Scene Cuts

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Scene Cuts Help Quicken Your Novel’s Pace

Readers today like fast-paced novels. Yet, too fast a pace confuses the reader. When you revise your novel, you can solve this by paying attention to transitions.

  • Where are we? The most important thing to do in a transition from one scene to the next is to re-orient the reader. Where are we? TV and movies do this easily with the visual details. In writing, we often need to put in indications of time (three hours later), setting (Later, in the living room), relationship to plot elements (after the argument), and emotion (Weeping at the loss of her dog).

    I especially find that chapter beginnings need better orientation. For the writer, the scene follows logically from the previous. But the reader may have put the book down, gone to school, studied for a test, attended a football game and finally gets back to your story. Make sure they are oriented at each chapter opening.

  • Rapid Scene Cuts. TV and movies practice rapid scene cuts. For example, watch the TV drama “CSI” for great scene cuts. Often, a detective will find a clue that could have important ramifications, depending how the lab results turn out. Instead of tediously showing the lab work taking place each time, the writers make the assumption that the reader will understand that the lab work did indeed occur. So, the next scene shows the detective questioning the suspect.

    In your story look for places where you can leave out tedious details and safely assume the audience will understand what happened between scenes.

  • Time for Reflection. Sometimes the transition between scenes is a perfect place for the character to take time and give their emotional reaction to the story events. The emotional reaction can be while they are alone, or it can include dialogue with someone else. The emotional section can be short: Angrily, he left the room and. . . (next scene). Or, it can take several pages in which the character considers many options for action. Keep the tension as high as possible and if the reflection is long, follow with an action-packed scene. Either way, the reflection should lead to a new decision about what to do next, which leads into a new scene and new action.

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