Bridging Scenes Don’t Exist

Bridging scenes don't existControversial opinion coming up: bridging scenes don’t exist. The notion of a ‘bridging scene’ came from a comment on a previous topic on scene structure:

Every scene as a short story or mini-play? Not everything can stand alone, what to do with bridging scenes to get from one to another?

Structural Integrity

Talking about scene structure, I advocate every scene is a short story; or a mini-play if it’s mostly dialogue.

‘Not everything can stand alone.’ We’re not talking about standing alone, we’re talking about the scene having structure while contributing to the overall story arc.

Every scene needs a beginning, middle/conflict and a resolution. It may be a hanging resolution or hanging question, but there is an outcome to the conflict within the scene. In this way every scene has a narrative arc which should engage the reader.

Otherwise, what do you have? A digression into pancake recipes? A review of Medieval sneakers?

From One to Another

The idea of a ‘bridging scene’ doesn’t really work for me.

  • What is it bridging?
  • Why is it there?
  • What does it contribute?

I accept some scenes lead us from one incident or plot point to another. That’s what bridges do in the real world, connect one shore to another. So what does our ‘bridging scene’ bridge?

  • Is there reaction or reflection by the characters to whatever just happened?
  • Is there a decision or a consequence following what just happened?
  • Does it prepare us or pose a question for what happens next?

Often characters have to unscramble or make sense of the mess of the previous scene. Often that involves plans, choices, dilemmas. Recovering from events or planning for the next one demands choices and actions.

Reaction and reflection after events necessitate writing character. What do they think and why? How does it change their thinking or future plans? How does it impact their behaviour or choices moving forward?

Reaction can also bring conflict with other characters, from ‘I told you so’ to ‘what do I do next?’

This is why so-called ‘bridging scenes’ need a beginning, middle/conflict and a resolution in order to move the narrative on to the next scene, incident or plot point.

The Cutting Room Floor

If the ‘bridging scene’ doesn’t accomplish any of these? Then ask if it’s really a scene and what is its purpose. In my unfinished novels I had plenty of dialogue scenes that achieved nothing except inflate the word count. I had no firm scene goals, a weak conflict and a weaker resolution. So I cut them.

This is why bridging scenes don’t exist in fiction. If a scene doesn’t contribute, it has to go. There’s no room for passengers. This is why film makers employ the jump-cut. Scenes that don’t contribute waste screen time and the audience’s attention. That’s a cardinal sin. It’s the same in fiction.

Why is there a bridge  when there should be a continuous path?

2 thoughts on “Bridging Scenes Don’t Exist”

    1. You call those badly written inserts that don’t meet a scene objective – if they have one. Or else they mooch around without adding reaction/reflection, or setting up the next scene. Often I think it’s just bad editing or poor re-writing. A script that made sense when it was green-lit gets hacked around by committee til all the goodness is squeezed out of it. I could tell you about the script disasters that blighted the first feature film I worked on…

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