San Francisco weather often hides part of the Golden Gate Bridge. Without the mid-portion, it resembles two ends of a structure—with only heavy mist in between. Omit the transitions in fiction, and readers might feel as if only mist joins one sentence to the next. With an important exception. California fog can seem mysterious and romantic, whereas two disconnected ideas or sentences or paragraphs are anything but.
How often do fiction readers need a bridge? Every time they sense a shift, and that’s in the reader’s mind—not the writer’s. Shifts include focus, time, space, speaker, mood, emotion, scene, or verb tense. And lack of connection isn’t among the surprises readers enjoy.
Tip: What seems linked to the writer doesn’t always seem linked to the reader.
Because most writers live with their story world until every relationship seems obvious. So those crucial transitions joining one observation or moment to the next often go missing.
Here’s an example:
Leaning back with a sigh, Abby surveyed everything she loved about the living room: white carpet versus drapes in a slightly different ivory tint, Danish modern furniture, hand-blown glass artfully catching the light in various corners. Though her husband had only black socks, they always looked mismatched.
Whoops. How did we get from interior design to hubby Bill’s habits? For the writer, this might seem crystal-clear. The character muses on order and taste and how differing hues complement each other, unlike her husband’s mismated footwear. Abby might resent his slovenliness contrasting with her taste, which she clearly admires. Perhaps she wonders why she likes snow-white with ivory, but not brand-new black with three-years-old black.
And, in fact, developing any of those would clarify why the passage abruptly shifted from decor to laundry. The crucial component you accidentally omit from the page perplexes readers. Huh?
~ Notice, even if you don’t want to fix this until later.
Consider capitalizing markers like LETTING HER MIND WANDER, or LATER THAT EVENING. This reminds that you need to improve this temporary transition.
~ Collect transitions in your daily world.
Store effective links from what you read, hear, and see. This becomes part of noticing.
~ Identify the connections you thought of but never included.
This smooths the way while adding causality and suspense.
Let readers view the entire bridge—without something missing in the middle.