The weekend before BEA, lawyer-hubby was off from work for a few extra days and we decided to take an impromptu vacation. We could only take a few days and I was dying to bond with my inner kiddo so we decided to hop down to Orlando and spend the weekend at Disney World. Little did I know I’d be getting an awesome lesson on writing.
The Disney theme parks are all about creating an overall experience. Every detail, every design element serves the greater goal. As writers, there’s a lot that we can learn at those parks that can help enhance our own writing. Here are three lessons I learned about writing at Disney World. These lessons in particular came from the Animal Kingdom park.
1) Pay attention to details. At the Disney parks, every detail means something and serves a purpose. In the Animal Kingdom park, even the cement walkways are stamped with leafy patterns so that it looks like you’re walking on the jungle floor instead of pavement. The cement gets the job done and there’s no functional reason for the leafy patterns but this simple detail adds to the overall experience, making us feel like we’re really there in the jungle.
Put it into action: When you write, make sure every detail in your work serves a purpose and supports the greater goal of your piece. If a detail doesn’t pull its weight, consider leaving it out so that you can spotlight the more important details of your piece.
2) Hide the message. One of the activities available at Animal Kingdom is the Kids’ Discovery Club. Kids get a passport that guides them around the park to various sites where they can participate in educational activities and learn about wildlife and conservation. Once they complete the educational activity, they get a stamp. If they collect stamps from all the activity sites, they get a special bonus.
Put it into action: Making the educational component into a game hides the educational message makes the activities fun. In writing, we must do the same thing. If the educational message or “moral” of the story is too obvious, it can be a turn-off for readers. If you have a message you want to convey, find a way to do it so that it fits seamlessly into the story and doesn’t draw too much attention to itself. Make the educational component fun and kids are more likely to engage in story.
3) Stay in character. When I was waiting in line for the safari ride, I asked the attendant how long the ride was. He responded: “Two weeks. The safari lasts two weeks.” I raised my eyebrows and he chuckled. Lowering his voice he added: “Anywhere from two weeks to twenty minutes.” I mention this small interaction because one of the things that the Disney parks are known for is how all the people who work there are not actually employees, they’re “cast members.” Whether they walk around in a Mickey Mouse suit or sweep up spilled popcorn on the sidewalk, they are part of the “show” and they have to stay in character. This attendant at the safari ride is a perfect example because even in answering a simple question, he played it as part of the show.
Put it into action: Remember to keep your characters consistent and always in character. If your character does something contrary to his or her personality, it has to be for a good reason. Make sure that if you let someone in your story break character, it makes sense and there’s a good reason for it.
More writing tips coming soon! I have many more writing tips I picked up on that weekend trip, but if I listed them all here, this post would be gigantic. Stay tuned for more writing tips and have iggi-rrific day!