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Monday, September 03, 2007

Scene transitions – scene break syndrome

DON’T CREATE SCENE BREAKS JUST SO YOU CAN CHANGE POVS BACK AND FORTH.

Yes, I’m yelling. I’ve seen this done often in both contest entries and even in published books—the writer will insert a scene break, continue the scene in the second character’s POV for a page or two, then insert another scene break and continue the scene back in the first character’s POV.

Here’s an extreme example:

Eat and leave. That’s all she had to do.

If Grandma didn’t kill her first for being late.

Lex Sakai raced through the open doorway to the Chinese restaurant and was immediately immersed in conversation, babies’ wails, clashing perfumes, and stale sesame oil. She tripped over the threshold and almost turned her ankle. Stupid pumps. Man, she hated wearing heels.

Her cousin Chester sat behind a small table next to the open doorway.

“Hey Chester.”

###

“Oooh, you’re late.” As usual, but Chester wasn’t about to actually say that to his cousin. She might bop him in the nose. “Grandma isn’t going to be happy. Sign over here.” He gestured to the ridiculous guestbook his sister had decorated. Pink lace glued to the edges almost drowned the ugly thing.

“What do I do with this?” Lex dropped the Babies R Us box on the table.

He grabbed the box and flipped it behind him with a practiced flip of his wrist. Man, he’d been doing this for too long today. When could he get out from behind frilly welcome table? He felt like a chump.

###

Lex sighed. Poor Chester looked miserable.


This is just too jarring to a reader. Remember, you don’t want to jar the reader out of the story world—you don’t even want to nudge them a little.

This is why I always suggest to unpublished writers trying to break into print at a traditional publishing house—stick to one POV per chapter. It prevents the “scene break syndrome.” Yes, it makes it harder to write the scene, but so what?—you’re a writer. Stretch yourself.

Go through your manuscript looking for the scene break syndrome. It will hurt, but eradicate the syndrome from your writing!

2 comments:

  1. Is it okay to switch POV within the chapter if each POV is a wholly new scene, rather than a POV change in the same scene? Sometimes I'm writing, and after a few scenes, I just hear a different character begin to talk.

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  2. Yup, it's okay to insert a scene break and switch POVs within a chapter. However, just make sure each scene is an entirely different scene.

    Also, another thing to think about--make sure each scene is absolutely vital to the story. It's hard, but sometimes a scene you love isn't actually forwarding the story plot.

    Camy

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