In my novel I have many different story lines that are happening at the same time. If I have one scene that takes seven pages and then flips to another scene that actually happened at the same time but in a new location and with different characters, then how do I write the switch without confusing the reader?

  • 2
    "meanwhile, back at the ranch..." ;)
    – Mac Cooper
    Feb 18, 2015 at 21:00

1 Answer 1


At first: Clearly establish the character or location. The first time you show new location or POV character, clearly establish both. To do that, focus on two things: sensory details (what the character is sensing through the five senses) and opinions (what the character thinks of the things being sensed).

The character's opinions will help establish the character.

The first time, use all five senses. These will help establish the location--and to some extent the character: Of all of the available sensations, these are the ones the character is noticing.

Later: Re-establish the character or location. The next time you flip to an already established location or POV character, remind the reader by reusing some of the more telling details and opinions. Include a few new details and opinions, to help the reader see what's changed.

Later: Quickly recall the character or location. Later in the story, a quick reminder (recalling one or two evocative details) will be enough, as long as you've clearly established them earlier.

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    Also, add some time-stamping or time-orienting elements, like noting that it's the morning, or setting it after an event which the reader knows happened at the beginning of the previous scene. Feb 18, 2015 at 20:25
  • In the first scene a preacher is hollering at a girl as she runs across a field. It ends with him being out of breath and exhausted from hollering at her. This is in the first chapter. Then after that 7 page scene ends with the preacher gasping for air it immediately switches to a couple who have just finished having sex and is out of breath looking at the ceiling. Totally different characters and location. How would I make that transition without jolting the reader? It actually is happening at the same time as the preacher is hollering. And, thank you so much for your response.
    – Mark Ross
    Feb 18, 2015 at 21:31
  • I totally get the sensory details etc and have established my characters well. I just need to know how to switch. Do I say, "Meanwhile..." or At that moment...or...across town....? I have many scenes written but do not know how to connect those scenes that take place at the same time in the same chapter.
    – Mark Ross
    Feb 18, 2015 at 21:34
  • One more thing....I read once that you should put *** stars between scenes like this so the reader knows some new location and characters are coming into story. That seems wrong to me so I wanted to see if anyone has a clearer answer. Thanks again.
    – Mark Ross
    Feb 18, 2015 at 21:36
  • Yes, Mark, that's called a scene break. When readers see scene breaks, they typically expect that something has jumped: Time, location, or POV character. So: To indicate a jump in time, location, or POV, add a scene break. Printed books and ebooks represent scene in a variety of ways. For manuscripts, a common way to indicate a scene break is to put a single pound sign on a line by itself. shunn.net/format/story.html Feb 18, 2015 at 21:47

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