Yesterday my husband and I decided to inaugurate the MoviePass cards our son gave us for Christmas. With one swipe (and $10 a month) we can see as many movies as we like at any theater.
Our first movie would be The Post at our local theater. It took both of us, and the manager, to figure out how to make the card work (which in hindsight should not have been necessary if we understood our phone settings). Finally, we swiped our cards only to find that The Post was sold out. That pushed us to our default selection: any movie that was not sold out. We ended up in a nearly empty theater watching Jumanji, the 20-year-later sequel to Robin William’s wonderful movie by the same name.
Jumanji is a fanciful action-adventure movie about a game that sucks people into an alternate universe and in order to get home, the player must win the game. In William’s version, he was the only one who disappeared. This version has an ensemble cast that includes The Rock, Jack Black and two other actors we weren’t familiar with but who were perfectly cast.
The movie began, the music was ominous, the set up delightful, the locations beautiful and the direction energetic. The kids in the theater reacted with oohs, aahs, and other exclamations of delight.
Oh, wait! That was me oohing and aahing!
Yep, I loved every bit of that movie and when I got home I realized the reason I loved it was because I lost myself in the storytelling. Everyone from the screenwriter to the lighting guy and cast was on board with the creative vision. The premise was quickly and clearly established. Casting was based on character and not on what looks that the producers deemed ‘sexy and salable’. The computer-generated stunts did not overpower the story nor did they last so long that the viewer could literally leave, have dinner and come back and they would still be crashing about on screen. If something fantastic happened – like characters dying and getting shot into space and suddenly falling back to earth again without injury – the viewer accepted it because it quickly became apparent that each piece of this story had a purpose. There was always a payoff that made sense. Threads were wrapped up at the end. The story built to a conclusion and didn’t present it. But better than anything, the actors never broke character. The adult actors were asked to channel their teenage counterparts in the real world that had been left behind. I have seen this transference in movies before but too often the adult actor simply remains an adult. The last time I saw this plot point beautifully executed was in Tom Hanks’s Big.
So, here’s what I want you to do. Before you write another word, before you start editing, go see Jumanji. It is one of the best lessons in pitch-perfect storytelling I’ve had in a very long time. As for me, I’m going back to work and give my manuscript the Jumanji treatment because the devilish details are what make for a heavenly story.
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Me. Someone who can talk incessantly. Who never seems to max out my words each day.
Why is it when I don’t have time to write, ideas and words flow in my mind? When I’m driving, in the shower, at a kids event. It seems that I have no issue coming up with blog post ideas and story ideas to explore or messages to write. I’m just not in a position to actually write them.
But today? Nothing. I even left my house to work specifically on my NaNo work and write my blog post and guess what? My brain is mush. I want to curl up and take a nap.
Actually I think it’s because I’m exhausted. My bandwidth is maxed. And there’s good reason.
My husband and I are coaching my younger son’s robotics team. We have our FIRST Lego League tournament this weekend and we’ve been pulling more than double shifts.
We have six 7th graders on our team. Our robotics table is a large table with Lego missions all over it and our robot is made out of Lego’s. We program it to accomplish as many missions as possible in 2 1/2 minutes. Pretty cool.
But wait, there’s more.
We have a five minute project presentation as well. Each year is a different theme and we have to find a real world problem within the theme and innovate a new solution. This years theme is Hydro Dynamics. Anything to do with human use of water.
As the kids did their initial research, they stumbled onto how much water is used to make shirts. The information we found out is fascinating. Textile mills all over the world use a process called Wet Processing to shape, color and finish clothing. Not only do they use A LOT of water, the runoff is full of chemicals, so the water is not reused and pollutes the environment.
There are a number of solutions out there but there are over 15,000 mills in China alone. So getting each and every one to change takes time and money. And honestly their isn’t enough incentive to change.
Some brands such as Nike, Adidas, Levi and Patagonia are doing something about it and we reached out to several of them. Eileen Fisher gave us the most detailed information. We talked with their R&D chemist and learned more than we could ever put into our presentation. But she gave us the idea we needed for our solution.
See most of us don’t know water is used to make shirts. So awareness is key. If you can change people’s buying habits, it just might be the catalyst for real change. If we ask our favorite brands if they track and measure their water use, they in turn will ask their suppliers.
So the kids created a website to build awareness and tell people what they can do to help. We tie-dyed our own shirts and learned first-hand how much water is needed to rinse off the dye. We made word searches and coloring pages, as well as a glossary page of all the terms they learned over the past ten weeks. They showed to it to their friends, teachers and families and asked them to take a survey. Out of 38 respondents, 61% didn’t know that water was used to make shirts and 68% said they would change how they shop. We took all this information and put it into a presentation. And the kids created a fun skit to go with it.
They decided to call themselves Fiber Friends (think justice league – Fiber Friends Unite). Water waster owns a textile plant and wastes water. Batman, Flash, Blue Lantern, Aquaman and Wonder Woman (we have one girl and 5 boys on the team), capture Water Waster and upgrade the plant to save water. They do a great job and have lots of fun at the same time.
What I love about it is it’s just another form of storytelling and I’ve been able to help guide them in creating it. They learn so much with this entire program – research, problem solving, presentation skills, working together as a team.
I’ll have to update you on how we do, but in the meantime if you want to take a look at their website, here’s the link: https://ffunite.wixsite.com/fiberfriendsunite
Hugs & Blessings,
Although new to the writing fiction world, Denise Colby has over 20+ years experience in marketing, creating different forms of content and copy for promotional materials. Taking the lessons learned from creating her own author brand Denise M. Colby, Denise enjoys sharing her combined knowledge with other authors.
If you are interested in a marketing evaluation and would like help in developing a strategy for your author brand you can find out more here http://denisemcolby.com/marketing-for-authors/
Author Shannon Donnelly is stopping by today to talk about storytelling.
Want to tackle this topic in more depth? OCCRWA’s September online class is Storytelling for Writers, with Shannon Donnelly. For information and to register please visit
Her latest Regency romance, Lady Chance, is just out on Amazon.com. In addition to her Regency romances, she is the author of the Mackenzie Solomon, Demon/Warders Urban Fantasy series, Burn Baby Burn and Riding in on a Burning Tire, and the SF/Paranormal, Edge Walkers. Her work has been on the top seller list of Amazon.com and includes the Historical romances, The Cardros Ruby and Paths of Desire.