This blog is welcome to anyone and everyone, regardless of race, class, gender, sexual orientation, or political affiliation. Unless you don't like writing short stories or smelling bear. Or if you voted for the other guy. Also, I don't really like it when you leave up the toilet seat, so could you stop doing that? Muchas, muchas gracias.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Transitions

The toughest changes in life seem to come from nowhere, to happen abruptly, kicking us into some strange future. Luckily, most changes aren't tough in this way because one thing leads to another, which leads to another, etc. and we can look back and figure out the why and the how of it, and the universe seems to have a sense of order.

But I want to talk for a minute about transitions in prose, because the art of the transition is the art of the short story (one of my creative writing teachers told me this -- I can't remember who). Transitions are tricky to write, and I love them above all other devices. They transport the reader from paragraph-to-paragraph, scene-to-scene, season-to-season, and year-to-year. The transition imitates a change in time, place, or circumstance, just as fiction imitates experience. Good ones do their thing as if by magic because the reader doesn't know how they ended up somewhere new, nor do they notice that they got there.

Here's an example of a rough transition:

Meanwhile, back at the ranch. . .
This kind of transition draws attention to itself because it's abrupt and familiar. We recognize it and we become conscious of this recognition and there goes what we'd been nurturing all along: that we were immersed in some version of life other than our own present. As a result, a bad transition is slightly "traumatic" for the reader.

Which, here: I've been reading Deborah Eisenberg's new collection called Twilight of the Superheroes, and she's killing me with her beautiful transitions. In the following excerpt, she moves us from a character's thoughts about a man who pursued her and who she withdrew from, to her thoughts about having move out of the room she's renting because the couple who rents to her will need the room for their baby:
The brilliant autumn days graded into a dazzling, glassy winter with skies like prisms, and then spring drifted down, as soft as pale linen. She painted her room a deep, mysterious blue.
Most apparent in this is the pretty language. But to get deeper here, note the words that convey changes and what's ephemeral/ubiquitous, such as the past-tense verb graded, which goes so well with the word "prisms," the refraction of light, the rainbow, the gradual gradation from red to orange to yellow to green, etc. We're effectively transported through time via the seasons, but we're also transitioned into a new mood or tone because Eisenberg takes us from images that are superficial and hard (dazzling and glassy) to softer, less definite images, such as drifted, pale linen, and blue.

My purpose in telling you this (besides pointing out a skill that I admire and want you, my beloved readers, to know about) is I guess to say that if a writer puts a lot of effort into her transitions, whether or not her subject matter is easy, she's doing her utmost to love you, the reader, because no matter what she puts you through in re: imitating life, she's not about to imitate a tough change on top of that. In other words, while on one level you're reading something that imitates life, a transition has just a little less to do with the story being told and more to do with the reader's actual experience as they sit there in their easy chair or whatever, reading the story. As for me, then, I'm certianly no Deborah Eisenberg but please know that I'll do my best to demonstrate that I love you and to be attentive to your needs because your comments mean everything.

58 Comments:

Blogger Labbie said...

Meanwhile, back at the lab...

Two posts in one day? You really do love (us), don't you?

10:00 PM

 
Blogger matty said...

I feel the love and always admire your transitions.

11:55 PM

 
Blogger purplesimon said...

Transitions. So important. Your (second) example was beautiful and I will be searching out this collection you speak of.

I don't have much time to stop here and comment: work calls. It's not the same as writing a short story, but short stories don't pay the bills. I do, however, feel the love you're sending out to us all.

purplesimon out...

2:35 AM

 
Blogger ginab said...

tgif (I think that's a transition). My last one ...

I'm too tired here. So tired I could crawl into your pocket Ing, if you don't mind, and sleep contentedly.

(hello Purple Si!)

-g+bb

6:49 AM

 
Blogger josh williams said...

Great post, as usual. The sun rose and I leapt out of bed and into responsibility. I have found you a blue ox to (time share) use when you are at camp Bunyon. Its one of the finest examples of a miniature giant blue ox’s I ever did see. Strength JW

7:15 AM

 
Blogger Le Chitelier said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

11:56 PM

 
Blogger Le Chitelier said...

I never really did take conscious note of how important transitions are in writing. I'm glad you brought that up.

I'm also wondering if you are hinting at the importance of transitions in life...

11:57 PM

 
Blogger sage said...

Your prism picture reminded me of Pink Floyd's album (I suppose I should transition to CD), "Dark Side of the Moon." Ever notice how the song "Money" just doesn't seem to belong there--no transition at all.

6:55 PM

 
Blogger ginab said...

Number Nine

number nine

9

(comment?)

-g+bb

11:05 PM

 
Blogger ginab said...

Neat is the neverending of "always". And as you or I go, said the stable boy fresh from the ranch, behold the lady Ing.

10:22 AM

 
Blogger digitic said...

Change is growth and life
Nothing more comforting than
Experiencing.

Cry not in regret
For you are salt of the earth
Look forward eyes wide.

Opposite darkness
Is the warmth of soft sunlight
Joy and love fills you!

10:53 AM

 
Blogger lryicsgrl said...

AH, when I saw this post title, I thought your words would too, be missing for awhile........(this is my transitions).................

Thank you for this informative lesson, I will copy and paste it, and really paste it to the computer. My teenager LOVES to write, her talent is the LONG story; she has been writing the same story for two years. Endless amounts of time put into it. Actually, it is more of a "series", really, isn't it?

Love back to you, from a reader!

12:42 PM

 
Blogger ginab said...

With my books packed away, my brain has gone flat. I cannot transition myself out the door, let alone....

but we (me and 'you know') want to say hi to a worldly pal writer gal; to YOU, and with Love's stamp, we want to ask, "where can't you go?"

-g+bb

PS: sounds like Lzygrl's daughter is fare for Story, or not story, but you know...fill her in, k?

8:58 PM

 
Blogger ginab said...

One Story. That's it!

8:59 PM

 
Blogger Captain Carl said...

Arrr...ye be a sweetheart......the Capt is in transition right now....just like yer post......

2:21 PM

 
Blogger josh williams said...

ing I am not going to warn you again, either comment or respond to our comments. It has to be one or the other I feel I am speaking for everyone (unless they object and have a better point) but you have to comment or respond or we are all going to...try to figure out another strategy to make you talk, torture is almost out of the question. JW

8:38 PM

 
Blogger ticharu said...

I don't know if it's exactly a need, but I would find it interesting if you have the time to investigate a couple of the bands I listed on Ticharu Gets Legs and get back to me with any comments if you find something that trips yer trigger dearest Ing!

8:56 PM

 
Blogger Pixie Sprinkle said...

I think drivers should put thought into their transitions too. There would be far less road accidents if more people read this blog.

9:20 PM

 
Blogger ing said...

Blaaargh, I've gotten sooo behind on this, my commenting! I will talk to each and every one of you in the next few days, okay? It's just -- I run a book club and had to hurry up and finish the book. PLUS, I joined a gym. And I have two (yes, two) dates tomorrow, one in the afternoon and one in the evening! AND I'm selling my house! And working longer hours! Help me! HEEELLLLLPPPPP ME JOSH WILLIAMS ONLY YOU CAN SAVE ME. . .

11:25 PM

 
Blogger josh williams said...

Put your forehead against your monitor. Now the palm of my hand is pressed firmly against my monitor, ing I say ye are SAVED! SAVED! (twice for good measure) now I need to lay down I'm sapped of all my energy. i must rest i.....I'm fine.You may now have an uncontrollable urge to go to church, probably not a good idea. I suggest you go and have a good lunch instead, being saved burns a lot of energy, refuel your saved self. JW

7:10 AM

 
Blogger lryicsgrl said...

Ah, Ingaling, don't worry 'bout the comments. Just tell us all about the HOT dates, ok?

7:49 AM

 
Blogger Le Chitelier said...

WOOHOO!!

*sings*
Two hot dates!
Two hot dates!

See how she runs!
See how she runs!

7:53 AM

 
Blogger ing said...

Ing's date rap:

About those dates, I'll tell and I'm willin',
two hot dates and I'm Saved like Dylan.

* * *

I have to run -- I'm going to lift some weights in case I feel the sudden inclination to kick some serious ass, and I then I need to shower up and sheathe everything that can be sheathed. If one of these dates so much as looks at me funny I might get preggers. And babies frighten me, they do, because with my luck, I'd end up with one sort of like Rosemary's.

9:21 AM

 
Blogger matty said...

Ing -- I fell down! Apparently one should drink water after being sick for 24 hours. Milford is mad at me. oy. Can't wait to hear about the dates!!!!!

11:53 AM

 
Blogger ing said...

Matty:

If you don't start taking better care of yourself, I'm going to be pissed! Please, please, please drink lots of fruit juice and water (no on the diet coke, for now).

Okay, I have to make myself look stunning. Hmmm, should I wear the tight jeans or the little skirt? Cowboy boots or platform clogs? Literary t-shirt that makes my boobs look huge or the shirt that shows off my biceps? Arrr.

1:47 PM

 
Blogger ginab said...

beam me up

2:16 PM

 
Blogger Captain Carl said...

Arrr...ay wish ya lots of luck with yer dates darlin........if ya have problems ta Capt will be watchin out from above.......

5:26 PM

 
Blogger josh williams said...

With Cappy watching over you, all should be well. However and this may be to late, he is a semen and sea men(I am weak, forgive me) do have a reputation for tall tales and short ships or is it short tales and tall ships?
Anyway cappy will keep you safe and the rest of us informed. Loose lips sink ships? Cappy aint even got a body!
I made all this except for cappy not having a body and the parts about his character and the other parts. That dont make me no liar!

9:37 PM

 
Blogger ing said...

Okay, here's the scoop on my two dates!

The first guy I shall call Tomboy. This is because he specified that he was looking for a woman who can wield tools, which, I did a lot of construction (specifically electrical) way back when, to supplement my bookstore wages. AND I've worked on cars/done carpentry & masonry & that kind of thing in the past. Though I'm really quite girly. . .

ANYWAY, I showed up at the coffeeshop, right on time. After fifteen minutes I figured he wasn't going to show. Then he did (he'd never been to the coffeeshop and had trouble finding it and was sweetly apologetic).

Hunk ahoy, mateys. Tomboy is cuuuuuuute and yummy! Tall, blonde, and kind of surfer-artsy. We talked for a bit and though there were a few awkward pauses, I liked the guy.

Turns out we both lived in Washington State for a while. The only rough spot was when he told me he has three cats and then I explained that I'm not a huge cat fancier.

I couldn't tell if Tomboy liked me or not, but he was very sweet and polite, and at one point he put on his reading glasses to look at an article I brought, which raised the cuteness factor exponentially. At the end of the date I said I had to go, and I stuck out my hand. He pulled me in for a hug. I definitely want to date this guy again!

The next date was in cute little Berkeley. The guy I was meeting there I call Mathman. He's handsome in this Adrian-Brody-kind-of-way; nerdy-hot. We met at a teahouse he'd chosen, which meant I had to walk two miles from the BART station. Not a bad walk, as it was a nice day, but I should have worn more practical shoes (I had on heels, but no biggie).

I ordered a cup of Jasmine, and Mathman seemed to think that was a little boring -- he'd chosen Yerba Matté, which, the last time I drank it I felt kind of high. Come to think of it, maybe I should've. . .

Anyhoo, I could tell from the outset that we weren't a match. He was dignified, for sure. . . calm, steady, and impeccably dressed in a sportscoat and white linen shirt. Me, I was wearing tight jeans and a t-shirt with a somewhat lascivious graphic between the boobs (I think Tomboy appreciated this).

We talked a little about our interests: his, math; mine, writing. Polar opposites. I started to notice that Mathman was watching my hands very carefully. When I'm nervous I talk with my hands, and the more he scrutinized my hands, the more I used them. I started to feel hugely self-conscious, and my hand gestures I think became more and more outlandish. For instance, I was talking about pictographs on rocks, and as I did, I made a sort of writing motion on an imaginary cliff face. Just worse and worse.

Anyway, I cut that one off as soon as I finished my tea, then I walked two miles in the dark, back to the train, and Berkeley looked pretty happening at night. I want to go back there. Maybe if Tomboy says he's interested, maybe I could get him to take me.

But y'know, the ones you like are rarely the ones who like you. It's this rule of fate. The main thing is, I have little experience with dating and all this is very good practice. One must try asking, rejecting, accepting, and being rejected. Dating is a skill. I hope I eventually get good at it.

11:06 PM

 
Blogger Dan L. said...

Ing:

I thought I would visit your blog, and now my comments...
are somehow inserted between stories about your experiences and your personal dating stuff. I would not even be here except the links led to to you from...Ginab, "The Culprint" (sorry, Gina...I am just babbling)

Well, I truly wish the very best to you, Ing, and your personal life. We all need SO much, even if the rest of us (men) fake it, you (a woman) are quite up front.

May I share a word or two?...Ok, my advice is: DO NOT not walk two miles to meet some guy. Let HIM do the walking. Let HIM want to get to you. I am a guy (duh), and I will walk FOREVER if I want to really bother with a girl (I am married, so I speak of my dating days, but...) I will still WALK FOREVER for my bride.

You seem most sincere, and I respect that. There are a ton of us men out there that wish to meet a truly sincere woman. It may seem true that nice guys are hard to find...a lot of that is because truly nice (nice=respect a woman) guys are taught to be "tough" or "sophisticated". Many, nowadays, are taught by THE TELEVISION to be raunchy, egotistical, and selfish (reference BET network, MTV and VH1 videos).

I do feel for you. I have four older daughters (one with a baby and living at home). I deal with the "relationship" thing constantly.

On a different note...
I was recently in S.F., as I think I once visited your blog and told you. I wish I had the time, and knew how...to stop in and say "Hi" to you. I was buried under a busload of school kids...my daughter's band visiting the area for a competition of several schools. I would have liked to visit "Gina's friend", as I have come to know you. Gina is cool. You must be too.

You have a neat blog. I wish you the best.

--Dan L.

11:48 PM

 
Blogger Pixie Sprinkle said...

You could try wearing handcuffs to your next date Ing? Or keep them in your pockets? Just make sure there's no loose change in them - nothing worse than a nervous change-jangler...

12:15 AM

 
Blogger ing said...

dan l.:

Yes, I remember that you came to San Fran! Thanks for the advice. But I honestly don't mind a two-mile walk through Berkeley. There are so many cool bookstores there! Besides, I was really curious about Mathman because he was so smart. I figured it was worth finding out, and it was neat to meet a normal and interesting guy, even though I could see we weren't meant to date. The tea was lovely -- jasmine smells so good!

_____________

pixiekins:

I didn't don the handcuffs because I don't want my prospective dates to get the wrong idea. Nylon stockings are much more comfortable. . .

Change-jangling is indeed pervy. But Pix, my jeans fit so, shall we say, well that there is neither jingling nor jiggling. I didn't join the YMCA to hide my assets.

12:32 AM

 
Blogger digitic said...

I agree with DL ... make the guy walk. Okay, so I'm a queer guy so what do I know?

Nevertheless, guys love to do things like that "Dude! I walked 15 miles just to see her face!" and "Dude! Did you see her look at me? She glanced in my direction! Dude! I'd climb a mountain for her!"

On the queer side it's more like "Dude! Did you see his shoes? Ewww!" and "Dude! Where did he get that scent? It smells like Lysol and Lemon juice!"

Oh well ... women have it made in the shade. Dude!

12:36 AM

 
Blogger ing said...

Oh, Milford. Milford, Milford, Milford.

From what I hear (and I fully admit that I am basing this only on my own limited observations), queer guys are sooo much nicer to each other to each other than straight guys are to women. If they criticize shoes and scents, well, at least they're criticizing something pretty superficial which then nicely exposes their superficiality, or else they're picking on shoes because there's not much else to pick on. I'd rather be shunned for my shoes than for my facial features or awkward laugh or age or something so personal. But y'know, straight men will also criticize the ladies for wearing makeup (we should be "naturally beautiful!) or tennis shoes or skirts that hang below the knee.

Let me revise that. There are two kinds of straight guys. One is absolutely considerate and will do the walking. This one is generally happily married to some lucky chick and I do not go for this kind of man but simply admire the lucky chick.

The other kind is single. One out of like thirty of these guys is about my age. Of these, one out of twenty is someone I'd date and of these, one out of ten is someone who'd date me. It's incredibly, incredibly rare that these prospective dates would walk for me. When I meet him, when he walks those two miles, he's going to get something really great for dessert, and then seconds, and then thirds (if he can), and you can bet he's going to be dazed in the morning and plumb worn out.

I'm not trying to get all political on you, here, but there's this power imbalance between straight dude and straight chick, and unless the dude is super enlightened, the chick gets the short end. I wonder if this imbalance exists between queer and queer. Between queer dude and straight gal, from my limited experience, the scales seem to even out a bit, and lordy, that's great! Of course I have my ginafriends and nothing, nothing, is more sacred than that. But I do love what I'm learning about the potential of man and what I should and do want from a man in addition to toe-curling sex, and y'know what kind of man I'm learning this from?

That's right!

Oh, and Milford, I have a present for you! You're going to love it!

1:14 AM

 
Blogger Pixie Sprinkle said...

Ing my mum always takes a set of handcuffs out on a date. gee. must be a cultural difference.

Your perfect date jolly well should walk two miles for a woman like you. On his hands

2:46 AM

 
Blogger ing said...

pix:

Ahh, yes, our mothers and their wily ways. Mine had a special bag for her leather sling, plus an industrial ceiling-hook. She preferred airplane cable to nylon stockings, or fishing line in a pinch (sailors, y'know?). But things skip a generation and I guess I like the soft touch.

But on his hands?! Great for the triceps, I suppose, but the feet would do. As long as he's barefoot and handsome.

_______________

Milford:
p.s.

3:01 AM

 
Blogger Pixie Sprinkle said...

Wow Ing - that all sounds so familiar. Could we be sisters?

It shouldn't matter if he walks on either hands or bare feet. As long as they are blistered and bloodied that's all that counts. You are worth gravel rash Ing. You are.

3:10 AM

 
Blogger Le Chitelier said...

You stuck your hand out for a hand shake and he pulled you into a hug???

HOT!!! HOT!!! HOT!!!!!

I think Tomboy liiiiiiikes you!
*taunts Ing in a very childish manner*

Don't like the cats? Heck, there's no such thing as the PERFECT relationship.

Oh and maybe Mathman just has a hand fettish and was mesmerized by your stellar dexterity.

11:26 AM

 
Blogger lryicsgrl said...

I talk with my hands MUCHO, in fact, if I sit on them, I can't hold a conversation....so there! I found someone to love me, and more than once. As you have. So eff him if they can't take a little gesticulation!!! If he had any imagination, he would think of the more "creative" things you can do with those "handy" hands. ( I am bad, I know.) The mathman sounds like a "drag".
I think that Tomboy, likes you too! And even if it doesn't turn out to be "like like", he definetly liked you. So, you never know? You've got the right attitude though, yes you do!

1:14 PM

 
Blogger matty said...

Lying here. All alone in my sick but tumor free bed I had wanted to see a new post, but none. however, many, many new comments! So, that is cool too.

I do so want to say that I like what Dan said -- and, well, I guess I do -- however, I fear Dan has not been single in SF or a big city of this sort. Men don't do that. Straight or gay. You really have to put forth an effort to meet people. It ain't easy.

...and, walking is good for us!

Love comes from unexpected places, but it can't find you if you're not out there somehow, some way. I am just bummed about mathguy, tho. He was sooo cute. But, Yay for Tomboy!

yay!

dating.

handcuffs.

well, sometimes they go hand in hand.

and, sometimes -- most times -- not.

5:27 PM

 
Blogger Labbie said...

Congrats on the dates...

Hope your life gets a little more aligned.

6:58 PM

 
Blogger Captain Carl said...

Arrrr....if only ay had hands ta cuff......
love yer book rec.....it is me in a nutshell.........

the Capt is so proud of ya......you have more guts goin on dates like that then anyone the Capt knows......ay hope yer surfin bird is works out fer ya....

10:41 PM

 
Blogger jungle jane said...

Ing, I think you should know that Beck is over at Josh William's place. You don't think there's any funny business going on do you?

if so, i am sorry you had to find out in this way...but its probably for the best, you know...

3:53 AM

 
Blogger ginab said...

I'm on hold right now with corporate america. you move a stone's throw away, and all of 'em come at you straight for the balls. I've explained a thousand times, "i have no balls". will they believe me? they start milking me, not realizing they need only to bilk me. the problem with america today? people are so busy they can only associate words with things; they cannot read to see straight. the buggers.

a costly and painful transition: a stone's throw.

-g+bb

ps: took me three damn nights to read one story by alice munro.

6:51 AM

 
Blogger sage said...

wow, the transitions in all these comments...

12:38 PM

 
Blogger josh williams said...

Captain Carl bought Becks body, I'll send you the head no charge. Its the best I can do, maybe his body will grow back if you feed him and nurture him. No hard feelings?

2:35 PM

 
Blogger Le Chitelier said...

Hmmm, Josh, maybe if you let me have a sample of Beck's DNA I can grow a new one in a test tube for Ing.

(word verification: whoips)

3:36 PM

 
Blogger Captain Carl said...

Arrrrr.....now if ya wanna get with Beck.....ya gotta get with me.......

7:38 PM

 
Blogger josh williams said...

ing I never meant any of this to happen, but well I am but human and there was money on the table and I owed a ton of booki...fellow world savers a ton of cash so I had to find Carl a body the poor Captain! Dont you see Cappy was sad and now he is happy! We are all happy, right? Best I turn in much has happened and I am weary. JW

9:14 PM

 
Blogger ing said...

Le chit, I accept your offer.

As for Carl and his cohort Josh Williams, I am having a vision. In this vision I see a word. I see the word "ass." Wait, there's something else -- I can barely make it out. . . Is it?. . . yes, I see the word "grass."

On a more personal note, one really should not mess with my future, my husband. Unless, as I implied, you want your asses to = grass, in which case, please, please be my guests.

11:47 PM

 
Blogger Captain Carl said...

But ay thought it would make you like me even more.........ay am more Beck now than Capt......ay will work day an night to regain love...........

9:48 AM

 
Blogger Bloodgood said...

Hey Ing,
Hows it goin, my wife was so pissed when I showed her the Capt's Blog. She hates decapitation, its one of her worst fears, and she is the only one I know that loves Beck on the same level as you.
Great Post, good luck with dating.

10:15 AM

 
Blogger DorianGray1854 said...

Good afternoon!!

I think the Waylon Jennings' transitions in The Dukes of Hazzard were great, or at least I think it was Waylon. Anyhoo good luck on getting it going in the dating world. I am recently getting back into the swing of society, and I must say it is enjoyable.

2:58 PM

 
Blogger jungle jane said...

Ing, I have Beck's head right here. I was going to use it as a doorstop. Shall I pack it on ice and send it to you instead? I am not sure what I would use to keep my door open in future but for you I will simply put up with a bit of a breeze...

9:40 PM

 
Blogger ing said...

Jane:

Please refrain from using the head as a doorstop and please, please keep the cat and any other animals away from it. Pack it carefully, lovingly, in ice, and please handle it by the hair -- do not leave any visible marks on the face!! (And try not to muss the hair, by the way.)

Send it second-day-air, if you will, and I'll ask Cappy to meet me the sedond it arrives. Beck and I have some mending, some healing to do together. This should only strengthen what we already have.

Stay tuned. Let our love be a shining example.

7:09 AM

 
Blogger Captain Carl said...

Arrr....ay was coming here ta tell you Im on my way.......but ay can see whats goin on.......you cant have his body back until ay have a replacement body.....an ay need one that can dance.....Michael Jackson simply wont do.....

11:30 AM

 
Blogger Le Chitelier said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

6:42 PM

 
Blogger Le Chitelier said...

Sorry Ing, I snatched your Beck head when Janey wasn't looking. Now please excuse me while I go cook and sew.

6:43 PM

 

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