Whether I'm writing short or novel-length fiction, I always find myself writing some relatively short chunk, then wanting to skip forward in time. My writing will look like this

[ Jeff is told by his mother that the house next door is haunted.]

[ Jeff steps up to the gate of said house.]

It just doesn't feel clear to me that considerable time has passed or the setting has changed without the "enter + "---" + enter".

I'm not sure if it's considered a sloppy tactic or not, and I try not to overuse it though I want to.

  • 1
    You don't seem to want to spend time on the transition from one scene to the next, so think about that. Do transitions bore you when you're reading them? Do you get antsy when watching TV and characters are driving from point A to B, or doing a walk-and-talk down a hospital hallway? There's nothing wrong with skipping boring scenes, but do you feel like nothing important could ever happen in the car? or if you read "Three days later, they arrived at the castle," does it simply not work for you? Sep 26, 2016 at 17:46

3 Answers 3


Actually I often find myself reading that way, too.

Many novels are so overexpanded that I find myself skipping the rumination and browsing to the next page with stuff happening.

So if you find what is between two scenes boring, it is very likely that your readers will find what you would write there boring, too. So skip it.

On the other hand, there are novels that are long and fat but manage to make what Jeff thinks on his way to the other house so interesting that I am completely drawn into his being.

So if you find what is between two scenes interesting, it is very likely that your readers will etc.

Both are valid narrative styles. Choose the one that fits you and don't worry about it too much. Maybe the big fat novel is not your thing. There are wonderful slim bestsellers. Perhaps yours will be one of them.

Or you will add something in between when you write your second draft.


Bestsellers engross their readers. There are times you want your protagonist followed for every second during the climax, and other times where months or years go by and you want to skip most of it.

What do you want the reader to feel? An abrupt transition may jar them, but maybe the character is jarred after a transition, and you're setting the tone.

Transitions which are smooth but brief will allow for flow between chapters, but a page turner also has sections where action doesn't let up between chapters. Instead, the characters or the venue of the action might be changing.

There is no simple answer to your question. But you the author set the tone and pace the action. I don't think transitioning in a short, clever fashion necessarily lengthens a novel by more than 20%, but you eventually have to get on with it, sort of. The Catcher in the Rye is one of the most popular books of all time. Really? It's like it never even started it took so long for Holden to pull up his trousers.


I think you have to give the reader some sense of the passage of time. So in your example, I'd add at least a brief mention of it now being evening or something. Otherwise you risk folks losing the narrative flow (did he go right to the house, is it still daytime, when did he get that flashlight and shotgun?). This is especially important if you switch between different POVs that sync up in the novel. Visual media uses a lot of subtle clues to help orient the viewer (a different color tint for each POV or changing time is a common one), it is important to do the same for a reader. You don't have to explicitly describe what characters do between scenes, but a brief mention of "After a shower John went to the haunted house..." can allow readers to fill in the blanks and keep the timeline.

  • I've seen some movies where scenes switch without apparent connection. This is intentionally disorienting, but it has to be really good so that the audience doesn't give up on the whole thing before the pieces are tied together later. I assume that could be done in a written work, but as @JasonK notes, the visual medium makes it a bit easier.
    – Joe
    Sep 29, 2016 at 4:34

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.