Would skipping over huge chunks of boring transition this way make the book more enjoyable for you? Would you (or do you) employ this method?


  1. I agree with you Claire - I'd also be thrown by something like that. The device might work once but would become extremely annoying after that!

  2. Yikes that sounds extremely annoying. The kind of annoying where you'd be put off ever buying anything by that author again!