I'm writing a scene where there is a time skip, and the reader catches only the end of a piece of dialogue when we jump back in. It reads something like this:

By the time the sun had set, she had forgotten she had only just met him.

"...And then he fell into the lake."

Kirana giggled. "It sounds like you had an exciting childhood."

The idea is that this scene begins with the tail end of the previous conversation, so the reader knows the character has been telling a story and has just finished it, but without requiring me to write out the whole story, kind of like this scene from Avengers: Age of Ultron (from about 0:17-0:26 and again at 1:48-1:53).

What is the best way to make something like this "flow" properly? Should I do the ellipses at the beginning of the dialogue or is that grammatically incorrect? Is there additional narration I need to add to make this work? At the moment it doesn't sound "right" to me so what is the best way to fix this?

3 Answers 3


I think it's obvious you know more about the dialog than I do. To me, the jump from the narrative section to the dialog is a bit abrupt. I'd like a summary of the preceding dialog, or that you cut the whole dialog section completely. Otherwise, it will come off as half a section where something is missing in a problematic way.

It doesn't have to be much, maybe something like:

By the time the sun had set, she had forgotten she had only just met him. She was telling him about the time John got his fishing rod stuck in a tree and climbed it to try to get it down. "...And then he fell into the lake."

Or you could write more in the first draft (or first edit) and then cut it down as much as possible while still making it cohesive what the dialog was about.

Or cut to Kirana's giggle. Or even cut that and jump to the exciting childhood... that I assume you're expanding on in the following text, if not, maybe just jump to what happens next...

The best way I know of to catch these issues is to write the first draft as best as you can, then put it away for a couple of months or so. Then read the text in as few sittings as possible. Take notes, if you feel the need, but resist the urge to stop and edit before you've read it all. This will make you more able to come back to the text with the eyes of a reader that doesn't know anything except what is on the page.


If I understand correctly, you're talking about two separate scenes.

In that case, I would use structure to make it clearer, meaning either put a mark (such as an asterisk) between the paragraphs, or an additional empty line.

  • 1
    I think OP is trying to describe a scene where the POV character's mind is wandering while they are listing to a long story or rambling topic told by another character. Think about a scene in the Simpsons where Grandpa Simpson is telling his rambling stories to Homer, who midway through, is having an internal monolog that drowns out grandpa to both himself and the view.
    – hszmv
    Commented Dec 9, 2022 at 17:55

I don't think there is one proper way to handle what you are describing.

For the important element to keep in mind is information flow. Since you are choosing to not show the conversation -- which is fine -- that suggests what they are saying is less important to the story than that they talked.

If some future plot point or the arc of the story is dependent on this conversation, then it might be important to concisely and briefly describe the important elements of this conversation: 'and, they concluded they could take over the world' or 'they realized they both hated rhubarb.' This is so the reader doesn't feel like they are getting yanked around by the author hiding facts.

And the result of the conversation should be apparent: they go on a date, the murder each other's spouses, the exchange secret Santa gifts, and so on.

Other elements that might be useful are just things every scene shown in real time needs: setting and mood and character action and reaction. The stuff that helps makes stuff shown in scene tangible and immersive. And, these can be used to show the passage of time: the sun rose or set, the diner filled with the usual lunch crowd or the rain stopped hours ago.

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