Transitions can be viewed as a particular aspect of cohesion and coherence (see blog here) where the narrative switches to a different time and place. The reader, hopefully, will have been immersed in the narrative journey and you won’t want to jolt them out of that pleasurable state by constructing unnecessary bumps in the road. At a minimum, any creator will want to make this switch as seamless and unobtrusive as possible. Sometimes, however, a bit of ingenuity may allow the navigation of such points positively enhance the reader’s experience. A cinematic example would be the ending of Hitchcock’s ‘North by North-West’: one moment the hero is holding onto the heroine’s hand as she dangles from the edge of a cliff, the next they are honeymooners in a sleeping car and he is pulling her up into his upper berth. The strategies available to a creator are numerous, some pretty much universally applicable, others bespoke to a particular transition.
The most straight-forward device is to make transitions at the end of a page or, even better, at the turn of a page, where there is a natural pause (or real-world transition, if you will). Whether you need to give any additional information once your reader has shifted to this new time and place will, in part, depend upon the knowledge they have already accumulated. For example, in chapter 1 (‘The Southerner’) we have spliced together two ongoing actions: the Southerner kidnapping Comtois and Casanova’s arrival in Paris. Once the kidnapping scene is established future transitions back to it don’t require more information. Prior knowledge can be useful for smooth transitions in other ways. If it makes sense beforehand why character W might be with character X at place Y and time Z then any shifts will be less disruptive. Of course, you may want to surprise your reader, which is fine, as long as it’s intentional and you’re in control. What you don’t want is your reader flipping back to check if they’ve missed something simply because the transition is so clunky. Foreshadowing (subtle hints in advance) can reduce the danger of this by helping to oil new ideas, behaviours and events. Your reader may not have seen something coming but now that it’s arrived it doesn’t entirely contradict the universe they’ve been constructing in their imaginations. Similarly, you can signal to your audience that a shift in time and place is about to occur, often reinforcing the natural pause at the end or turn of a page. There might be a particularly emphatic or conclusive bit of dialogue in the final panel, such as a threat (‘he will pay dearly’), or an indication that nothing else of particular relevance is going to be happening in that scene, for example in chapter 8 (‘Threads’) one page ends with a discarded apple travelling across several panels into a bin. If your audience doesn’t have enough information, a simple way to nail down time and place is by labelling the opening panel.
Not all transitions will take place at the end of a page, however, such as the one illustrated above. In this case, the opening panel provides the audience with the information they will need and the overlapping dialogue carries them through. A device we have used on several occasions to indicate a mid-page shift of scene has been to follow a character from place A to place B. In chapter 4 (‘Places des Fleurs’), Gabrielle pens an anonymous letter for Casanova. She hands it to a servant and then we follow the servant who delivers it to Casanova’s apartment. Likewise, in chapter 3 (‘The Recruit’) we follow Bechard from a prison setting to the room which will be the setting for him being scourged. When signalling transitions outside time and space, as in the case of Casanova’s dreams, we have shifted from black and white to colour. When shifting from a rural to city sequence we have used an intervening panel of an illustration of the city, (thereby placing the viewer outside the city). On a couple of occasions, we’ve ended sequences with bedtime scenes, signalling the likelihood of a subsequent transition in time. We moved from a flashback of when Casanova was a child back into the modern day by juxtaposing the child and the man, both holding Casanova’s distinctive cane. There’s nothing wrong with using tried and trusted transition strategies but as with most elements of writing a bit a variation and creativity will help to enhance the reading experience of your audience.
‘The Prologue’, and chapters 1 to 10 of ‘Casanova in Paris: The Shadows of the King’ are now freely available here.
27 long form articles on Casanova’s life and times are freely available here.
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