Monday, October 09, 2006


You know those montages they use in the movies? Snatches of scenes and moments, usually played against some mood or time-setting music that show anything from the boxer training his way back to heavy-weight champion-fighting capacity to the young couple just fallen in love as they ride horses along the beach and have pillow fights and gaze lovingly into each other's eyes over candlelight. Montages are a staple shortcut, letting viewers believe that a good amount of time has passed full of all sorts of activity without having to actually spend the money or manpower showing all of this activity. The poor man's way to show not tell.

The other morning I was lying in bed thinking about my current story when an honest to goodness montage flashed through my brain. I had images of my hero and heroine falling in love, set to music with glimpses of them engaged in various activities. I imagined that if my story were a movie, this montage would happen right after my couple had spent their first romantic night together, and I confess it contained a whole lot of cliche falling in love scenes.

And I had to stop and laugh because I realized that what I was thinking about was indeed a movie montage. Nothing more than a shortcut to get my hero and heroine from Point A to Point B without having to write a whole bunch of "showing" scenes. None of the things I was picturing held enough substance to create a real scene with conflict and/or character development, nor would it move the story forward in any real sense. The only purpose for such a montage was to indulge my desire to watch my hero and heroine being together and being in love.

I tried to reach into the montage to grab out some key elements, something that was unique to this couple or especially intriguing or funny or poignant. I don't have a problem writing a scene that is more character/relationship development than true plot movement. But nothing I'd imagined qualified.

Besides, even if I hadn't realized what I was creating in my brain was pure fluff, I would have no possible idea in the world how to turn something that 100% visual into the written word. No dialogue. Snatches of tiny scenes lasting only a few seconds. Heck, I'd need to find a way to have the music playing in the background while the reader read it if I had any hope of capturing the mood I wanted to evoke.

I've never had one of those montage moments before. Usually I come up with bits of a scene, or a line of dialogue, or a general feeling I want to capture at a particular moment. Often nothing fully formed, but never something so blatantly empty. I don't know if this means that I'm regressing or if I'm growing because I was able to see it for what it was. Or wasn't, as the case is.

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