Friday, April 27, 2012

X is for eXit

Via Wikipedia

I've always thought that writing exits was a little bit tricky.

You can't do them as smoothly as they work in real life. For example
He turned and exited the room
is the standard way of removing a character, but it can sound a little awkward. (An awkward exit. Say that five times fast.)

It would be so much easier to write "character exits. Fade out" but that's screenwriting, not novel writing.

I was curious how "the masters" handled exits, so I gathered up five books by five of my favorite authors and sifted through them. None of them, so far as I can tell, used "turned and exited."

Here are five authors and the way they write exits

Brian Jacques, Redwall
The scavengers dashed off, bumping clumsily into each other with panic as they tried to get through the door together.
This certainly brings a more vivid picture than "turned and exited" does.

Jane Austen, Emma
Without knowing when the carriage turned into the Vicarage-lane, or when it stopped, they found themselves, all at once, at the door of his house; and he was out before another syllable passed.
An awkward situation calls for an awkward exit, but Jane Austen handles it smoothly.

J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
"Stay there! she said, and she sprinted up the stairs to the girls' dormitories.
If Hermione had merely "turned and exited" it wouldn't have conveyed her excitement as well.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The Speckled Band
She dropped her thick black veil over her face and glided from the room.
The mysterious woman cannot simply "exit" the room.

Suzanne Collins, Catching Fire
My body reacts before my mind does and I'm running out the door, across the lawns of the Victor's Village, into the dark beyond.
Much more powerful than "turned and exited."

Dashed off, sprinted off, glided off - there are lots of alternatives to the generic "exit."

Now I just need to find ways to put better exits into my own writing.

I have to exit - I mean, dash off now!

Do you have trouble writing exits, or do they come naturally? Ever written an awkward exit? Ever read an awkward exit? Ever made an awkward exit?
Let me know by commenting!


  1. I wrote an awkward exit in a recent story of mine that's making the submission rounds:

    The net advised immediate retreat while the situation was in his favor. If he'd been able to take his eyes from her while doing so, he might not have shoulder-checked the doorframe on his way out.

    Awesome idea for an "X" entry! It's one of those things you probably don't think about until you find yourself trying to write one.


  2. I'm pretty sure all of my exits are awkward, but it's honestly not something I put loads of thought in to - I am learning a lot through the A-Z challenge! :D

  3. If I'm feeling a disconnect with the piece to begin with, I have trouble with exits. Otherwise, I don't really think about it. I'm so busy visualizing the scene that the exit happens without me knowing it (or I don't show an exit at all but cut the scene before anyone leaves).

  4. P.S. Got a new story up and, hopefully, the last SF tomorrow.

  5. These were great. I'll have to go check out my exits and make sure they go "zing" like these.



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