Narrative and Transition
28 February 2018
Narrative and film have much in common. How do we tell a story? How do we tell it in words? How do we tell it in pictures? How do we tell it when we combine words and pictures? There is so much to learn about narrative from film.
I am watching a very “amateur” film on tv. The script editor is fallible and strange things are happening. The protagonist’s car, covered in snow, turns a corner and comes out shiny black, not a snow flake on it. Hey: who are you kidding? We live in Canada. The back seat of the car is piled with luggage. The passenger turns and takes a set of files from an otherwise empty back seat. The two occupants arrive at their destination and each takes one bag from that same back seat, passenger side and driver side, leaving the back seat empty: no piled luggage.
I think you get the picture. A narrative needs smooth and logical transitions, unless the narrative demands the opposite. But even then, the transition must have a certain logic, even within the realms of surreal illogicality, a reality that has its own internal demands, often dream-like and thematic.
We are the creators of the universe we create. We determine its logic. We must have confidence in our own creative powers, and in the internal logic of the actions of our characters. We develop our instincts as we write and we learn to trust those instincts the more we write. Alas, very little work or thought was put into the movie I was watching before I broke off to write this.
As for the film transitions themselves: (1) change of place; (2) change of speaker; (3) flashbacks; (4) dream-world; (5) change of camera angle on speakers; (6) close-ups; (7) middle distance; (8) wider panning … others are easily observable. To these, for our own written narratives, we can add (1) change of tense; (2) change of narrator; (3) change of point of view; (4) speeding up narrative; (5) slowing down narrative; (6) change of imagery / metaphor; (7) even, from time to time, a change of language, of print type, of punctuation etc etc.
More important than anything, though, is the internal logic of the piece we are writing, be it long or short, poetry or prose. Another consideration is that of rhythm: all writing has its own rhythm and the rhythmic flow of transitions is almost as important as the magical flow of words.