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I have read many books where the character is in one place at a certain time and, without a scene break being utilised, they are all of a sudden in a different place at a different time, but it works smoothly and doesn't given the readers whiplash. Is it always necessary to use scene breaks when the character transitions to a different place, location, and time?

For example, a character is in the principal's office in the morning, then, without using a scene break, they're in the cafeteria at lunch time. Or, when a character is at home, say, in the evening, then events lead them to a different location, time and date, but a scene break also hasn't been used in this transition.

I hope this makes sense. It's just, I've read books where the author has used a scene break for transitions, and I've also read books where there are so many transitions in one scene, but it runs very smoothly.

Any help would be appreciated.

Edit: Referring to scene breaks, upon doing some research I see that there are two types of scene breaks; a soft scene break (an extra space between the paragraphs) and a hard scene break (the use of astericks or lines). I suppose what I am trying to figure out is when either of these scene breaks should be utilised. Are there any rules for this when creating a chapter? Or is it simply up to the writer to figure out how they would structure their chapter, even with all these technicalities.

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    I'm not sure what you mean by a scene break. If they move from one scene to another is that a scene break? How can it not be a scene break if they move to a different place and time? Do you just mean telling the reader there is a scene break or do you mean adding extra spaces? – S. Mitchell Nov 9 '19 at 17:54
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It is permissible, as long as it is obvious to the reader that is what happened.

That said, personally, I put in a scene break, which I can be certain is obvious to the reader. Just three asterisks (or dashes, your preference) centered on a line. I can't understand why any writer would be averse to using them.

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Your question seems to be a style issue. Personally I cannot recall ever using a scene break within a novel.

More often than not the end of a scene is also the end of a chapter. Where the end of a scene is not the end of a chapter I simply insert a blank line between paragraphs.

I use a blank line where the next scene involves a change in time or location. I also use a blank line where narrative commentary interrupts the story.

Scene breaks intercept flow and diffuse tension. Once a writer has established character and locations the breaks are counter-productive.

Imagine a scenario where "Jane" has escaped her evil captors and is racing toward St Pancras train station in a stolen car. (Character 1, Location 1). "The Bad Guys (Hans & Uri)" are chasing her. They are a few minutes behind in a van using the tracker in her phone to locate her. (Characters 2, Location 2). "Detective Inspector Bob Smith" is thrashing the shit out his police car trying to get to the bad guys before they get to Jane. (Character 3, Location 3). "D.I. Smith" is being directed by his partner "Pam" who is at head office watching the pursuit via satellite. (Character 4, Location 4).

Once we've established the characters and locations we can run all the locations through a single scene. (Ignore the line spaces. I don't get how formatting works on this site).

Speed cameras flashed as Jane hurtled along Baker Street. "Move! Asshole!" She bashed the horn and gave a taxi driver the finger.

Uri's eyes remained focused on his phone. "She went left. . . No. Your other left! Shit for brains!"

Jane powered along the bus lane, mounted the kerb, and drove the wrong way along Bristol Mews.

Pam took the headset from the analyst. "Bob, it's Pam. She appears to be heading towards Kings Cross. Take Gower St . . ."

Hans stood on the brakes. The black Mercedes Sprinter screeched to a halt. "Where'd she go?"

  • Hopefully you can see where I'm going with this. For me, if I try to see the scene: Inserting scene-breaks for every switch would be like fading to black each time.
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