Making Magic

Wednesday, December 27, 2017
I just spent six glorious days at Walt Disney World with my husband and children.  It was my first time there and while I knew we’d have fun, I didn’t know how wonderful it would be.  Disney World is truly magical. 

In fact, it got me thinking.  What is it that made my experience so magical?  What about my trip made me want to come back?  How could I add that same magic to my writing? 

On the flight home, I thought about what Disney World does well, and came to the conclusion that their methods easily translate to the writing profession.

New Experiences
Ever been on Disney World’s Avatar Flight of Passage ride?  If so, you’re probably nodding enthusiastically, and you know what I mean by new experiences.  The ride delighted all my senses.  It took virtual reality to a whole new level.   The ride was like nothing I’ve ever encountered before, and I was prepared to wait in a four-hour line to ride it again.  That’s the same reaction we what from our readers, but to successfully do this, we need to give them that once in a lifetime moment which makes them run back for more.  I know it’s hard to find an original idea these days, but you can always take an old idea and give it a fresh, new spin.  Dazzle the reader – give them something they can’t do without.  Delight their senses and make them say "wow."  

Attention to Detail
Did you know that every Disney hotel is decorated with a theme in mind?  I was there just before Christmas and every tree, every wreath and every ornament was given a great deal of time and attention.  The music changes in every area of the theme parks and in the line for every ride.  The employees for each ride are called cast members, and they stick with their role no matter what.  It’s this attention to detail that makes the park even more magical.  They stick with their theme – with the Disney “story” – and it keeps everyone involved and engaged.   By giving time and attention to the details in our writing, we can keep our readers equally engaged.  We immerse them in our worlds through their senses and the story’s atmosphere or through characters who never break.  We pay attention to all the small details.  This might mean a few extra editing sessions, but it's worth the extra effort.

Give Them What They Want
A little customer service goes a long way, and Disney World has it down to a science.  They are polite, consistent, and accommodating.  All the employees go out of their way to make your experience a delightful one.  As authors, we can do the same thing.  Perhaps poll some of your friends or fans on what they’d like to read in your next book.  Find out the kind of characters they are interested in.  Be willing to send out free swag to lucky readers.  Respond to their online inquiries.  And of course, do it with a smile.

Something for Everyone
Last, but certainly not least, remember that the best way to please people is to have variety.  Think about Disney World.  They have four parks, rides for all ages, shows, fireworks, character experiences, swimming and food from around the world.  They don’t have one target audience.  Everyone is the target audience.  If we only write for one group, we are limiting ourselves.  Include a variety of characters and themes.  Include humor and sorrow.  Happiness and fear.  Make each book different from the last to draw in more readers.  

Disney gets it.  They know how to draw in a crowd and keep them coming back for more.  By considering what they do best, we can learn a few things to improve our writing and readership.  And of course, we make our stories a bit more magical.  

Bethany Masone Harar is an author, teacher, and blogger, who does her best to turn reluctant readers into voracious, book-reading nerds. Check out her blog here and her website here.


Angela Mackintosh said...

I grew up right next to Disneyland, and I can still remember a time when there were barely any lines. My dad was an engineer and his company would rent Disneyland for a night, so there were maybe a couple hundred people in the entire park. Imagine that! No lines for any ride. It was a dream. I'm too spoiled by those times and could never wait 4 hours for a ride. That's crazy! =/

Your post brings back the magical feeling of those visits. And it's the same way I felt when I cracked open a new book as a child. I'd love to write a book someone thought was magical. :)

Renee Roberson said...

I've only been to Disney World once and when we went, it was the first time for every member of our family! I too was struck by all the attention to detail and customer service and can't wait to go back in the next year or so (hopefully!) I've never been one to write fantastical stories but I hope that one day I can wow people with my characters, dialogue and ability to keep readers on the edge of their seats!

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