I have recently learned that when drafting a long story, I am a fairly economical writer who tends to skip transitions in favour of getting to the meat of the scene before it disappears forever from my consciousness. In other words, I'm lousy at transitions, and - I'll be honest - I need help.
In Your Life as Story, Tristine Rainer gives autobiographers, and some of us who aren't, pointers about moving horizontally through time (as opposed to flashbacks, etc). To give credit to her suggested tools, I went searching through my trusty bookshelf for examples:
1. Typical transitional phrases, such as, "That afternoon...," or even, "Then...":
It was shortly after midnight when the concierge phoned him. (The Shadow of Your Smile by Mary Higgins Clark.)
The next morning at breakfast she acted as though nothing had changed. (Assegai by Wilbur Smith.)
2. Leaps into new scenes:
- Begin a new scene with an action:
"That's all you want? A ride?" the young man said.
Dr Lecter showed him his open hands. "A ride."
The fast motorcycle split the lines of traffic on the Lungarno, Dr. Lecter hunched behind the young rider.... (Hannibal by Thomas Harris.)
- Jump into a new scene with a description of a new place.
He found a woods road that roughly paralleled the barrier. It was overgrown and disused, but much better than pushing through the puckerbrush. (Under the Dome by Stephen King.)
- Leap into a new scene with an inner response:
It seemed at first another and a happier world which I had re-entered: I was home, in the late afternoon, as the long shadows were falling.... (Travels With My Aunt by Graham Greene)
- Specify the day or time or day and time:
At around 7:35, a black Lincoln Navigator pulled up in front of Taberna del Alabardero, a hotsy DC eatery for the stars. (Cross Fire by James Patterson.)
3. Bridges across time, e.g., "The next three months moved slowly..."
Weeks of savage cold. Quoyle was comfortable enough in his sweater and anorak. (The Shipping News by E. Annie Proulx.)
Okay, so transitioning needn't be a big deal; these people do it so effortlessly after all. Next week I'll stick with the time theme but zoom out to take a look at proportion in plot.
Exercise 71. You've been away from a character for three chapters. Write the first four sentences to return the reader to viewpoint and location (from Elements of Fiction Writing: Setting by Jack M. Bickham).
Exercise 72. "Describe how a character gets from home to work in a page, then in a paragraph, then in a sentence; describe how a character moves from an argument with her husband to a meeting with a friend." (From Jean Rosier-Jones, So You Want To Write.)