As we talk about ‘transitions” this month, here are some tips on how to use transitions in writing.
Writing’s Connector Roads
Look at any map – or GPS screen – and you’ll see thousands of little blue lines, connector roads, marrying larger highways to one another, like a vehicular vascular system. Without these roads transitioning us from one route to the next, we’d never get where we’re going – or at least the trip would be far more circuitous.
Transitions in writing are simply that: a connector that moves us from one place (idea/thought/point) to the next. They create unity and cohesion and pull a reader along from the beginning to the end of the piece. When used well they are an opportunity for the writer to inject their voice into the work, allowing us to almost hear the article rather than simply digest the text as mere words on the page.
There are myriad articles that can teach you the why’s and how’s of using transitions in writing – most of which will tell you the same basic principles.
Transitions can be:
- Paragraphs found between larger sections that connect them to each other
- Opening and closing sentences of a paragraph that refer to the preceding or proceeding sections (like moments of a TV show just before and after a commercial break that keep us engaged in the story and help us remember where we left off.)
- Single words or short phrases within the paragraph itself that let you move from one idea to the next. They allow you to compare, contrast, support or even refute points you have previously made.
And if you’re stuck, you can even find lists of transition words and phrases to oil the gears.
But more than the simple benefit of making a choppy piece of writing smoother (no one wants to get seasick reading your monthly report,) or bringing disjointed ideas together (don’t you hate it when people leave off in mid –) the bottom line is you can actually have fun, assert yourself, and connect more deeply with your reader by being thoughtful and deliberate with your transitions.
Here are some passages that illustrate that connector phrases can be ridiculous, interesting and beautiful.
Since the United States’ historical landing on the moon in 1969, it has been widely accepted that the planet is made of rock and metal, covered with layers of lunar soil. However, the contents of this paper are intended to change that current perception. While it may seem incongruous, even impossible, my research has uncovered irrefutable proof that the moon is, in fact, made of green cheese. It is of even greater note that I have discovered a man in residence on the moon, milking green cows to make that green cheese, a claim supported by images 46 A and B.
So here’s the thing: whilst your continuous insistence of serving me that timeless holiday treat of a chicken, stuffed inside a duck, stuffed inside a turkey – knowing full well that I am a vegan, even on the holidays – might be construed by some as hostile, I know that it is simply a mythological degree of narcissism that allows you to forget, while cramming one unsuspecting fowl into the cavern of another, that I don’t eat meat! Ever! As a result, we’re breaking up. Sounds impossible? It’s not. Enclosed, please find your key, your ratty non-vegan mohair sweater, and your copy of The Great Meat Cookbook. In short, ciao.
Literary, Classic, Breathtaking.
“You think because he doesn’t love you that you are worthless. You think that because he doesn’t want you anymore that he is right — that his judgement and opinion of you are correct. If he throws you out, then you are garbage. You think he belongs to you because you want to belong to him. Don’t. It’s a bad word, ‘belong.’ Especially when you put it with somebody you love. Love shouldn’t be like that. Did you ever see the way the clouds love a mountain? They circle all around it; sometimes you can’t even see the mountain for the clouds. But you know what? You go up top and what do you see? His head. The clouds never cover the head. His head pokes through because the clouds let him; they don’t wrap him up. They let him keep his head up high, free, with nothing to hide him or bind him. You can’t own a human being. You can’t lose what you don’t own. Suppose you did own him. Could you really love somebody who was absolutely nobody without you? You really want somebody like that? Somebody who falls apart when you walk out the door? You don’t, do you? And neither does he. You’re turning over your whole life to him. Your whole life, girl. And if it means so little to you that you can just give it away, hand it to him, then why should it mean any more to him? He can’t value you more than you value yourself.” – Toni Morrison, Song of Solomon
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Kathlene Mc Govern
Kathlene Mc Govern is a graduate of UCLA with a BA in English/Creative Writing. She is the winner of the David Wong Louie Creative Writing prize, has served as the fiction editor for PCC’s Inscape Literary Magazine and worked as a staff writer for Blindfold Magazine, a print mag that combined activism with pop culture and fashion where she wrote features on several actors and directors including Darryl Hannah and Aaron Paul and Casey Cooper Johnson.
When she's not writing, Kathlene teaches a performance workshop for dancers around the country called Acting Dynamics for Dancers. The workshop teaches dancers to create story and connect emotionally to choreography, allowing for more dynamic performances.
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