If you’re really looking for inspiration or any sort of advice about how to be a better writer, there’s one place that absolutely will not fail you: Disneyland!
I had such a strong revelation at the happiest place on Earth this week. Three hours in Disneyland is enough to lift the most depressing of spirits, but three days can really teach you something.
What is it that makes Disneyland so incredibly successful? Is it the Mickey Mouse-shaped pretzels and sugary churros on every corner? Is it the fact that when you go to shake Woody’s hand, he insists on a hug instead and makes you feel like the most important person in the world? Is it those tiny little air darts that pelt your face while you’re riding with Indiana Jones?
I’d argue that Disneyland is such a giant success because of these little details, and not necessarily the Mickey ears or the big coasters. Consider the level of detail that goes into every corner… the way your five senses are constantly busy when you’re walking around the park. Pick up a Lazlo teddy bear and he smells like strawberries. Jump on the Haunted Mansion Holiday and the ghosts smell like gingerbread. Stand in line for the Hollywood Tower Hotel and try not to dance to the creepy jazz tunes. And don’t ever try to tell me a hug from Woody doesn’t warm you from head to toe, even when your socks are drenched in icy Splash Mountain water.
Isn’t this what we talk about for days after we come back from vacation? The little details and the way Soarin’ Over California actually smells like fruit? It’s a great place for writers to keep in mind. As a little test, if you’re writing a story right now, flip back to your favorite part and do a sense check. What does your scene smell like? What do you hear? Can your reader reach into the story and physically feel something?
The big picture is a necessary structure, but the details will linger long after the last page turns or you walk through the turnstile to leave the park for the last time. Just something to think about!
(BTW, happy belated birthday, Mr. Disney!)