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Author Topic: The literary equivalent of a montage.  (Read 7360 times)
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« on: February 24, 2011, 05:06:22 AM »

What do you do when you want to skip over a bunch of stuff that you think is a waste of time to show? My problem at the moment is that the chapter after the one that I'm going to sub for the March crit group (if there is one) jumps six months ahead and it feels like there's a gaping hole. I know that "The Wasteland" and "Ulysses" are literary montages, but I can't see sticking that sort of chapter in this book and making it work. 

To summarize:

  Max's second press conference turns into a massacre, but he and Hawk escape unscathed. Ninja picks them up and takes them to the bar where he debriefs the higher-ups. Max gets to chose a reward for a job well done. He wants to move into Scarlet's old apartment. The Nerds say okay. He celebrates by downing four glasses of Bliss and blacking out again. He wakes up plagued by night noodles. They are trying to tell him something, but he can't understand them. He gets the impression he's supposed to talk to the Jengists. He does and one of them knows where to take him for answers. He is taken to a mystical alternate reality where a bunch of stuff happens that changes the way he views his situation. He goes back home and passes out.

Then we jump six months into the future. The war between the Nerds and Iiites is almost over. There is only a hand-full of Nerds left and they're squatting in an abandoned factory. The whole chapter is devoted to catching the reader up. It's about 1/2 Max's thoughts at that point in the war and 1/2 conversation between Hawk and Max. I think it does the job, but it's clumsy and I'd love to find a better solution. I don't want to have to write six months of battle scenes, but I can't decide if I should write one more chapter showing Max really stepping into his role as co-leader of the Nerd forces. I probably will, but I'll still be skipping months of war and I need a good way to pull it off. There's only one chapter after this one (making 3 not yet subed to the group).

So, does anybody know any tricks for skipping past a lot of unnecessary scenes without the reader noticing/feeling cheated?

Life is an entanglement of lies to hide it's basic mechanisms. - William Burroughs
« Reply #1 on: February 24, 2011, 05:22:07 AM »

Authors do this all the time, and the reader is as likely as not relieved not to have to wade through masses of stuff to get to the important bit for the story to progress. It's like if you read someone's journal,  you really, REALLY don't want to read every detail of every meal they ate and how the washing up went and how they folded the ironing. So the accomplished journal reader skips all this. It's a convention. The only problem you may have is to find a neat way of showing that time has passed. One sentence should do it. The absolute classic one in literature comes towards the end of Jane Eyre. She's just been reunited with the love of her life, and now wants to skip all the waffly romantic stuff that's bound to have gone on and fast forward quite a long way, so she uses a classic sentence that breaks SO many rules of novel-writing, and simply says: 'Reader, I married him.' That's it. Then she launches straight into what their life's been like in the years after their wedding. She's done it in just four words. That's class, that is.

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« Reply #2 on: February 24, 2011, 07:43:39 AM »

Well put, Delph.

I don't think you need to worry about it too much, fnord. Lots of writers do it-- I'd love to give another example, but my brain won't pull one out. I want to say something similar is done in Dune (it might be Dune Messiah. maybe?  Shocked ), but it's been too long for me to be sure...  scratch 

I think you can pull it together without much difficulty.  smiley


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« Reply #3 on: February 24, 2011, 10:45:45 AM »

One technique that might be effective is to do some quick "telling" using a few sentences that cover the time period rather than using a break that skips over the period altogether (which then requires the back story to be filled in via dialogue, etc.).

Based on what I've read so far in your novel, it seems unlikely that Max is just sitting on the sidelines for six months. So summarize his experience.

At first it was exciting to do battle with the opposition and learn how to use cool weapons, but gradually Max grew immune to the adrenaline rush and felt increasingly less engaged and more like a machine. Point, shoot, run for cover, reload--over and over and over. (What is Cheeky is doing all this time: does he fight side-by-side with Max?) The only thing that kept him going was the hope of seeing Addy again when it was all over. After six months of warfare in which he learned more about killing than he had ever thought possible [or some other action or status update (e.g., in which the Nerds never seemed to prevail)], Max found himself holed up in an abandoned Bio-Bed factory with Hawk and a ragged group of Nerds...

Maybe it would take a few more sentences, but that's the gist of it. You could answer a few questions that readers will have--stuff that might not fit in the dialogue/thoughts he has in the meat of the chapter...

Anyway, it's an idea for how to handle a gap without leaving an actual gap--which I find annoying if overdone. I think I mentioned the gap when Max was with the Iiites in the sewers... I would like to have seen a brief summary similar to the above describing his training rather than skipping it entirely.
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