Monday, February 21, 2011


Writers use different techniques to shift action from one time to another, one place to another or from one character to another.  The most obvious are chapter breaks in novels or the major breaks between paragraphs in short stories.  The reader is ready for a shift. 

A common time shift is simply starting the following paragraph: “The next morning, Jude was rudely awakened by Rita.”

One of the more subtle time shifts I’ve read is in Joan Shaw’s “The Victim.”  

“A Judy Collins record was playing downstairs.  It was a new record she had just bought and she was playing it over and over again.  She had heard the screams over the fiddle and guitar section in the ‘Fishermen Song,’ but supposed them to be the screams of children, playing in the park.  No, they were leaving the park, chasing her under the trees, laughing and screaming, having fun, chasing her all the way home.  It had happened every day for a long time.”  And without a break the paragraph goes on to describe her childhood.

Shaw continues to use the technique throughout the story.


Has anyone seen other interesting ways to shift action?


Townsend Walker




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