Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Story Transitions

"The Artist" won at the Golden Globe Awards last Sunday. A retro silent film, I wouldn't be surprised if it had script frames. Silent films were influenced by literature, and literature had always had detailed descriptions of changes in character POV, time or setting. In silent westerns, for example, you'd read placards like: "MEANWHILE BACK AT THE RANCH."

When talkies were invented, a voice-over, or a voice over and text pronouncement, identified each time or setting transition.

The first film to use a jump cut--a transition where the narrative simply jumps to the next scene--was Jean-Luc Godard's "Breathless." Godard had shot 8,000 meters of film, and the producers had a maximum limit of 5,000 meters. Godard had to cut the film down or it would be unsellable. According to Godard, he and his editor flipped a coin at each scene in a sequence and let fate determine which footage to cut. Necessity invented the jump cut.

Now screenwriters write the next scene without any labeling, regardless of its placement in the narrative, chronological or not. Film and television are training readers to fill in the gaps between scenes, and to jump between character's POV's.

Super authors head hop. Their characters change setting without overt trails. Their readers seem to follow the story.

I'm not a super author. But can I use super storyteller techniques?


Jill James said...

Ana, great question. This sounds like a great spot for Beta readers. Take a poll. How many got lost and how many did just fine?

Ana Morgan said...

This is a good suggestion, Jill. Thanks!

morgan said...

Good Morning,
As a person who knows how the story goes, it is easy to forget the reader doesn't always know and not make a smooth transition. Thank goodness for critique partners is all I can say. Good blog.

Christina Cole said...

The "rules of writing" are largely unwritten rules, and besides, as they say, rules are made to be broken. I think writers should use whatever tools and techniques they need in telling their stories, and if a few rules get broken along the be it.

Vonnie Davis ~ Romance Author said...

My agent is so opposed to jumping heads, she'd never represent a book that did. She demands ****'s to indicate pov changes. It wasn't easy for me to adapt; all my fav romance writers (big money makers, of course) jumped heads all the time. Why couldn't I? Her response? "When you've consistently been on the NYT's best sellers' list and have a strong earning history behind you, then you can do what you want. Until then, do it the right way."

So, imagine my shock when the editor for my second project took out my ****'s between pov changes in two scenes. She said I'd written the changes so seamlessly, the asterics weren't needed.

Two different opinions. Who's right?

Josie said...

Great suggestion about beta readers. What they see is really eye-opening.