The first time I read those words was when I was so little, time loomed so large, and my only care was how to fill stretches of time. Capitalised above a black and white photo of someone’s grandma, I understood the words meant she had died and gone to Heaven, which I simplified to mean, no one would see her again and finally, she could snuff that thing in the little tin she carried about in peace.
Of course, now that I’m grown, my ideas have changed. Life is a series of transitions and death is the final one or another in the series, depending on what you believe.
The quality of our transitions can make or break the next phase of our lives. If you tumbled into adolescence with pimples and a pitch that would not deepen even as each new year brought your peers’ baritone in sharper focus, if you could count the hair on your face and on your chest on four of your five fingers, then you’ve known the awkwardness of bad transitions.
And if at twenty-four, your scars from popping pimples lay hidden under a well-groomed beard, you could croon the words, smooth transition, and we would nod as though Sade were singing Smooth Operator.
In writing, transitions connect paragraphs and pull scattered thoughts together so they make sense. Transitional devices are words or phrases that writers use to cue readers in a certain direction. They are like warning signs: ahead, keep left. A word like nevertheless, prepares readers for a contradiction, while furthermore, warns readers that the writer isn’t done yet; and finally, lets readers know the end is “finally” in sight.
Nowhere is the value of good transitions more evident than when writing short stories, short blog posts, or short anything. Brevity constrains writers to bottle meaning in as few words as possible. Like archers, writers discard word after word, until they find the arrow that will hit the mark.
Transitioning between time periods, i.e. moving from the present to the past and then to the future, before relaxing in the present again, requires more than bow and arrow. A good writer must deploy the right tenses and should never leave home without his adverbs of time. When writing a short story, I think it is better to avoid skipping from present to past to future to past to present. I mean, haven’t we got only one life to live?
But, we don’t listen do we? We station the protagonist in the present, give him momentum, and teach him to fly. Just when our readers blame that small urinary incontinence on gripping stuff, the protagonist leaps back in time. Reaching for a flag, he falls in a rose bush instead, pricking our readers with needles of confusion.
Loyal readers crawl back through our written lines more than thrice to locate the protagonist. But when they pick up from where they left off, they are thrust into a futuristic time travel with no warning. Dizzy from the spatial challenge, they finally abandon plot. Those who cannot lie leave a comment behind: nice one, don’t keep it coming!
So, a long time ago, I tried to write poetry. I showed my masterpiece to a
great poet teacher.
“You’ve done a half-decent job.”
“Half-decent?” My eyes widened at her audacity. She told me the truth when I asked for feedback. Who does that?
“Well, you could do better if . . .”
She rambled on about metres and stanzas, rhymes and verses. Her arms flailed like a musical conductor’s: a little alliteration, tenured cacophony, rising assonance, asinine onomatopoeia, and mindless personification. Spent, her arms dropped to her sides. Her eyes searched mine.
“Uh huh,” I replied, “But, I want to write it like this,” I showed her my poem again.
“Do you want to write poetry?”
“Y – e – s . . .”
“You can break the rules after you’ve mastered them not before!”
If you read this to the end without losing me, kudos to me, I structured my transitions right. Now, go and work on yours, so I can read your story without crawling through the lines!
©Timi Yeseibo 2014
Images from Microsoft Corporation
Photo of Omari Hardwick courtesy: http://www.omarihardwick.com
Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Timi Yeseibo and livelytwist.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
35 thoughts on “In Transition”
Beautifully written. Informative and yet entertaining.
I must say Timi, you do write really well and I hope you get great recognition for what you do and as the bible says “your gift brings you before kings” 😉
Unfortunately there are a lot of bloggers out there who need to read this and apply to their writing so that we don’t have to “crawl back through their written lines more than thrice…”
Having said that I guess I have the luxury of being an armchair critic 😉
Lol @armchair critic. Because the story is in a writer’s head, it can be difficult to see that there are gaps our readers need to cross with the help of transitional devices. I wish I had an extra pair of eyes to read my work always . . .
Thank you. Amen & amen. 🙂
What is life without transitions? Nothing but an endless journey with no hopes, aspirations and destinations. Lovely Piece, Timi 🙂
Hmmm, another perspective. My prayer then: “Oh that I may transition with grace!” 🙂
I use way too many words, that is either ‘verbose’ or ‘boring!’ I try to edit, feel badly that I have a habit of going too far. This is a great reminder to try and help the story flow, make it interesting. I had someone say they stopped to get a snack before they came back to read my post! I did laugh out loud! I understood his point of view, too! Thanks for this valuable message, Timi!! Smiles, Robin
Don’t I just love your humour Robin! The first step in curing what ails us, is recognising it. Sometimes I have friends read my post before I publish it and they hack off what I thought were beautifully constructed sentences and I wince 🙂
Your post is enlightening Timi and I get what you mean because I’ve had some experiences myself. Sometimes even to pen down something can be serious hardwork and trying not to break any rules can even hinder you from writing and make one depressed.
I believe in 2 things..
Majority of the people who just drop by and say ‘Nice post” don’t even read the post or probably grazed through the topic and first sentence and seeing you don’t catch their fancy but because they remember they require you to check out theirs and would need to drop their blog address as well would just drop the ‘Nice post thing.”
Okay, that was a long sentence..lol
Secondly, practice makes perfect and this is coupled with the fact that ONE is willing to learn from other angles, other great writers and follow people on social media who have attained greater heights in their writing or who happen to talk about Literature in a high respected fashion.
Nigerians have begun to develop their reading culture and it’s a good thing though it’s still lagging behind in many areas especially when they prefer to read free things rather than pay for it but spend money on music with crappy and shameful lyrics. Better still, they would rather spend time on reading gossip blogs but when it’s time for something serious, they begin to skip or complain that.. ‘ohh, this is too long.”
I agree that some posts are long which I myself have been guilty of sometime in the past. lol. but when I delve into it and I find first, second and third paragraph interesting, there’s nothing that won’t make me read the rest.
Why, because I believe it’s worth my time and would give me a few pointers or enlighten me more.
You write good, and you fabricate words well Timi. This makes me believe somewhere in me that you’ll be a good editor 😉 who would be quite expensive…lol
Thanks for your condolences on my friend. I am grateful.
My dear, this writing business, nor be small tin o! I am humbled that people would read what I have to say, so I feel as if I have a responsibility to serve good writing. The fact that my parents drummed the need for excellence in my head all through my growing years, drives me to slave over my writing.
I don’t do rules very well either; I ran away from the choir to escape the ‘stifling’ choir robes 🙂 But I learn the rules so that I break them consciously.
It is not only Nigerians that are affected, this is the Twitter generation, 140-characters or less, and there are many other distractions. It is scientifically proven that people behave differently online and tend to skim-read. One reason being that even with all the technological advancements, reading online is harder on the eyes. Of course there are ‘tricks’ you can use to break the monotony. As much as I love to read, when I see a blog post that’s over 1200 words, I save it for later, when I have energy! 🙂
A good writer seduces readers to follow his words. Some have seduced me into reading thousands of words and I did not even know it. Like you, that is the level I aspire for. Though on this blog, I aim to keep it short.
Gossip and celebrity life have always appealed to the masses and blogs that focus on that content tend to do well. It is a fact of life. I do not begrudge them that.
@nice post, true. But sometimes, people don’t know what to write. They are not as free with their pens as we are. I mean, see how both of us have written another blog post! That is why I always appreciate your stopping by. We have these long conversations that inspire me no end.
@condolences, stay strong. In the face of grief, words seem inadequate. Hugs!
hmmmn…Now you’ve opened my eyes to a different perspective. Thank you 🙂
“He’s intimidated by my grammar and wouldn’t want to write anything subpar!”. Finally!…good to know am not the only one, who feels the anxiety of having to comment on your posts (Surely, I had to comment on “My Mum the Superhero”). Though am four days late to my Sunday ritual; I have to say this was once more a lovely piece.
Lol John, ah ah, you know we go way back- na so I dey write; no be so my life be!
I am sooo glad you defied your “fears” and took the plunge, I appreciate your comment(s) even more 🙂 . Thank you for reading, without your encouragement, I wouldn’t have incentive to write.
Ah Timi, thank you for this relevant post, i’ve taken a lot from it. “You can break the rules after you’ve mastered them not before!” had me snapping my fingers.
Glad it was relevant to you. I don’t follow rules very well- I’m usually wondering why we can’t do it another way- so I’m also snapping my fingers!
Reblogged this on tonbareg's Blog.
I think we have only mastered technique when we are no longer aware of it. My best writing happens when I let the words unfold with confidence.
Like driving or riding a bicycle, mastery takes practice, practice, practice. Then you can ride with one hand and use your free hand to send an sms!
Words unfolding with confidence, I like how that sounds 🙂
Oh Lord! I can’t help but wonder who’s responsible for this week’s lesson. I also know cajoling you to reveal who the culprits are won’t work so I won’t even try. Let me re-read this a few times before I go hunting for poorly-written blogs. Thanks for the laughs, Timi! 😀
This is scary, you’re beginning to know me well! Okay, I’ll tell a little. I’m privileged to act as a writing mentor to a few people- now that’s a fancy way of saying, my close friends ask me to read and give pointers to ‘aspiring’ writers, whom they speak highly about.
I remind them that I charge a fee for these kinds of appraisals; they remind me of everything they have ever done for me since I was born. So, I start reading. I endure minutes of reading prose in which the writer wants to do more than they are capable of. You know sort of like trying to bench press 100kg, when your muscles can only do 15kg.
And when I tell the writers to keep it simple until they’ve built stronger muscles, they insist they are ready for 100kg! This blog post is the result of frustration 🙂
So now you know. Advance apologies to all my mentees, I love you guys to bits 🙂
I enjoyed this very much. Enlightening and Educational in an Entertaining way. Let’s hear it for the E adjectives! However, it started me off on an acne tangent in my head, thinking to myself, “Why do skin break-outs insist on transitioning with me thru EVERY decade? Grrrrr. Thanks for the great read.
I take it that you don’t usually croon Sade’s Smooth Operator then? Anyway, I bet you’ve got tips and tricks in your bag to subdue the breakouts 🙂
Thanks for reading to the end.
Where exactly do you get your pictures from? I can understand the ones gotten online, but then, the choice is striking. I did read this piece through and I’m happy I did. Kudos to you!
Thank you for reading through. Using transitions to structure our writing in a logical flow is so basic, you wonder how any one could trip over it, but I do!
The pictures on this post, I got from Microsoft images, which are free to use. I customised them to meet my needs. The word cloud, you can make at wordle.net. I like graphic design & infographics, but hardly have time to pursue those interests. So, a post like this is perfect for me to have some fun 🙂
Hmmmm you always teach me something. I will watch out henceforth. My daily job involves a lot of writing
Good to know you took something away from this post TLG. @daily job, I hope it’s fun. I’d enjoy a job that involves a good deal of writing, but nothing too academic… 🙂
How have you been?
“…but nothing too academic…” What?!?! That comment in THIS post? Hahaha what an oxymoron, Livelytwist. Really. Lol smh 😛
Maggielola lol, it isn’t an oxymoron! Come on, this isn’t an academic post. This is a funny way of telling people to take their writing a tad seriously 🙂
You remind me of a conversation I had recently, which I will blog about. I asked a friend why he doesn’t comment on my posts and he replied that he’s intimidated by my grammar and wouldn’t want to write anything subpar! 😦
Sorry Timi, but I agree with your friend. Can’t wait to read your blog post about his perception of your wordsmithery, lol!
🙂 can’t wait too!
I like your poetry teacher’s advice… As with everything in life, we have to master the rules then we can break them.
On transitions… They are a wealth of help in essay’s understanding.
Ah so now you know why I don’t write poetry… I don’t like rules! 🙂
Sound advice! Transitions are those devices that, when skillfully employed, can make the reader go like “Wow! I couldn’t stop reading!”
True, I like it when a story reads so effortlessly, as if the writer didn’t have to “work” at it. Good transitions keep us turning pages.
I guess I did Timi
Kudos to me then, I structured my transitions right! Doesn’t it just annoy you when you have to read something five times to not get it and then give up altogether? 🙂
Oh yes it’s not always funny atal. God bless you