How Transitions Show Shifts, Sequence & Relationships in Your Writing

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  • 0:01 Transitions Keep You Connected
  • 0:57 Transitions in Stories
  • 3:10 Transitions in Essays
  • 5:35 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Cathy Wilson

Cathy Wilson has taught college literature and composition, junior-high and high-school English, and secondary art. She has a master's degree in American Literature.

When you write just about any kind of paper, whether it's story writing or essay writing, use transitions to help your reader make connections and move easily through your paper. Here are some specific ways to use transitions.

Transitions Keep You Connected

Have you ever played the game, Twister©? It's a lot of fun! Like many games of strategy, every move that you make has some relationship to the moves that went before. In other words, Twister is a game of connections. That's actually the same thing as the idea of transitions in writing. Transitions are phrases and sentences that link ideas together. They help us show connections or relationships in writing.

If you are writing a narrative, which means a story, transitions can help guide you through time, from one happening to another. They can also guide you through different places in a story. You can also use transitions in expository writing, which means writing about ideas. Transitions can show us the relationships of ideas in a number of interesting ways. They keep us going in the right direction.

Transitions in Stories

The simplest transitions in writing a story tell you what happened in time: first, second, next, and so on. Here are some examples: the next day, a week later, during the party, after he proposed, before breakfast, as soon as the work was done.

Other narrative transitions can show us:

1. Changes in place.

A change in place is just what it sounds like. At some point in your story, it moves from one location to another. When your story moves from one place to another, that's a good spot to use a transition. Here is an example: 'After Susan's mother dropped her off at school, she drove home.' This simple transition helps us move through space.

2. Changes between scenes.

Scenes are kind of like 'mini-locations' in your story. For example, one scene could take place in the principal's office, while another scene might take place, at the same time, in a classroom. Most stories move from one scene to another, and these are good places for transitions. We might write, 'While Principal Frederick checked his email, in the choir room, Mrs. Stewart was still taking roll.'

3. Changes between points of view.

Point of view means seeing things through a particular person's eyes. This can be such an interesting technique in narrative writing. For example, from Barry's point of view, a fistfight might be breaking the rules, while from Shane's point of view, that same fight might be a last desperate move for survival.

4. Changes in emotion.

Emotions or feelings are just what they seem: the way we feel about things. Often in good storytelling, people's feelings change as the story goes on. For example, 'Cheri might have been feeling nervous as she waited for her prom date, but when the doorbell rang, her heart began to race with joy and anticipation.'

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