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Can you completely skip bridge scenes in movies or comics books?

Let's take an example.

  1. Mario is told by Luigi that the princess was kidnapped by Bowser.
  2. Mario asks Luigi where the princess is being held.
  3. Mario asks Toad where the princess is being held.
  4. Mario goes to Bowser's castle.
  5. Mario defeats Bowser.
  6. Mario saves the princess.

Is it completely normal and completely ok to skip 2, 3, 4? Why? I feel in certain situations it might be too abrupt and people will react "Wait, what?", but I can't tell exactly when this reaction would likely happen.

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    Just a quick note for fun: in Super Mario RPG, Bowser kidnaps the princess, and when Mario notices the princess is gone, the first thing he does is rush to Bowser's castle (which is actually the first "mission" of the game); then the story develops to a completely different, unexpected way...
    – Josh Part
    Apr 11 at 15:52
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    You always have to decide what level of detail you go into between parts of your story. For example between step 3 and 4 you could also show Mario putting on his shoes, but that wouldn't have any function in your story. So if the question "can I skip this scene?" the actual question should be, "what purpose does this scene serve in my story?" If the scene doesn't serve your narrative then ditch it or change it so that it does have a purpose
    – Kevin
    Apr 11 at 22:49
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    I took your question literally. My mind immediately went to all the battles or duels that have been fought on physical bridges. In the manga Kozure Ōkami many central scenes take place on bridges, so my first reactions was: No, bridge scenes are important ... Apr 12 at 16:10
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    @CarlChristian something similar happened to me at first, but I was thinking more of situations like "heroes need to get to point A, but the bridge to get there is broken, so they go to point B on a mission while workers repair the bridge"...
    – Josh Part
    Apr 12 at 17:13

3 Answers 3

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What is the story you actually want to tell?

Is it "Mario gathers information about where the Princess is being held?" or is it "Mario rescues the princess?"

When the whole process of finding out what actually happens doesn't add anything to the story, doesn't introduce any relevant information about the characters and the setting and doesn't provide any relevant character development, you can just cut it. Luigi can tell Mario everything he needs to know. And when the journey to Bowser's castle is uneventful, you can represent it with a single paragraph in a novel, a single panel in a comic or a couple seconds of travel montage on film.

Nevertheless, those "bridge scenes" might actually be useful.

  • You can use them for worldbuilding. That means you show (don't tell) the audience what kind of world the story takes place in and how it functions. Provided that this worldbuilding will become relevant over the course of the rest of the story.
  • You can use them to introduce the protagonist and show what kind of person they are by showing how they interact with different people and how they approach minor obstacles they face during their journey. That can be used to foreshadow how they are going to resolve the major conflict of the story and/or set up contrast with how they are going to act in the end of the story after they went through some character development.
  • You can introduce supporting characters who are going to become relevant over the course of the story, and set up character arcs for them you are going to finish later.

As an example, let's take The Lord of the Rings. The whole trilogy could be summarized as "Frodo receives The Ring; Frodo goes to Mordor; Frodo throws The Ring into a volcano". The whole "Frodo goes to Mordor" part takes up the vast majority of the work and could be described as a very long series of bridge scenes. Are they a waste of time? No, because they include lots and lots of worldbuilding, interesting character development for Frodo and the people he meets during his journey and plenty of interesting subplots. All of this provides context for the final climax of the story. So it's three thick books / 11 hours of movies well spent.

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  • Reminded me of Harry Potter travelling to Hogwarts for the first time. All bullet points apply. Apr 12 at 15:14
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    @AndrisBirkmanis extra good example because later books/movies completely skip over the trip unless they something relevant happens on them.
    – Erik
    Apr 13 at 14:51
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Skip the boring bridge scenes that are not required for plausibility. If skipping a scene might break audience immersion, include enough to patch that leak in your story.

For example, in many shows, we see a pair looking over evidence, one realizes something, looks up and says 'Kevin is in London!'

Cut to same two characters dressed differently in some iconic place in London.

Why does that work? Because none of the details of arranging travel or traveling are relevant to the story. The audience gets that, we skipped the boring parts.

In a Sherlock story, Sherlock examining evidence has an epiphany, and declares he knows who killed Miss Piggy. Cut to the police interrogation room, the team thanks Kevin for coming in, he may be able to help them narrow down the killer's escape route...

In a military show, the team is informed they have to take out Kevin the multi-billionaire criminal boss, super well-protected. Cut to a scene in which they begin the infiltration of Kevin's camp.

Why can't we just cut to the fight with Kevin himself? Because that is implausible. The audience is jerked out of immersion, and into analytic mode, by anything that makes no sense. How does a multi-billionaire criminal boss end up completely unprotected in a fight with our hero?

Unless you need some scenes for character development or as part of a sub-plot romance or something, you want your scenes to be like expensive stepping stones, as far apart as possible from one plausible scene to the next plausible scene, but not a noticeable "jump" that leaves the audience saying "Wait... How did they know X? Or Y?"

The audience will presume your characters are normally competent human beings, and can get from Denver to London without incident.

Or can manage to find a restaurant, order, receive their food, and begin a conversation. So on the phone, "Let's meet at that lunch counter by the courthouse". Don't show a response, or hanging up, just cut to the attendees at a booth, already seated, served, and food eaten, small talk accomplished, then start the crucial plot-advancing conversation.

Yes, skip all the bridge scenes you can. But that may not be ALL bridge scenes. Sometimes they are crucial for the audience to understand what is going on.

You can't go from Sherlock saying "I know who killed Miss Piggy." To the interrogation room with a distraught Kevin telling a smug Sherlock, "Okay, I did it! Okay? I had to!"

That has skipped too much. The audience will lose story immersion, "Wait, he never told us how he knew... What just happened?"

Bridge scene or not, you must include the scenes that impart information crucial to advance one of the plots of your story. The main plot or subplots, like romantic interests, or a reveal about a character's past. Or the main plot is rescuing our child, the subplot is rescuing our broken marriage.

Often, bridge scenes that could otherwise be skipped, because nothing crucial happens in the main plot, are still good places to advance a subplot. Precisely because such moments are not overshadowed by the main plot. So keep that in mind as a second use of bridge scenes.

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    "I had to kill Miss Piggy, okay? I needed bacon to make sandwiches for my date... with Miss Piggy. Oh no, what have I done!?"
    – Jedediah
    Apr 11 at 13:22
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    Pair looks over evidence, one looks up and says "Kevin is either in London, ..." CUT to protagonists in iconic place with Big Ben in the background "... or perhaps ..." CUT to protagonists with Eiffeltower in background "... Paris" Apr 12 at 21:06
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The question is whether you confuse the reader. Therefore the important thing is to convey any information that the reader would have learned in them.

For instance, if the first scene ends with Mario saying that he would ask Luigi, and if necessary Toad, this will convey how he learned where to go.

If it is important that it was a long, hard slog to the castle, that has to be conveyed too.

Beware of omitting drama. If either character tries to talk him out of it, for instance, or has to be persuaded to tell.

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