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IWW Practice-W Exercise Archives
Exercise: Transitions

These exercises were written by IWW members and administrators to provide structured practice opportunities for its members. You are welcome to use them for practice as well. Please mention that you found them at the Internet Writers Workshop (http://www.internetwritingworkshop.org/).

Prepared by: Florence Cardinal
Posted on: Sun, 15 Apr 2001
Reposted on: Sun, 27 Jan 2002
Reposted on: Sun, 20 Apr 2003
Reposted on: Sat, 24 Jan 2004
Reposted on: Sun, 22 Jan 2006

Transitions, moving someone from one place to another, or from one time frame to another, is difficult for many writers. If you move your character too quickly, your audience may feel disoriented and it may take them a few moments to realize what has happened.

On the other hand, you can't show every step your character takes, or every second that passes as he moves from spring to winter.

For this exercise, in 300 words or less, move a character from point A to point B or from one time frame to another smoothly and quickly, without losing your reader in the transition, or bogging your reader down with excess prose.

Florence Cardinal's wrap-up
Posted on: Sun, 22 Apr 2001

This has been a fantastic week. I don't believe Rheal has posted the stats, but I'm sure they are high.

You all did a very good job with the transition exercise. Many of you did the exercise as a flashback, and what is a flashback, after all, but a time transition into the past. Most of you brought us back to the present again.

One problem I found with several of the exercises was a difficulty in dealing with the tense when using a time transition, but I'm sure this will come in time.

I hope you all enjoyed this exercise as much as I did, and good luck as we move on to Patricia's tone exercise.


Florence Cardinal's wrap-up (Feb 5 2002)

This is the second time we've run this exercise, and again, it has brought forth a great bunch of SUBS and CRITS. Some of the stories moved us across great distances, both in area and in time, and some in both. Some have done it better than others, but all who tried have done a reasonable job.

Transitions require a delicate balance to come off well. If we move the character too slowly - show his step by step walk, for instance, from his house to the post office, detailing every corner he turns, every sight he sees, no matter how ordinary, our reader may drop the story out of sheer boredom.

On the other hand, if we move the character too quickly and without smooth transition words - The next day, a week later, fifty miles down the road, he got off the plane four hours later in Paris - we run the danger of leaving our readers not knowing where they are.

I hope this exercise has helped to illustrate that point.


Rhéal Nadeau's wrap-up
Posted on: April 27, 2003

The transitions exercise is always an interesting one - my thanks to Florence for writing this one in the first place.

The submissions this week covered (as always) a significant range: moving physically from one place to another, or moving from one moment in time to another, or both.

Naturally, some of the submissions were more successful than others. Which means that some were less successful, of course. A common problem was presenting a static situation where previous or future transitions were hinted at (or simply told, not shown), but did not really come to life. In some cases, this involved an attempted flashback - where the previous events were simply stated, without giving the reader a real chance to jump along and fully experience those events.

As was the case when we ran this exercise before, many of the submissions used flashback as the transition mechanism. There is no doubt that a flashback deals with a transition, even if doing it backwards, going from *now* to *then* rather than the normal story flow from "then* to "now*. I don't know what to make of this, actually. I'm sure it's related to the nature of the exercise: flashbacks are common in writing, but not *this* common. Does the restricted nature of the exercise make it harder to deal with a narrative progress forward from point A to point B? Or conversely, does such a narrative present fewer (or alternately, less interesting) writing challenges?

I don't know the answer to those questions, and to the underlying questions of what we choose to write about, and how we choose to write about it. Actually, we'll never know the answers to those questions - but they are useful questions for us to think about.


Florence Cardinal's wrap-up
Posted on: February 3, 2004

Not too many subs this week, but you made up for it in critiques. Most of the subs were well done, some even startling in their excellency. A few were a bit bumpy, but that was to be expected, and if you did a few critiques, you may have gotten the hang of it.

Transitions - a way from getting from one place or time to another. You don't want them too abrupt so you jar your reader out of the story. On the other hand, neither do you want them so long and dragged out that you lull your reader to sleep. As in so much of writing, you have to strike a happy medium - not too much, not too little. We hope this little exercise has helped you master the trick.


Web site created by Rhéal Nadeau and the administrators of the Internet Writing Workshop.
Modified by Gayle Surrette.