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Screenwriting Basics: How to Write an Effective Montage

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  • September 4, 2023
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  • 7 min read


A montage scene can be a powerful tool for screenwriters but it also comes with some challenges. How do you balance the need to advance the story with the risk of relying on a clichéd device? How do you ensure your montage scene is practical but also engaging and original? Many triumphant montages achieve both these goals by showing the story’s progress and the character’s growth concisely and compellingly. The key is to format your montage scene properly.

What is a montage?

A montage is a series of stitched together to show the passage of time, a transformation from one thing to another, or a character’s emotional state.

The purpose of a montage is to condense time or information. You can use them for exposition when you need to cover a lot of ground quickly or to keep your audience’s attention focused on one thing. You can also use them for drama and suspense to build tension before presenting a reveal or another dramatic event. And finally, you can use them for comedy if you want to show how something happened without explaining it in detail—show the action as it happens!

Why write a montage?

A montage works best when used for one of two reasons:

To show how a character changes over time.

For example:

If you want to show how a character changes from being scared to being brave, you wouldn’t have them jump from scene to scene; instead, you would use a montage where each scene shows them doing something that helps them become braver.

To show how many things happened simultaneously (or in quick succession).

For example,

If you want to show how many people died during an earthquake, tornado, or some other disaster, then it would make sense to show all these deaths happening simultaneously through a montage rather than having each death happen in its scene.

How to Write a Montage to Build a Story?

Here are some tips for using a montage:

Use multiple characters in your Montage –

A montage can show how different characters react to a single event, such as their reactions after an accident or tragedy.

Use different locations –

A montage can also be used by showing what happens at various locations over time (for example, someone leaving work at night and then arriving home).

Show progression through repetition –

If you want to show how much time has passed from one event to another, repeat it several times during a scene to make it visually apparent how much time has passed.

How to Use a Montage for Character Development?

The Montage is another powerful tool for character development. It can show how a character changes over a story or how they are at odds with their nature and must overcome themselves to achieve something meaningful.

When using a montage, consider what you want your audience to take away from it. Here are some guidelines:

  1. Use clear, concise language that describes what you see in detail without bogging down the description with unnecessary words.
  2. Include dialogue if it helps the reader understand what’s happening better than just describing it with visuals alone.
  3. If the scene has multiple characters, make sure each one gets screen time so they all get their chance to shine on camera!

Three Elements of an Effective Montage

Even the silliest Montage can still be effective if it follows these three basic principles:

Show the passage of time:

Use visual cues like changes in clothing, hairstyles, or seasons to indicate how much time has passed.

Display incremental progress:

Show your character getting closer to their goal, whether learning a new skill, training for a big event, or simply finding love.

Highlight character growth through various scenarios:

Use a series of vignettes to showcase your character’s changing perspective, developing skills, or deepening relationships.

Examples of Effective Montages

Montages are a versatile storytelling technique that can be used in various genres. Here are a few classic examples:

Growing older:

The Montage in Disney’s “The Lion King” effectively conveys the passage of time as Simba grows from a cub into an adult.

Perfecting a new skill:

The Montage in “The Matrix” shows Neo’s training as he learns to manipulate reality.

Training for the big fight:

Montages, such as the “Rocky” franchise, are a staple of sports movies.

Going on a series of bad dates:

Romantic comedies often use montages to depict a character’s failed dates.

Examples of Montage Scene Formats

Here are three different ways to format a montage scene about a character going on a series of bad dates:

Option 1:

Date 1: Character is stood up by date.

Date 2: The character’s date spills food on them.

Date 3: The characters talk incessantly about themselves.

Option 2:

  • The character and date are seated at a restaurant. The date is talking loudly and making inappropriate jokes.
  • The character and date are walking through a park. The date is tripping over their own feet and spilling their coffee.
  • The character and date are sitting at a movie theater. The date is snoring loudly and making obnoxious comments during the film.

Option 3:

A series of quick shots showing the character on different dates, each ending with a look of disappointment on their face.

What Are The Popular Genre Trends For Montage Writing?

Montage writing incorporates short, impactful scenes or moments to create a larger narrative. Popular genre trends for this style include:

  1. Capturing everyday moments to reveal deeper insights about characters or themes.
  2. Using quick scenes to build unique worlds or showcase imaginative elements.
  3. Using quick sequences to build tension, suspense, and intrigue.
  4. Showcasing snippets of relationships or romantic moments.
  5. Creating a sense of fear or dread through brief, intense scenes.

Do Book Writing Services Write Montage Effectively in Novels?

Montage screenplays are commonly used in films because they allow the director to show the passage of time or multiple events happening simultaneously. However, professional services like Book Writing Founders can also write montages in novels, although less frequently.

What Are the Benefits Of Fiction Writing Services?

Fiction writing services provide expert writers, save time and effort, give you feedback and support, and help you achieve your writing goals.

Key Characteristics and Profound Details

Aspects of Montage Writing Writing Techniques Creative Impact
Balancing Story Advancement Weaving a narrative that moves the story forward without relying on clichés. Challenges the writer to find unique ways to advance the plot while avoiding overused tropes.
Engaging and Original Scenes Creating scenes that are not only practical but also captivating and original. Encourages the exploration of unconventional settings and actions to keep the audience intrigued.
Character Growth and Progress Illustrating the transformation of characters over time or through experiences. Allows for the development of multi-dimensional characters by showcasing their evolution.
Practicality vs. Creativity Balancing the need for practicality in conveying information with the desire for creative expression. Encourages writers to find a middle ground between conveying essential details and artistic expression.
Clear and Concise Language Using language that vividly describes scenes without unnecessary verbosity. Challenges the writer to convey a lot in a few words, promoting clarity and brevity.
Incorporating Dialogue Integrating dialogue to enhance understanding and add depth to visual descriptions. Encourages writers to use dialogue effectively to complement visual storytelling.
Multiple Characters in Montage Showing different characters’ reactions to a single event, adding complexity. Pushes writers to explore various perspectives within the montage, enriching the narrative.


Writing a montage takes the story from point A to point B, from beginning to end, in a short period. It is used to quickly jump over several days or hours that would otherwise be boring or just not need to be shown. They are typically used when a character has a lot to do but is doing it over several days.


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