How would you show slow progress without boring your audience?

by Josie E.
(Fukui, Japan)

Question: How would you show slow progress without boring your audience? By slow progress, I mean your character practices ballet/sword fighting/chess rigorously for five months. They get better and better (or they make little to no progress). In film, you'd use a cheesy montage, but in a novel?

Any tips are greatly appreciated!

Answer: You have to decide what are the important events in the story. Those are what you present as scenes. The transitions between scenes can be told via narrative summary.

So, for example, if you were telling the story of how your character trains, because it's an important journey, then you would create a sequence of scenes along the lines of...

Scene 1: First lesson, initial acceptance by the teacher.
Scene 2: Progress - key lessons and stages of mastery.
Scene 3: Climax - the student gets the toughest lesson/challenge from the teacher.
Scene 4: Outcome: student surpasses the teacher, or gets some reward or acknowledgement that they are fully trained.

A whole book could be made out of telling this process in great detail.

On the other hand, if the training is of less consequence and you just want to let the reader know it takes place between the previous key event and the next key event of the story, you might simply give a little summary. This might be as short as a paragraph explaining the character's daily training routine for the next five months. If it's really inconsequential, you might reduce it to a sentence, such as "John trained five hours a day for the next six months until he felt his skills has reached their zenith."

Again, it's up to you to decide what weight or importance to give the training process and how significant these events are to the main plot of the story.

Don't bore your reader by going into great detail about events that are insignificant to the story. And don't short-change the reader by not presenting key events as fully-developed scenes with all the sensory detail needed to make them emotionally impactful.

Comments for How would you show slow progress without boring your audience?

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May 30, 2015
That makes sense!
by: Josie

Thank you! Breaking it into 4 scenes with one being the climax makes sense to me. I'll give it a try. Thank you for your advice.

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