Scene Transitions

In D4. The Man on the Mountaintop Jay returns to the realm of the living. The way he finds himself back on Dan’s couch demonstrates his still-altered mental state: he transitions from looking outward at a man in the sky, to looking inward at an anime robot on his own T-shirt. If I handled this transition well the reader should feel just like Jay, adrenaline rushing as they remember their location, like waking up in a hotel room. Maybe they’ll reread the paragraphs to take in the magic trick. Like a cinematographic dissolve, this transition aids the flow by moving the narrative while subtly contributing to the themes of the work overall. There may be spoilers for Akayama DanJay ahead, so be warned!

A scene transition can be notated with one of these things:

That line’s a hard break. Maybe the point of view and setting change over that line. A line like that makes a nice place to put a book down and take a breather. Gotta digest the last scene before moving to the next.

That’s precisely the reason I couldn’t use a line to bring Jay back to our world in D4. I didn’t want to allow the reader that pause. I needed to thrust the reader bodily across dimensions. The reader must be as shaken as Jay so that his actions make sense: of course he’s not acting perfectly logically, his world is dissolving around him!

Abstract transitions like this, from one subject to a related subject so quickly that the two concepts fuse in the audience’s mind, are perhaps most popular in film. Directors must carefully choose how to thread scenes together using cuts to transition the viewer from the previous scene to the next. The connection between scenes can be subtle, or it can be emphasized for shock. In a boxing movie you can bet a conversation will be cut short by a shot of a ringing bell. In comedy the Gilligan Cut can draw a cheap laugh: just show a character saying “I’ll never to that!” and then show the character doing that. These cuts can reset the setting, tune the tone, and imply connections between the scenes they combine.

So what does Jay’s transition say? Aside from the way it whisks the reader around, what does it contribute to the piece?

Jay sees a man in the sky. Such a cosmic man should be a deity, or a God. In a Dante’s Inferno allegory, God must be an important figure. Jay is communing directly with the upper echelons. But the godly figure is not in the sky. Jay is actually looking at his shirt. He’s looking at his own chest—inside himself. This transition, and the way I’ve avoided the hard line,

directly shows Jay’s internalization of higher power. Dan died an incomplete person, and his incompleteness drove him to Limbo. Now, reborn as Jay, he contains the celestial whole. He is complete and self-contained. He has traveled to another world and retrieved a symbol of inner holism, and he’ll only get stronger from here.

Moreover, that God turns into the robot on Jay’s shirt—the Zephyr, from LuLu’s Space-Time Acceleration. Eventually we will learn there is literally a giant anime robot in space. The reader won’t get to call bullshit; I’ve spoiled the ending for them with this transition. They should have seen it coming.

Have you seen 2001: A Space Odyssey? In the beginning a monkey throws a bone into the air and it becomes a spaceship, through a jump-cut. It whisks the reader through time and space, implying all of human evolution in an instant. I’m sort of attempting the reverse: a space-man becomes a shirt. It’s one last call of the extra-ordinary before we return to the normal world, giving the reader a taste of what’s to come.

‘Till next time, don’t forget to eat your worms!

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