The skills you don’t realize you’ve learned

imagesThe other day I was marking up a student’s manuscript and I noted that his transitions were a bit rough. He had some trouble moving the characters from scene to scene. I remember that this used to be a huge problem for me. I’d write paragraph upon paragraph of bridging material; or else I’d end the scene too abruptly and it would feel choppy. However, I could offer him no advice on how to fix the problem, since now it seems like the silliest problem ever. Fiction is so powerful. You can literally just go anywhere you want. When the scene is over, just end it.

But there’s obviously more to it than that. I just don’t quite remember what exactly that extra stuff is. I learned it, internalized it, and then forgot it. I think it’s something to do with letting out a little air at the end of the scene? Don’t end with the climax, just write a sentence or two extra: maybe include some kind of detail or image. Then you can safely end the scene. It’s just that few seconds of silence at the end of a track, so that the next track on the album doesn’t come on in too jarring a fashion.

But, in general, my facility with transitions was something that I acquired without knowing it. All of a sudden, they stopped being something that I think about. This stands in sharp contrast to other skills I’ve acquired, where I came upon the skill very suddenly, through a conceptual breakthrough that I can clearly articulate to other people. However, I’ll talk about those some other time =]