Scene Transitions and Story Themes

Writing Fiction? What You Need To Know About Creating a Story Theme and Believable Scene Transitions

Scene Transitions and Story Themes

What do you think is the story theme for this picture?

It’s wonderful that you have these characters talking in your head about some problem that only you, the author, can provide solutions for, but before you get too far into the throes of writing that manuscript, have you determined the theme for your story?

What is a Story Theme and Why Is It Important?

If you’ve taken any writing courses, your instructor probably talked about the story problem. What’s the major problem in the story that your main character has to overcome before the book reaches its final conclusion? Sound familiar? Maybe not.

A story theme is not a story problem. Let me explain. A story theme is the purpose and message that you want your readers to understand. This is accomplished by the way you set up your plot and the types of characters you create to tell the story. As a writer, you might have started this novel’s writing journey by coming up with an idea, and the more you thought about that idea, you began to create the foundation for your story. Basically, a story’s theme is defined by what you show your reader as an observation or philosophy of the human condition. That is the story’s theme.

The Wizard of Oz and the Story Theme

Have you ever seen the movie, The Wizard of Oz, or read the book? It is driven by the story’s problem that the author presents as the theme. Dorothy’s problem is that she’s in the Land of Oz, and she wants to get home, but she doesn’t know what to do to get back home. After she begins her adventure and goes through lots of trials, what she learns about herself is that she really doesn’t want to run away from the home where she grew up with such a loving family. That’s when the story’s theme becomes apparent when she finally decides “There’s no place like home.”

What are Scene Transitions, and Why Must They Be Believable?

First, let’s define a scene transition. A scene transition takes the reader from a scene in one specific location and time into another scene, another location, and possibly a significant passage of time. Scene transitions also can and usually do involve emotional changes for the main character, the villain, or any supporting characters.

The best way to think about scene transitions is to link the old with the new. To help you understand this better, think about one of your favorite movies. If you can play it back in your mind, you will note when one scene ends and another one begins. For example, if a loud pounding noise of a wrecking ball in a building’s demolition transitions from that scene to the crashing of symbols in an orchestra’s soundtrack where the heroine is on stage, you have thus experienced a believable scene transition.

You can transition from one scene to another through sound, or through a segue of actions between or among various characters. You can easily conjure up hundreds of ways for smooth scene transitions. Achieving the world of believability for your reader demands that the scene transitions appear natural, sequential, emotional, and make the reader want to continue to turn the pages to find out what happens next.

As an Editor, these are the most typical errors I see when authors create scene transitions

The goal of every editing and proofreading company that provides services to writers is to help them along the journey of writing successful materials, and to save the writer from years of agonizing rejections. I’ll give you my secret sauce after presenting you with two examples: the good and the not-so-good scene transition.

Example of a not-so-good scene transition

Sarah sat on the top step of the stairway that led to her brownstone apartment in Manhattan. She was bent over, crying, as the torrential rain and wind blew her hair sideways.

“How could he do that to me?” she bemoaned and cried even louder.

Three weeks later, Sarah was serving donuts to a silver-haired woman who stared silently at the shimmering coffee in her beige mug cradled in her shaking hands.

STOP! Hopefully, even though you don’t know what this story is about, you should be able to quickly see that the transition between these two scenes was not only unnatural and not believable, but as a reader, it would make me wonder if pages of the manuscript had been tossed in the shredder. Why? The transition created confusion in my mind as to what was happening in the story. I truly wanted to know what happened to our girl who was crying. Would you agree?

An example of a sweet and lovely scene transition that is (in my opinion) totally believable

Miranda had created her online Etsy store, which advertised all her knitted fingerless gloves in the Seahawks colors. She was hopeful that with all the photos, descriptions, and pricing research she had done that a lot of people would buy her handmade gloves.

She truly wanted to buy her son a Christmas gift, and selling homemade items online was her only hope for generating an income after their home had burned to the ground last month. It took Miranda a long time to get to sleep that night, but she prayed for a miracle…not for herself, but for her son.

Miranda stirred nervously in bed as the sun beamed its rays onto her face in the early morning hours. Her first thought was to run to her laptop in the kitchen to see if she had sold at least one pair of her knitted gloves.

So? What do you think after reading both examples? Can you see the correct way to handle a scene transition?

My Secret Sauce for Creating Believable Scene Transitions

Here’s that secret sauce I promised to reveal earlier. The best way to wow your readers and create a bestselling novel is to play the scenes like a movie in your head. If that thought troubles you, then think of your fiction writing, scene-by-scene, as if you were watching a play, in real life, on stage.

If a specific number of characters were on stage for one scene, would the next scene still have several characters standing in the same place as when the previous scene ended? Of course, the answer is no. Most likely, the lights would be dimmed, the curtain would close, the sets would be changed, and new actors would be standing in place when the lights came back on and the curtain rose.

Do you see where these examples can be used in your fiction writing?

Leave me a comment below. I answer all questions. Thanks



Planning Your Writing and Editing Projects for 2015

Before you can make plans for your editing projects in 2015, it’s important to quickly review what happened in your life in 2014. I know you might not want to review all these details now, but since history is known to repeat itself, if you have areas in your life that you want to change in 2015, it’s important to take a quick look back.

2014: A quick review of your writing and editing projects

By writing your answers to the following statements and questions, you will quickly get an idea of who you were in 2014 and what you might need to work on or erase from your 2015 agenda.

Name three of the biggest lessons you learned in 2014 after having your documents edited.




Name two writing accomplishments that you’re really proud of from the year 2014.



In the area of your personal life or your business life, name three tasks that were extremely easy for you to complete during 2014 that involved either the writing or edit process.





What three things or areas of your writing life were the most frustrating during 2014?





Thinking of all the writing activities you were involved in during 2014, name your top five revenue-producing areas that you’d like to stay involved with during 2015.







Thinking of the last question, which two activities do you NOT want to be involved with during 2015?




If you had to cut down on your writing or editing expenses for 2015, which 2014 expenses could you easily eliminate? (Personal or professional)



Taking Inventory of Where You Are Right Now

By looking at what you’re doing right now at the end of 2014, provide answers to the following questions.

During a normal twenty-four hour day, how much time do you spend on your writing and editing, and how much time do you spend doing other things?

(These things would include time driving for appointments, reading and answering email, cooking, cleaning, shopping, watching TV, texting, surfing, reading, or talking on the phone, etc. Briefly list all those things where you knowingly spend time.)


Jot down any activities that you could spend less time on or eliminate as you contemplate a more successful, fulfilling, and relaxing year in 2015.

2015 planning for writing and editing projects


Planning for 2015 – The Fun Part

Could you plan to spend less time on a few minor activities to allow room for a new business or hobby that will increase your income?


Name them.


Which five things would you like more of during 2015?







What is your word for 2015? Write it down in your calendar and make a note of all those times when you see that word (on a sign, in email, on a billboard, in a book, etc.).

(Think: prosperity, obedient, loving, kind, generous, and giving)




What are your income goals from your writing for 2015? Are they the same as 2014?


 Goal Planning

Do you need to make changes to your income goals to make prosperity more prominent in your life so you can share your profits and time with others?


Are goals important to you? Why or why not?


Are you planning to go on vacation in 2015? Create a milestone calendar and jot down possible dates.


On a 2015 calendar, get the important goals and target dates notated on your calendar. Then plan ahead. What steps will you take to meet your milestone for goal #1, goal #2, vacation days, etc.?


Summary for a Prosperous 2015

By making plans now, you’ll reap the rewards later. I’ve found that when I put something down in writing and then list events, tasks, and goals on my calendar, those items get done more often than if I just talked about what I wanted to do in the new year.

Feel free to list some of those things you’re planning on for 2015.

If you could say one thing to your editor, what would it be? Describe it in a sentence.


Candace, Contributing Editor


When to query

Are you wondering whether or not you should send out query letters in December? After all, if this is a busy holiday time for the average person, it is just as busy for agents. This means that they are feeling as stressed, frazzled, and exhausted as the rest of us–and that may not be the best frame of mind for a potential agent who is deciding your future. Then again, maybe your would-be agent is not feeling harried at all because the agency is closed for the holidays. What does this mean for you and your manuscript?


Does the holiday spirit extend to writers and agents?

Continue Reading

Healthy tips for computer users

What seems like a lifetime ago, after I finished writing my first novel, I drove to a neighboring city to buy a manuscript box, fussed with the papers, folders, and labels, then took my precious package to the post office, where I was provided with a dilapidated old box that looked like it had been hauled out of a dumpster.

Believe me when I say that I am so grateful for the advances in technology! Gone are the days of callused fingers, ink smears, and snail mail. However, we now have a new litany of concerns and precautions. Whether you are writing a dissertation, a novel, a science article, or a college essay, you’re likely spending a lot of time at the computer. If you are a willing slave to technology, as I am, take some simple steps to ensure that you receive all of the benefits and none of the drawbacks.

Even the most comfortable positions can do more harm than good.

Continue Reading

Tips to improve young children’s stories: The sound

I warned you in my last post, didn’t I? Writing a young children’s story can be more difficult than writing a story for an older audience. The previous post focused on the basics of young children’s story writing. This post concentrates on the musical quality, that is, the sound of the story. Certain literary devices, such as rhyme, alliteration, and rhythm, can make a solid story truly delightful to read aloud.


The magic of a young children’s story is often found in its sound.

Continue Reading

Tips to improve your young children’s story: The basics

In many ways, writing a story for young children can be more difficult than writing for an older crowd. Not only do you need to restrict your word count, but you also need to use fairly basic language and find your inner child. If that weren’t enough, you have to make sure that the prose sounds pretty. The task is not insurmountable, though–just challenging! Follow these tips, and you will be on the road to success.

Requirements are high for the discerning audience.

Continue Reading

Submission Tips

The relationship between a writer and an editor is precious; you are trusting us with your thoughts, ideas, and creative style. You are counting on us to find the missteps, improve the structure, and offer a solid evaluation. As with any relationship, incorrect assumptions–from the writer or the editor–can result in disappointment at best, and catastrophe at worst. In contrast, knowing the expectations can lead to a smooth, advantageous relationship.

The right expectations can lead to a satisfying relationship.

Continue Reading

Tips for effective comma use

Commas: we either love them or hate them. Unfortunately, comma use is not a ‘take it or leave it’ issue. Although some people would love to litter their sentences incessantly with commas and others would love to never see a comma again, accurate writers do not usually have the luxury of choice. Commas serve specific purposes; to disregard those grammatical purposes for the pleasure of our personal desires only invites confusion.

The comma battle–it doesn’t have to be like this!  

Continue Reading

Get It Right in 2014—Grammar Tips for Success

Happy New Year! What better way to start the year than to make sure that those nasty little grammar missteps are banished for good? (I suppose that there are some better ways to start the year, such as striking it rich or finding your true love, but this is a close runner-up.) For this special New Year’s Day (or day after…), I wanted to offer something special that could relate to a variety of writing disciplines and be applied throughout the year. So this blog is devoted to the parts of speech—not the boring basics, but the annoying little particulars that plague people who want to get it right.

Defeating your grammatical worries can be cause for celebration.

Continue Reading

Ways to develop strong characters

Whether they love to love them or love to hate them, readers connect to characters. If you want your fiction to shine, your characters must be believable. You can’t accomplish this while you’re writing, though; you have to do some homework first! Before you start writing a novel or short story, you need to know your main characters through and through. I’m not referring to the basics: good guy or bad guy, hair color, best friend, goal in life, and so forth. That’s just fluff. You should know where your character has been, and why he does what he does. If you take the time to know your characters on a very real level, that intimacy and depth will show in your writing.

Get to know your character. Continue Reading