Hello, hello, and a good day to you all! Gather round, my majestic and fantastical comrades, and together we will spin stories so fine that even the kraken in the depths of the sea will cease their hunt for merchant ships that they too might hear them...
Okay, sorry, I can't keep that up for long. Anyway, really, it's beside the point, isn't it? What I'm actually starting off with is a massive apology to all of you - and an equally enormous thank you to everyone who's stuck with us through this long year and a bit
I'm afraid I can only speak for myself, since I'm not actually really sure where everyone else has gone, but I've not had the best year for dA; I was swamped in work and various illnesses/health problems (I'm currently dealing with carpal tunnel issues in both hands still) and I prioritised "real life" over my internet commitments - but I did that pretty irresponsibly without actually warning anyone or sorting out ways to tide everything over without me. So I really am sorry for all of that, and I promise that from now on I will be around, I will be active in the group (as an admin at least - the carpal tunnel thing will probably stop me writing anything for a while), and I'll update the journal at least
once a month! And if I really have to disappear, I'll make sure to explain to you all.
And if I don't, I hereby give you all permission to spam my inbox/profile with resentful notes and comments full of dire magical threats towards me and my loyal herd of
unicorns. Expired Applications & Submissions
If you tried to join the group or submit a piece of work during the long admin absence, there's a good chance that it was refused automatically because the note expired without being dealt with. To all of you who experienced that, I'm really sorry - please, do resubmit and reapply now! Tips & Tricks Update
On to the Tips & Tricks
section! For any new members unfamiliar with this part of the group, or as a reminder to the old members who don't remember so far back in the mists of time (don't worry, lambkins, I'm with you there), this is where we pose a question on writing to you, our group members, and ask you to give advice to everyone else here, so that we can all try to improve together
Awesome, right? You don't have to be an expert - we want your insights, however small they may be, because you never know which little trick you've picked up while writing will be exactly what someone else has been searching for!
Anyway, back in August of last year
, dear god, I posed the question of transitions between scenes, how you guys use them, and what the potential pitfalls surrounding them are. We only got a couple of responses, probably because of the generally low activity in the group, but the advice was sound and useful! Before you can talk about what your favorite scene transition type is, you really need to pinpoint the basic types of scene ending (or beginning, replace start for stop and it's the other one) available to you as a writer. There are basically three approaches you might take: the dramatic, the comedic, and the lull. You also need to know when it's appropriate to switch scenes.
The lull is the simplest - just cut the action off when the characters are relatively still, or (when a conversation is involved) two characters stop interacting or degrade into smalltalk (You might directly imply the latter or leave it to the audience's imagination, either works.) The emotional level of the story might be still be high - perhaps a character just lost his job, and walks off into the rain; or a happy couple is cuddled up on the couch together (In the case of an opening, perhaps a group of characters is about to bust in on the bad guy - there's tension, but no surprises yet) - but the basic continuation is no longer relevant or interesting. If you come to a lull, it's time for you to start a new scene (unless you're trying to show a situation is really boring, which can be interesting...)
The dramatic cuts off before a lull point, leaving unresolved questions about how what was going resolves. It's a cliffhanger. (Cutting between two different groups of people having related conversations in different places at the same time might also qualify) Dramatic ends are more emotionally charged. You know 'em when you see them. Dramatic opens occur when something interesting or relevant has happened, but the audience is left in the dark for some period of time. Dramatic cuts can be really fun, but avoid having too many dramatic cuts from one plotline to the next in a row without going back to resolve earlier events. (Actually, forget that: as a rule of thumb, if you have more than six relevant plotlines, some of them probably are not as relevant as you think...)
Comedic ends (or end/beginning pairs) are also easy to spot, and are valuable even in a much more serious work. Examples - a long action sequence that ends just as one of the main characters begins to explain what actually happened to an authority figure, a beginning where the punchline only of a joke is spoken by a character, or a scene cut of the "oh, X won't happen"/X happened variety. Subtler incarnations might include ending with a visual gag (The video game Portal is an example - a running gag involves there being cake at the end, and lo and behold, there is...)
Naturally, most endings are somewhere in between the three, and different levels of peace/drama/humor lend themselves to different writing styles. For a good example of scene changes, I'd look at one of Terry Pratchet's novels - he has no chapter breaks, just smaller scene changes, and he uses them to great effect.
Personally, I tend to prefer an emotionally steady ('lull') opening to an independent story's first scene, with a mixture of the other methods to suit the general mood of the piece. Even in the case of a one scene story, it's important to think about what note the story begins and ends on! A lot of it has to do with the audience you're writing for too. When in doubt, find an author you think transitions between scenes well, and read a lot of their stuff, paying careful attention to how they do it. (That works with everything writing related, actually. It's the best way to learn.)
If you are literally saying "cut to black" when not writing a film script or intentionally emulating that style, you may want to rethink your technique a little... using lots of clique phrases like that is often the hallmark of an inexperienced writer, which is the last way you want to present yourself! That said, imagining your story as a movie is a useful exercise, and can help you figure out not just how to transition effectively but how to decide what details to describe.
I don't usually have problems transitioning between scenes. If you get hung up on a particular scene (or section of a scene), take out a spare sheet of paper/word and rewrite it, perhaps in a couple variations, until you get really bored of repeating the same scenario over and over. Then, take the best result and use that (or cut and paste bits from a number of them, that works well too!)
If you really, genuinely can't figure out what to do next, chances are the scene hit a lull. Take the opportunity to cut to the next one; if anything else important happened in the previous that you couldn't figure out how to write, you can reveal it slowly (perhaps as part of a conversation between two other characters - it's a little clique, but whatever.)
If you're having trouble getting in the mood, grab some fitting music (or better yet an entire playlist) that fits the mood of what you're going to write.
Having more than one writing project can be tricky. I keep mine in genre-separated 'folders' in my head. Get a good feel for your characters, and avoid writing two characters who are exact clones except for name and/or appearance.
Lastly: never, ever, ever be afraid of paragraphs. Paragraphs are your friend. Use them to indicate short pauses in dialogue, changes in topic, or what would correspond to switching cameras in a movie. Leave a bigger space or use a centered line of little symbols to indicate a scene change.
I had more I wanted to say, but oh well. This should work well enough for today I usually change scenes from paragraph to paragraph especially when I am placing many different events that occur. One of the important things here is that you never use another paragraph for the same scene, otherwise you will confuse the reader. What you need to do is join those two paragraphs together and make it as clear and concise as possible.
Can you overuse transitioning? Yes I believe you can! One time I read a story and near the end of the book there was so much transitioning that I could not tell which scene was which. Try not to use transitioning too frequently or you'll confuse your audience.
Now here is something I greatly regret answering: Yes I do get stuck at finishing a scene. Especially when I am introducing characters and telling about their background. The problem for me I believe is that I can't make a perfect paragraph when explaing things. It can be so easy to make things confusing and I don't want to confuse my readers. What I need to do is practice in my introductions and the information I give to everyone.
Now I am not an expert at writing so these explanation may be wrong. Just keep writing, be interesting and make up names for a story that will catch people's eyes and you will become a great writer!
To both of you, thanks so much for the insights - I for one found your opinions really interesting and useful to read, and I appreciate the time you took to give them to us. I'm super-sorry that it took this long to get your info to the group! (You should find a new llama in each of your respective herds as an extra apology/thank-you
Now, I was struggling to think of a new topic for us all, I've been away so long and I can't remember off-hand what we've covered in the past, so I hope it's not a complete dud. In future, if there's some area in particular that you're struggling with in your writing, or just want to know people's opinions on, don't hesitate to ask (by note or a comment here or on the group profile) and I'll be sure to ask the group for you! We're all here to help and support each other, remember. The theme for the next Tips & Tricks section is... Geography
Do you prefer to set your stories in some fictional world, a fantastical version of the real one, or something in between? How well do you know the geography of your own fantasy worldlet? Does it matter, and if so, how much? Many authors, especially in the fantasy genre (and in particular ever since Tolkien did it), include at least one map with their work; is this unnecessary overkill, a pleasant extra, or vital to your enjoyment of the narrative? Do you make (or plan to make) maps for your own worlds? Does the importance of geography in your story change depending on whether you're writing an insular single-kingdom plotline or a huge nation-spanning epic? And, last but not least, how do you bring your knowledge of your world's geography to your readers? Are there descriptions of travel or diplomacy, or do your characters discuss it? Do you throw it in casually to hint at a wider world without it being a focus? And let's not forget the use of the aforementioned map!
These questions are just starting points, and y'all should feel free to consider and discuss anything that springs to mind under the topic. I'm so looking forward to working with you all to get this group grooving again, and of course to hearing your responses! Let's do this, kittens!