A few months ago, I went to Walt Disney World with my beautiful darling. We’ve been together for about two years now, and this was the first real trip we’ve gone on. We had an absolutely beautiful time (and we looked adorable).
However, as much as we loved hurtling through mountains and flipping upside with Aerosmith screaming in our ears, as much fun as we had stumbling around Epcot and watching all the animals at Animal Kingdom, we still are who we are, and so we got to talking – a conversation we dropped in favor of rides and fireworks and picked up again when we saw something that reminded us of it.
We were talking about elements of theme throughout the parks. In Disney, everything is all about story. When you walk around Animal Kingdom, for example, look at your feet – or, rather, at the ground under your feet. The paths have been made to look as though leaves and animals have left their imprints there. The corners of Magic Kingdom that are hardly see are still made part of the magic – a wishing well behind the castle, a sweet little side street where a singer practices in a window overhead. No matter where you go in the World, you’ll hear music that evokes the spirit of the area you’re inhabiting. Everything from the scents in the air to the taste of your snack is crafted to fit into the story Disney wants to tell.
Disney does this because they want to always be telling that story, and the creative minds behind it know that these details are the key to keeping that story going. When the details stop, the spell, or the dream, of the story stops.
One of my wonderful critique partners is excellent at pointing out when my scenes are lacking details – when they need to be more fully rooted in the world. We have five senses, and by manipulating our perceptions of them, we can change the way we – and the way others – feel. Music is a commonly noticed way of doing this. If we’re sad and we listen to happy music, we feel a little better. If we’re happy and we listen to sad music, we often feel our mood begin to sink.
The lesson in this is, I think, two-fold. For us writers, it’s to take a note from Disney when it comes to storytelling. The things we see, hear, smell, touch, and taste all affect the way we feel. And so when we use these things in our writing, we affect the way our readers feel.
But it’s for all of us, writers and non-writers alike, too. So much in the world we have no control over. And we can’t solve the world’s problems by listening to a happy song or smelling something that reminds us for happier times. But we need to take care of ourselves, and while life happens and many things are out of our control, there are still ways in which we are all the authors of our own stories, and it doesn’t hurt to remember that we can make the dream for ourselves when we need to.