Montages in movies are a lot of fun. They spend a tiny amount of time showing us the most interesting parts of training, scientific discovery, and any other thing that needs to happen but would take a lot of time to live through. Rocky goes from inept to competent in a matter of minutes. Hiccup discovers the quirks of the man-killing beasts he’s feared all his life over the course of weeks, possibly months— condensed into a handful of quick scenes. Iron Man builds a suit in his basement through trial and error, without destroying the pacing of an otherwise quick and fun movie.
Can books do this?
It’s a question I’ve had for a while. Movies are easy to consume because they take little time compared to books, but books and prose are what I want to write. The techniques that work in movies— the character arcs, the plot twists, the magic systems— usually work in books as well. But those are story elements, for the most part. The presentation of those elements, such as slow pans, jump cuts, close-ups, and the like? Those are restricted to movies. They have parallels in the book world, of course, but the book world has its own tricks movies can’t match.
So how can we take the idea of a montage and apply it to prose? (more…)