I told myself I am not going to write about Corvid19, quarantining, masks, six feet of distance or the improbably exotic recipes popping up in my in-box (sheesh, they sound like neurosurgery). Do I have anything other than what’s top of all our minds to share? With relief, I realize I do.
My current project is editing a non-fiction manuscript written by a gentleman who has a national, well-respected reputation as a consultant and researcher to advertising agencies. He tests and provides direction for successful ads. He is doing a book on memory. Not his remembrances of things past, but how memory works with firing neurons and synapsis and all the physiological doo dads whirring around in our brains and how that leads to building different types of memories. (After all, the manufacturer does want her snack food/disposable razor/perfume/car to always be the strongest memory, always top of the consumer’s mind.)
My client bases his approach to successful ads on the structure of storytelling as that innate human characteristic is ultimately what drives communication—this is something the Slice of Orange community knows quite a bit about so it is fascinating to see the storyteller’s principles applied to something as work-a-day as marketing. He uses the work of neuroscientists, philosophers, script writers, cartoonists and psychiatrists to back up the idea that human speech developed from the need to communicate a story – gossip.
Okay. I don’t quibble because I know that storytelling is fundamental to every human I’ve ever met. It’s the good storytellers, the writers, who touch us the most deeply; those are the stories that are memorable. What the good storyteller knows—the arc of inciting incident to climax to resolution, and all the beats and color and emotion and drama that get the story to those points—is also fundamental to good advertising. And that is linked to how our brains make memories.
I consider the ads that stick in my memory. Some of these are really long-term memories, coming from childhood—does anyone ever forget Speedy Gonzales or Tony the Tiger? They’re complete, miniature stories and I’ve retained the high points. “Where’s the Beef” had all the emotional beats of a 350 page novel and whether or not I consciously made the connection, I had Wendy’s top of mind for my beef fix. It was impossible to see a giant choir of fresh-faced kids singing I’d Like To Teach the World to Sing without thinking of Coca Cola and hearing a million different emotion charged stories. All of those marketing moments—and more—hit an emotional note that became an indelible memory. Wow! Good story telling is magical.
This new perspective, with its emphasis on memory and the potency of storytelling, will be top of mind for me on my next fiction project. I don’t know that it will change how I look at the content of a story or the effectiveness of the structure and style. I’m not sure it will effect how I edit the manuscript but it’s refreshing to learn that the things good writer’s know instinctively can be measured and diagramed and graphed and applied to any creative endeavor.
There is one sticking point, however. I remain unconvinced that language developed from an irresistible urge to gossip. Putting myself in caveman days I prefer to think our species began talking because of an irresistible urge to warn me of the saber-tooth tiger leering at me from the cliff above. It’d clearly be time to run—and that’s a story.
Bestselling author Kat Martin, a graduate of the University of California at Santa Barbara, currently resides in Missoula, Montana with Western-author husband, L. J. Martin. More than seventeen million copies of Kat’s books are in print, and she has been published in twenty foreign countries. Fifteen of her recent novels have taken top-ten spots on the New York Times Bestseller List, and her novel, BEYOND REASON, was recently optioned for a feature film. Kat’s next hardcover, THE ULTIMATE BETRAYAL, a Romantic Thriller, will be released on July 28th.
Over the years, I’ve written a number of blogs about my favorite places. I just discovered a new one so I thought I would tell you about it.
I’ve never been a big fan of the desert. I do love the Saguaro cactus, the red rock mountains, and some of the incredible vistas.
But the small town of Prescott called to me as no place in the Sun State ever has. Perhaps it’s the combination of beautiful mountains, which being a Montanan I love, and the rugged Old West history of the town.
The Palace Saloon on Whiskey Row is one of the oldest in the country. It’s got a mile-long bar and an old-fashioned back bar, and even has batwing doors! The folks inside come to work in Wild West costumes, giving the place an even more authentic feel.
In July, cowboys take over the town for the oldest rodeo in the nation. And you know what they say… “If you haven’t loved a cowboy, you will.”
Living in Montana, I pretty much hate hot weather. But summers in Prescott are relatively mild, at least by Arizona standards. And the endless sunshine and crystal blue skies make the hot days worth it.
As Meriwether Jones and her young daughter run from trouble, her prayers are answered when ex-cop Ian Brodie hires her to help his aging father. But Meri is keeping dangerous secrets that could wind up getting them killed.
In PIVOT, the adventure continues with novellas by bestselling Romantic Suspense authors, Alexandra Ivy and Rebecca Zanetti.
Melanie Cassidy finds trouble when she tries to save a young boy from being kidnapped. Working the case, former love-of-her-life, Detective Gray Hawkins, arrives in time to rescue them. But Melanie’s good-Samaritan efforts pull her and Gray into a world of drug dealers and dirty cops that neither of them may survive.
Michelle Peach is one of Meri’s closet friends. Trouble arrives when two rough men in search of Meri break into her home and threaten her life. The last person Michelle wants to see is Evan Boldon, former Marine turned sheriff. But Evan is determined to stop the trouble stalking Michelle-—no matter the cost.
He hammered in another nail, looked up to see Meriwether Jones running toward him. With the sun highlighting the gold in her dark hair, damn she was pretty. “What is it?”
“I can’t find Lily. She isn’t in your room.”
Ian dropped the hammer and started back toward the house, Meri hurrying along beside him.
“She never does this. She always stays where you tell her.”
They shoved through the back door together, walked through the mudroom. It took a moment for him to register that the dishes were all washed and put away, the countertops wiped clean. He caught the scent of Lysol as he made his way toward the stairs.
“Lily!” he called out. “Lily, where are you?” They went upstairs and searched his bedroom, then the other two upstairs rooms and both baths.
No sign of Lily.
His worry kicked up as they headed back downstairs and he strode into the den. “Dad, Lily is missing.”
I am one of six children. I fell into the ‘top half’ of the family; the three kids born while my parents were young and just starting out. Christmas was not an extravagant time for us, but I only know that now that I’m grown.
In our house, preparations for the holiday began long inadvance and always with a vengeance. Cookies were baked, decorated, and frozen. The house was scoured to make ready for the decorations and then scoured againafter the tree and tinsel were up.
My father spent his evenings in the garage after a long day at work making things with his saw and sand paper. To this day, my mother assembles the manger he built almost 60 years ago. The three kids – all of us sharing one room – fell asleep as my mother’s sewing machine whirred long into the night. Come Christmas Eve we would dress up in new clothes – I especially remember a red velvet dress with white lace on the puffed sleeves – and awaited the arrival of relatives.
Soon the house was filled with German voices (my mother’s parents, cousins and aunts) clucking over the dinner that would be served on the good china. My father poured drinks and sent us kids weaving through the crowd of adults to deliver them. The doors of the ‘living room’ were closed (we only went in there when we had guests). After we ate and the ladies had finished the dishes, everyone would fall silent at the sound of something – or someone – on the roof. My dad would call out, “I think Santa has been here” and Christmas began in earnest.
How my father got on and off the roof in his Christmas clothes and back inside the house so quickly remains a mystery to this day. The cousins and my brothers and I would be wide-eyed, anxious, and ever-so-polite as we waited for my dad to throw open the doors to the living room. There, under the tree, was one package for everyone. These presents were filled with things we needed but we didn’t care. They were wrapped in silver and gold paper and anything wrapped in silver and gold had to be good.
We never asked how Santa got into the house. We would have seen him come down the fireplace since it was in the family room, but we never did. We should have asked why it took so long between the sounds on the roof and my dad’s announcement. And our beautiful Christmas clothes? We didn’t associate the sound of the sewing machine with the pretty dresses for me and vests for my brothers. We were kids dazzled by the pageantry of our spit- and-shined relatives, and sumptuousness of the table, and solemnity of church at midnight mass, and the warmth and camaraderie of our extended family and above all, the story of our Christmas.
I look back now and see that my parents were like Rumpelstiltskin spinning straw into gold. They created so much from swaths of left over cloth, bargains from the grocery, and scraps of wood. What my parents did was far more than sleight of hand, pulling glorious things out of a humble hat. My parents showed me what good storytelling was all about: hard work, good timing, a cast of characters, a compelling plot and a little magic.
Wishing you the happiest, most magical Christmas season; a season that is the beginning of your best stories ever.
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.
[tweetshare tweet=”Why is it when I don’t have time to write, ideas and words flow in my mind?” username=”A_SliceofOrange”]
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/
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