An Inside Look at Revision: The Montage & How Humans Communicate


Aubrey: Remnants of Transformation is available on Amazon and Smashwords. With every chapter, I posted notes about the process of revision.

Chapter 18

The Montage is such an effective literary and visual device that it has, of course, been totally overused. Hence, the Ultimate Training Movie Montage.

Based on Eugene's suggestion, I expanded Chapter 18 (which was originally Chapter 17 which was originally Chapter 16--eh, I've lost count) with a montage. 

The power of the montage is that it can convey a plethora of information succinctly without bogging down the story. Remove the montage and the reader will start thinking things like, "My, that was quick! How did she learn to do that so fast?!"

It creates that patina of realism that is so important to fiction (even though it is largely imaginary).

I think the montage goes beyond fiction, however. It is the essence of academic thought and, to a degree, the essence of all thought. Humans communicate through example.

If I want someone to understand what a busy week I've had, I might say something like, "And then I had to correct 150 essays!" I may or may not mention spending several minutes every morning trying to get my oldest cat (19 years old) to eat.

Granted, I might mention my cat (depending on whom I was talking to).  Likewise, in an interview, if the interviewer asks, "What have you done in this line of work?" I will hopefully mention and expand on the most relevant examples. Unlike some of my students who think the answer to that question is a totally unnecessary five-page resume of their life experiences, including that time when they flipped pancakes in high school (you talk about flipping pancakes if you have no other experience to share, but generally, a place like Microsoft wants to hear about your computer experience).

So perhaps it isn't so much that human want to communicate through example. It is that we learn to communicate through example by necessity. In order for communication to work with any degree of efficiency, it must move between claim and example (the essence of academic writing). I say something is true--I then prove it is true with a piece of evidence.

The problem lies in determining, How much evidence proves a claim? In fiction, this decision is largely a matter of commonsense and subjectivity (take training montages: one viewer may think the montage hasn't shown enough--the character couldn't get that good that fast!; another may think it is more than enough). In a legal matter, an actual standard of proof may need to be met for a case to even be considered by a court (interestingly enough, standard of proof was what worried the Puritan ministers who finally, ultimately, put an end to the Salem Witch Trials: if the devil can trick people, why couldn't he be tricking the accusers? What evidence was there to the contrary?).

Although the number of examples needed varies between individuals, we nevertheless all mostly accept that complete proof is impossible or, at least, improbable. By necessity, the answer to the question, "How are you doing?" will likely not include a list of all my trips to the potty in the last week--

Although if you are ever at a family reunion with people over 60, don't bet on it.

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