Transitions – the Hard Cut

Cuts and transitionsTransitions are a necessary part of storytelling. Leaping over unnecessary chunks of narrative through hard cuts keeps the story pacy and exciting. They free the reader from having to trudge over flat terrain.

This is no more obvious than when comparing today’s films and television to those of even a couple of decades ago. What would once have been considered lively viewing now seems dull and languid.

Pace and Transitions

No doubt the pace of our contemporary lifestyle has much to do with the speeding up of the narrative flow. But it also has to do with the realisation that gaps created by effective transitions allow the reader or audience to fill in the gaps without a loss of pace. It also increases participation in a story.

But the attempt to keep things moving, especially in action genres, is not new. In her book, The Novelist’s Guide, Margret Geraghty, points out that Alistair Maclean faced a potential pacing problem in his novel, Where Eagles Dare, when Major Smith and his group get to the Oberhausen airfield and have to wait for the rescue plane to arrive.

A scene of the fugitives sitting around waiting would make for unexciting narrative. Instead, Maclean switched the viewpoint to the pilot in the rescue plane, which brought with it new information and renewed interest.

In my own novels, Scarab and Scarab II, I extensively use this technique of switching viewpoints to important characters to leap to significant parts of the story. This does not only keep the story moving along at a brisk pace, it injects new interest by exploring new information from the best possible vantage points in the story.

Additionally, when done well, the technique allows readers to fill in the missing parts which, significantly, ramps up involvement in the story.

Summary

Use hard cut transitions to skip over unnecessary parts of a story.

Published by

Stavros Halvatzis

I'm a writer, teacher, and story consultant.

2 thoughts on “Transitions – the Hard Cut”

  1. How difficult it is to wright a unique story that can capture the imagination of a audiences is something only a story teller can understand. I recently consulted with a TV producer on this very topic. He explained that audiences attention spans are shrinking at a rapid rate. He explains that 10 years ago that SABC’s 50/50 consisted on two half hour topics. Today it is five 10 minute stories. In a world of accessable knowledge a writer can never underestimate the intelligence of the reader. Once a writer has mastered the art of surprise and suspense only then will the audience be left begging for more.

    1. Sad but true, Gerhard. Attentions spans are shrinking. The chalange is to find ways to still tell meaningful stories despite this…

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