A TOME OF TRANSITIONS
All unattributed quotes are from snippets of my writing. Many of these can be combined, and many are quite similar. The emphasis shouldn’t be on coming up with a meticulously well-defined list. The focus here is on spurring ideas when actually writing. You should be able to come up with at least 3 per transition in order to give you some wiggle room. I haven’t included basic list transitions like “Also…” “Next…” or “Secondly…”.
A great exercise is to map out transitions in any article and add them to the list. A fantastic article for this is Robert Gottlieb’s New Yorker piece, Paris, Home of Le Burger, which I consider a master work on narrative turns. In it he smoothly transitions between at least 9 different restaurants, while having only explicitly visited two.
Transitioning using two similar situations. Usually used in combination with another transition, for example with a locational transition or a temporal transition.
“…the confusion lead to her being angry at me, and today the argument lead to her slapping me across the face. It was not the first time I had been slapped today. On the other side of town….”
Using a quote both as bridge and to establish authority.
“Echo chambers are a big reason why this nation is so divided. IBM CEO Gina Rometty said that ‘growth and comfort do not coexist’. Discomfort online can be a fantastic opportunity to develop resiliency.”
Shani Raja describes this as a technique to briefly reference something you stated earlier in the article.
Used when the writer uses his own opinions to transition.
”In the same way that 1920s American expatriate life in Paris exuded a grim revolutionary spirit of reaction to the world, 1990s American expatriate life in Pusan took on a casual party spirit of distraction from the world.
It’s too bad it couldn’t last.
When the Korean economy crashed and the won devalued by half last December, Korea’s expat teachers quietly began to leave. In droves.”
A transition that uses a word that has two meanings, connotations, or usages to transition from one meaning to the other.
Used to describe the other side for a more robust article.
“This wasn’t the first time…” and “And yet…” “However..”
Using a quote and movement as a combo to soften the blow of transitioning to a different location. The combination makes the transition smoother.
“The local language is totally different from the mainland, Sam said on the ferry to the island.”
A transition that uses location to shift the story.
“10 miles from where the cyclist peddled…”
Using some background detail to lead into the next section
Using a continuing metaphor to transition.
“If the ideas are the blood and guts of a story, then structure is its bones, the organizational principles that make it stand.”
Forward in Time Transition
Transition to move the story forward.
Continuing Action Transition
This transition continues where the original story left off. This can be used to describe more details, or generally move the story along. This makes the narrative flow better, prevents it from degrading into a list of information, and gives movement, making the story interesting.
Backwards in Time Transition
Transition used to shift the story backwards in time.
“A few days ago…”
Other things are like this, but this one is different.
“Berea College isn’t like most other colleges.”
Like a blind lede, you deliberately leave out the information that would come after - like opening a loop in conversation in a conversation. It does double the work because you already have the setup for another transition later on. Can also function as a Flickering Transition.
“Before describing getting into word choice, let’s set up the structure of your article.”
“a chart of behavioral change would be incomplete without mentioning…”
Specific to General
Similar to an opposition transition.
”While my Samsung Galaxy may be a bit bulky, most smartphones….”
Very similar to a Commentary or Quote Transition, except you use a maxim to shift to the next section.
Asking a question in order to lead to the next section in which the question is answered. Used a lot in personal blogs. I am personally not a fan of this, and try to avoid them as much as possible.
“This idea that Silicon Valley parents are wary about tech is not new. The godfathers of tech expressed these concerns years ago, and concern has been loudest from the top.”
Emerging Story Transition
“But in the last year, a fleet of high-profile Silicon Valley defectors have been sounding alarms in increasingly dire terms about what these gadgets do to the human brain.”