Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Mumbo Jumbo

In SAVE THE CAT, by Blake Snyder, he uses the term Double Mumbo Jumbo.

It's a rule that says: An audience (or reader) will only accept one piece of MAGIC per movie (or book).

He cites two movie examples that broke this rule and therefore, didn't work.

In the original Spider Man, the audience had to accept that a kid became a super hero from a spider bite AND that the green goblin became evil from a lab experiment. In the movie Signs, which is supposed to be about finding faith, aliens show up at the end, putting two opposing viewpoints at odds against each another.

Hmm...I actually liked both movies. Signs did get hokey at the end ("Swing away Merrill!"), and I hadn't considered what Spider Man would have been like without showing how the Green Goblin came to be.

But I do see his point!

It's true in our writing that we can try to throw in everything but the kitchen sink, even in contemporary novels. It takes patience and practice to par things down and let one over-arching conflict take center stage!

Because hey, everybody's got issues, all of our characters have stuff going on. But we don't want to give our readers whiplash or a headache.

We want them to sit with our "MAGIC", consider all sides, and relish the small moments that meld with it. And then we want them to buy into, while simultaneously coming to accept and love our main character! That's a big load, so why add too many "extras"?

So if you have too many issues--magical or not--going on in your novel, take a chill pill and then pull out your scissors. :D


Laura Pauling said...

I found those example believable too. I think it depends on the movie and how different the magic is and if it fits!

Matthew MacNish said...

Or you can just do Star Wars, include The Force, and let it make the characters able to do almost anything! Just kidding. Star Wars is awesome, though.

Lydia Sharp said...

I can see Blake's point here regarding sf/f stories. It's easy to make things too complicated. But in contemporary pieces, I often find myself wanting *more* from the author. I think you can get away with more in a contemp story, so long as the reader can see how it all connects.

I guess the key, either way, is relevance.

Great post!

Joanne said...

I think it helps if the issues are related in some way, contributing to the one main one.

Sarah Tokeley said...

I think we'll accept almost anything, as long as it's done well. As soon as the 'joins' show, then all bets are off :-)

Kim Van Sickler said...

Not sure about the only one act of magic per story, but I agree that it's easy to overload the reader. That's what I did with my initial drafts of my first two manuscripts. In the story I'm writing now I'm consciously paring it way down from the start. Maybe I'm learning?

Slamdunk said...

Good point Matthew--create an all powerful force that can be tapped into whenever the writer paints herself/himself into a corner.

Stina said...

Too many issues was MY issue with my last wip. Fortunately it wasn't too painful to drag out the scissors, and the ms was much stronger for it. Hopefully I haven't made the same mistake with my current wip. :D

I love it when bloggers blog about STC. You remind me of things in the book I'd forgotten about. Which means I need to read it for the third time.

storyqueen said...

I think if the "magic" is consistent with the world you have created in the story, then it will work (mostly.)

that picture is the best. Wish he would have been Dumbledore, too!


Maddy said...

Great post!! Another example where too much "magic" didn't work "American Horror Story". Loved the show in the beginning, but they threw so much in there, it was hard to keep track. It started getting so ridiculous torwards the end (even for a show about a haunted house) that I doubt I'll tune in next season.

P.S. The T-Shirt in the picture - so cool!

Christine Danek said...

I think you know I'm guilty of this. I make things very complicated. Sometimes it is hard for me to simplify. I guess I want it all.
BTW-I loved those movies too. To me it worked fine. But then what do I know.

Christina Lee said...

Story Queen: YESSSS!

Dianne K. Salerni said...

Well, I do see his point, but there are a lot of exceptions!

And how can you have a SuperHero movie without a SuperVillain? Honestly, it would be a pretty unfair fight if you had only one of them!

Christina Lee said...

Dianne, I KNOW it—unless he means that the villain just shows up and you don’t delve into how he came to be, creating a second sympathetic story line? IDK, just a guess!

Meredith said...

It definitely depends on the story. I'm willing to forgive just about anything if the story is engaging. But cutting is one of my most important editing tools--if it doesn't move the story forward, it's gone!

Andrea Mack said...

I always end up throwing too much stuff into my stories. I'm working on trying to stick with my outline.

But I do think it depends on the story and how the possibly unbelievable thing is presented.

Elana Johnson said...

Yes! I remember reading that and going "Ohhh, that's why I didn't like Spiderman..."

Have you read Save the Cat Strikes Back? I LOVE IT MORE THAN THE FIRST. And that's saying something.

Lourie said...

I always like to use my Superman analogy. Here he is...from another planet, with these amazing powers and there is Lex Luthor. A man from earth with money and a genius mind. And he can do horrible things with his genius mind(create an earthquake that kills Lois Lane) but come ON who can DO that!? And yet we totally buy into SuperMan! It's all about entertainment and pushing the limits of reality that make it great and fun. Plus...SuperMan and those like him need an equal.