Friday, December 13, 2013

Time Jumps Suck

One of the dumbest, most obnoxious storytelling techniques is the time jump. That is when you are shown a scene, usually of a very tense situation or the aftermath of an event, and then immediately get taken backward in time to show you the events that led up to that scene.

Time jumps suck because they don't add anything. They have no context and aren't announced, so the audience is jarred and disoriented, which is compounded when the story immediately jumps backward in time. After it's all said and done, nothing happened. Nothing is changed, and there is no difference in the audience experience for having seen it.

This technique is the equivalent of reading the 15th page of a chapter and then going back to start it from the first page. At best, it is confusing and pointless. At worst, it ruins the surprise that comes from building up the story.

In fact, I actually read a book that literally did this for every chapter. It was some lousy piece of science/espionage pulp fiction, and every single chapter started with a scene from the middle of the chapter, then jumped back and plodded along. I eventually just stopped reading the first few pages. I wish I could remember the name, because it is quite possibly the worst book I've ever read.

Don't use time jumps. It is a storytelling technique that needs to die.

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