2

Training montages and arcs are typically viewed as backstory, something that ends in the prologue, or shows up in flashbacks. They show us a piece of information about the world or a character.

This case is different. I want a full-fledged training that spans multiple chapters, though uses time skips and fast-forwards, and most importantly, is the main focus, instead of an everlasting flashback or prologue.

Only real problem here is the lack of real danger. The mentor's techniques aren't that unusual, and unlike Harry Potter, the Big Bad Evil Guy is dead and mentor makes sure he stays that way.

Should I, and if yes, how should I make such prolonged training arc, without the reader getting bored?

  • 2
    While your question (the heading) appears to be interesting, important and relevant, your three first paragraphs have completely lost me. What on earth are you talking about? Your questions should be standalone and easily understandable to anyone who's being pointed to them three years from now. As it is, I'm afraid this question is only comprehensible to someone who has read your story, as far as it goes. Could you please edit so we, who would like to answer, understand what you're talking about? – Galastel supports GoFundMonica Jun 21 '18 at 8:17
  • quora.com/… - lots of hits on google will teach you about writing "training montages" some of them even lead back to this stack exchange. – Totumus Maximus Jun 21 '18 at 9:00
  • The Wikipedia link is confusing. I suggest removing it. The YouTube link is even more confusing. I suggest removing that and also either explaining what a "BBEG" is or removing that sentence. It seems like your question is, "How do I make a lot of time pass in a story, during which a character gains new skills, without boring the reader/viewer?" If that's your question, just put that as your question. Also clarify whether you're writing a novel or screenplay or epic poem or whatever. And before you do anything, search to make sure that question isn't already answered. – Todd Wilcox Jun 21 '18 at 21:21
  • 2
    The basic secret is the training itself is an obstacle, so the "stakes" are the trainer warning the student they will die if they don't master the training, and the student engaging in "try-fail, try-fail, try-succeed" arcs of escalating difficulty, ending with mastery or a symbolic defeat of the master. For a short such sequence, think Kwai Chang Caine's training to be a Shaolin Monk in the TV Series Kung Fu. Or the frustration of Daniel LaRusso as he trains to fight in The Karate Kid. Fail, Fail, succeed -- Bigger challenge, Fail Fail Succeed. Bigger challenge ... – Amadeus-Reinstate-Monica Jun 21 '18 at 21:43
  • 1
    When you say the "big bad evil guy is dead", do you mean this whole training episode happens after the antagonist is no longer part of the story? If the antagonist is defeated, why does the story continue? Is there another antagonist due to rise up again the hero sometime during or after the training? – Todd Wilcox Jun 21 '18 at 23:14
3

By making the training itself the Hero's Journey

If you haven't already, I strongly recommend picking up a copy of Christopher Vogler's The Writer's Journey. While it is, quintessentially, a screenwriting text book, it is still extremely valid and a great resource for writing in general.

In short, it promotes a refinement of Joseph Campbells The Hero's Journey, and breaks the Three Act Structure into 12 smaller stages. It also further explores some major character Archetypes that are relevant to your story.

Essentially, it gives structure to your story and promotes the growth of your characters through their individual journey. It's adaptable to most stories, and isn't reliant on external conflict, and it rewards the reader with a fulfilling narrative. It's a timeless structure, and it works.

So how, then, can it be applied to this particular case? At it's core, the Three Act Structure and the Hero's Journey (particular Voglers) revolves around:

Act 1: Departure

This is where our story starts, we are introduced to the protagonist (our Hero) and the "ordinary" world. We hear the call to Adventure, meet our "Mentor" and take the first step/pass the First Threshold.

The call to adventure can be when our lowly Hero is selected for this particular training course, either willingly or unwillingly. Maybe his initial refusal causes some personal catastrophe for himself or someone close? Maybe he's seen something or survived something and wants to make a difference. Whatever that inciting incident is, this is where it sits. What pushes him through the training is defined here.

Act 2: Initiation

This is where the training really kicks off. There are tests, trials, failures and lessons. As the Hero's skill increases, so to do the challenges and risks. Then comes the big challenge, the approach to the "Inmost Cave", the Ordeal and the Reward. This is the final struggle the character has in the training arc, often with themselves. This is where they overcome their own fears and doubts, push themselves beyond what they thought capable and emerge triumphant. Think along the lines of Luke on Dagobah and proceeding on to Bespin. Apotheosis occurs, the Hero overcomes the final trials and is made stronger for it.

Act 3: The Return
This is the end game. Using their new-found skills and abilities the Hero returns to the ordinary world or continues on to their ultimate destination. Their training complete, they are pushed back into the real word and ready to face the challenges. There's still struggle, still trials, but the Hero is equipped to deal with them and has the support of allies, who will ultimately play a role in calling the hero back.

In the end, it's important to remember that it's all figurative. Conflict does not have to be external or violent. Antagonist do not have to oppose the protagonist in such a manner that the only way to win is through outright violent conduct/conflict. The Hero's Journey is about overcoming obstacles and trials, and growing. It also doesn't have to be the be-all and end-all of your story. Incorporate it into your existing work if you aren't already following it. Use it in miniature to express the training and development of your character. If you want the training to be a focus, then make it the focus.

| improve this answer | |
3

I had this same problem while writing my ongoing superhero story. It starts with the obligatory origin arc: the protagonist gains his powers, is taken in by the government agency that regulates superheroes, learns how to control and utilise his abilities, and is then sent out to confront the Starter Villain. I had a lot to go through, and like you, I didn't want it to drag on for too long and bore the reader to tears. I wanted to just get on with things.

So there were three main techniques I used to speed things up:

1. Interrupt the characters' training before it can finish

I'm sure you've heard this before: "But your training is still incomplete! You are not yet ready to face [villain]!" Everything from Star Wars to Sonic Underground has had the hero's training get interrupted by some grave threat, and for three very good reasons:

  • It cuts off the training arc before it drags on for too long, pulling the hero and the audience back into the main storyline.
  • It ramps up the tension. If we know the hero is ready to face the bad guys, we expect them to win easily. If we know that they aren't ready, suddenly the outcome isn't so certain.
  • It leaves room for the hero to keep improving and getting stronger over the course of the story, rather than honing themselves to perfection right off the bat.

In my case, the Starter Villain tries to take over a city, and the protagonist's training has to be cut off so he can fly over there ASAP and stop him. In your case, the Big Bad may be dead, but some other threat needs to come up that necessitates, at the very least, putting your characters' training on hold while they go deal with it.

2. Make it as fast-paced and entertaining as the rest of the story

If you don't want the readers to be bored, then make sure the arc isn't boring. Make sure the individual scenes don't drag on for too long without anything interesting happening. Break up the infodumps with action scenes of the characters trying out new techniques on training dummies (or each other).

If there are people training the characters, make sure they have interesting personalities, and aren't just Sgt. Hartman clones or walking infodumps. Sprinkle in some humour, too - think the scene in Iron Man 1 where Tony Stark first tries out his thrusters and propels himself into the ceiling (my arc actually has a similar scene, because homages).

3. Briefly touch on world-building details, then expand on them later

Instead of info-dumping everything, if there are details that are important to the setting but not yet relevant to the story, briefly mention them without elaborating too much, and then fill in the details later, once they do become plot-relevant. This also helps avoid the awkward, clumsy "I'm sure you already know this, but I'll tell you about it anyway" sort of exposition that you get sometimes.

| improve this answer | |

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.