Why “The Greatest Showman” is the Greatest Show

Today, The Greatest Showman is released for digital download, after spending months with theaters full of avid fans.

It comes out on DVD/Blu-RAY in another few weeks.

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Personally, I have seen The Greatest Showman six times in the theater. SIX TIMES! I have never seen a movie even half that many times in the theater. I don’t even go to the movies that often. In fact, it’s an odd year for me to go to more than two in a single year.

But this was so worth it.

I kept finding new people who hadn’t seen it, and I’d take them so I could fall in love with the movie all over again. One time, I took my 19yo daughter back (for the third time) just because she’d missed the opening scene on her second time. And you CAN’T miss the opening scene.

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Two weeks ago, my husband and I decided to take the rest of the kids–again–because we’d listened to the soundtrack so many times. We went on a Saturday morning, 11am, almost three months after the release of the movie. So I didn’t think we needed to arrive early to get tickets.

We nearly lost out. We got the last four tickets. We couldn’t even sit together. The person in line after us was out of luck.

Sold out.

Three months after the movie’s release.

On a Saturday morning.

And when the movie finished, the audience clapped.

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How many Oscars did this successful, magical, popular film win?

A big fat ZERO.

Which proves what we all know: that Hollywood is clueless.

But the author/composer in me can’t stop analyzing why this movie is such a success. So here are some of the reasons I think it’s a smash hit.

(While pictures are great, they just don’t do this movie justice, so I’ve added some awesome Greatest Showman GIFs.)

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Why The Greatest Showman is the greatest show:

 

The Music

It’s absolutely phenomenal. It moves you–quite literally if you’re prone to dancing. It gets your heart pumping, and makes you smile.

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The Story

Following your dreams can lead to big, wonderful things. Outcasts can and should be loved. They can find their place and no longer be seen as odd, but amazing. Even P.T. Barnum isn’t labeled as an outcast in the movie, but technically he started out as one.

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The Music

Yes, I’m mentioning the music again. It’s that good.

The performances. The choreography. The integration of the music with the scenes (the hammering, the horses step to the music). I bought the soundtrack before I’d left the theater parking lot the first time. (The “Reach for the Stars” and “The Other Side” scenes are my personal favs.)

Listen to the soundtrack here:

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The Family Friendliness

I think the biggest part of its success is how family friendly this movie is. It’s PG, and not even a fake PG. It’s actually PG.

Critics can’t figure out how this movie has spread by word of mouth. Honestly, I only saw it in January after several of my friends kept posting about it on Facebook. Otherwise I wouldn’t have gone. As I mentioned before, I’m not a huge movie theater person. Now, I can’t get enough people to go see it. Young. Old. It’s for everyone.

Not only is there no sex, as well as minimal swearing and violence, but families are seen in a positive light. Shocking, right? A dad trying to support his family. A mom trying to support him. Cute kids who contribute to his magical ideas. Struggles, both financial and emotional. While I don’t know a single family involved in a circus, this movie has related to millions of people across the globe.

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And it has two very sweet romances. :)

My 10yo son who hates watching movies (especially movies I like) has fallen in love with this movie as much as I have. He was furious this week when I took his grandparents without him (during school). They loved it, too.

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No Politics

This is another huge part, I think, of its success. There wasn’t a single bit of politics in the whole thing. No social statements. No agendas. Nothing about destroying the environment or gun violence or crooked politicians. We’re all sick to death of news and politics–or at least I am. Two straight years of ugliness, and this was a desperately-needed breath of fresh air!

A happy ending for everyone. Hallelujah! (I’m looking at you La-La Land.)

This world can use A LOT more happy.

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It’s Magical

That’s what it boils down to. The combination of everything makes the story, music, and movie as magical as the circus.

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So . . .

If you haven’t seen it, GO SEE IT!

Buy it.

Get the soundtrack.

And fall in love.

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What do you think of The Greatest Showman? If you love it, why? And how many times have you seen it?

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What’s Missing From Your Romance? (fictional or real)

Have you read a book or watched a movie where the romance seemed forced or unwarranted?

It’s happened to me many times and happened again just last night as I watched a Nicholas Sparks’ movie. The guy had all the right qualities: good-looking, funny, sweet, smart, tall, and rich. The girl was beautiful, talented, witty, and intelligent.

And I couldn’t believe he’d fallen for her.

Seriously. I stared at the screen thinking, “Dude, you can do better than her!” Which was sad because the story had all the right elements.

Except one.

Continue reading “What’s Missing From Your Romance? (fictional or real)”

Writing Tip: Using Mental, Emotional, and Physical Reactions to Strengthen Your Scenes

 

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I’ve been pondering a concept in writing lately, and that’s the importance of reactions.

I know it’s essential for characters to make choices and have motivations in every scene. That gives the story a sense of urgency and purpose. But this morning I’ve been working on something different in my WIP. Reactions. I personally think every scene should have three reactions:

  1. Mental
  2. Emotional 
  3. Physical

Mental and emotional might seem like the same thing at first — especially if you’re a man. But if you’re a woman, you know they’re not. Women can easily be thinking one thing, and suddenly break out crying for no reason. Maybe men can, too, and they just hide it better. :)

To me, a mental response involves the logic aspect of the brain, and as we all know, the logical often wars with the emotional side of us. Unless we’re Spock. Or Mr. Data. (Gotta love Star Trek.)

.And the physical responses should involve the five senses. In my opinion, mental, emotional, and physical responses are key in showing, not telling your story.

How does this work?

In each scene, something happens to your character — or it should. So ask yourself:

  • How does this affect my character mentally, emotionally, or physically?

Let me demonstrate. I’ll even demonstrate with a man, since I still think women are easier to peg emotionally.

First Example:

If your character is thrown from a horse and twists his ankle, instead of saying, Jeremy sat on the ground, hurt and angry at himself, you can say:

Mental Reaction: I’m such an idiot! I knew that horse was gonna throw me. I knew it the second I saw him! Why couldn’t I have held on two seconds longer? Or got my foot in the stirrup! (Logical aspect. Yes, there is some emotion in there, but he’s logically trying to figure out how he ended up on his backside.)

Emotional Reaction: I’m such a stupid dolt! And he threw me in front of Elizabeth?! I’m never going to live this down. She’s never going to talk to me again. Stupid #&!@ horse! (Embarrassment. Anger.  A hint of a crush going on.)

Physical Reaction: I try to stand. Pain explodes in my ankle. I stifle a groan and swear again. I look around. The fence is a couple feet behind me, but if Elizabeth sees me use it to stand up, I’ll lose all manhood. Gritting my teeth, I wipe my raw hands on my jeans, and push myself up. My legs shake. They hate me as much as I hate the horse. It takes every ounce of energy not to limp out of the corral. 

Man Thrown from horse

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Second Example:

Pretend that after Jeremy masters the horse-riding, he is riding through a dark, scary forest. Don’t just tell me, “Jeremy rode through a dark, scary forest.” Show me.

Mental Response: The wall of trees stretches up on both sides of me. The sun is lost in their shadows, making it feel much later in the day than it is. I know if there was more sun, I would find the scenery beautiful. But I can’t. I don’t. (Mental/Logical response)

Emotional Response: The trees crowd in around me. They’re hiding something, I can feel it. What though? Or are they the secret themselves? It seems their dark, gnarled branches could reach out and grab me at any moment. (Emotional response–fear)

Physical Response: My eyes struggle to adjust to the lack of sun. It is cool in the forest, yet my forehead breaks out in a sweat. The woods are too silent. Too quiet. I’m a dead man

Third Example:

This last example is from Elizabeth’s POV. If Jeremy unexpectedly kisses her at the end of the story, you can say Elizabeth was surprised, even really, really, really surprised. Or . . . you can show her three reactions and let the readers figure it out:

Mental response: I stare at Jeremy in shock. He’s never looked at me twice before. Where did this kiss come from? Did he hear me talking to Mary about my crush on him? Does he just feel guilty? 

Emotional Response: I study his blue eyes, his dark hair. He’s not smiling. Why isn’t he smiling? “Don’t say it was a mistake!” I beg him silently. “Don’t tell me you are sorry. In fact, kiss me again!” 

Physical Response: My lips are still warm, my cheeks are flushed. My heart is pounding so loudly I’m sure he can hear it. 

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Those are just a few quick examples. The beauty is all three responses can be thrown together as written, or moved around to help with the flow.

I stare at Jeremy in shock. He’s never looked at me twice before. Where did this kiss come from? Did he hear me talking to Mary about my crush on him? Does he just feel guilty? I study his blue eyes, his dark hair. He’s not smiling. Why isn’t he smiling? My lips are still warm, my cheeks are flushed. My heart is pounding so loudly I’m sure he can hear it. 

“Don’t say it was a mistake!” I beg him silently. “Don’t tell me you are sorry. In fact, kiss me again!” 

.The more I delve into my characters’ mental, emotional, and physical reactions, the more the scenes come alive.

At the same time, I am sure there’s a point of over-doing it. I can’t imagine writing about Jeremy’s reaction to seeing a McDonald’s down the street unless it’s going to affect his future decisions, and thus the story. It could easily slow the narrative. So use this tip with caution. I think. Right?

What do you guys think? How do you use mental, emotional, and physical reactions to show your story? Is there a point of overdoing it? 

Clean Romance: Old-fashioned Idea or New Trend?

(Warning: I’m stepping out of my comfort zone to get on a fairly large soap box.)

Why does everything have to be sexualized? I’m sick of it!

Last night, our family went to the Detroit Pistons game (basketball game for the non-sports people). It was such a riot and a blast, and I was having such a great time. Until . . . the dancers came out. Their moves, their outfits, their fake bodies. Everything reeked of sex and I was cringing with my five kids next to me, including my teenage boy and girl. (I would have been cringing without kids.) My husband’s company offered us great seats and as such, there wasn’t much to miss. I kept saying, “Hey, you guys want some popcorn?” “Hey, look at the mascot over there? He’s funny, right?” “Wow, look at all the pretty lights!” just waiting for the songs to be done.

FYI, I will be writing a letter to the Pistons staff because I write letters when I’m offended. Part of me believes it makes a difference, because I once sent a nasty letter to Google about an offensive ad and next thing I knew, I was emailing back and forth with one of their Senior Board Members. I haven’t seen the ad since. But even if my letters fall on deaf ears, I have no business complaining unless I speak up and try to do something about it (like I mentioned in a recent post). Watch out Pistons management, Mother Bear around the corner.

But I digress.

I’m sick of our sexualized culture. I’m sick of feeling like a Mother Bear all the time. Movies. Books. Video Games. Radio. Even harmless websites have harmful advertising in the sidebar. I mean, come on people!

Enough already!

Interestingly enough, I’m seeing a trend in the book world. There is a large group of people that are running to the Young Adult (teen) market. Readers and writers. Why? I think that many, like me, are sick to death of the of this over-sexualization in our culture and are hoping to find less prevalence in the teenage world. I say “less” because the YA genre is not free from sex. WHAT THE HECK IS WRONG WITH THIS WORLD? Hmmmm, deep breath might be warranted at this point.

*Deep breath*

Okay. Back in control.

This new ‘clean’ trend in the YA is awesome, but…what if I don’t always want to read about teenagers? No offense to that group of people, but I already live with two teens. Do I really have to read and write about them too? I have friends who turn to the Christian market to find clean romances to read, but really, do I have to read cheesey religious books now too? No offense to religion or religious books, especially because I consider myself very religious, and SADIE has religion in it (although my next book doesn’t). Hopefully you are understanding my point, though.

There has to be a place somewhere that I can read about engaging, quirky, fascinating adult characters without muddling through the smut.

So here’s my plea to everyone out there.

I write romances. I write clean romances. But I can’t read my own stuff all the time. As much as I might like my stories, that’s lame and dumb. So please writers, PLEASE give me some reading with grown-up characters that’s safe for my 13-year-old girl to read. PLEASE! And it’s not just for me. I’m telling you, there’s a whole market out there that few are tapping into. Readers are running in droves to the YA market because they feel like it can’t be done in the adult world. It CAN! It has to for my sanity!

*Another deep breath*

My last point.

  1. Why is Jane Austen considered the greatest romance writer of all time? Her books are super squeaky clean. You might get a kiss out of the main characters. Maybe. But we totally and completely adore them–at least I do.

2. Why were 9 out of the top 10 grossing films of 2011 PG-13 or less, when over half (at least) of movies in theaters are rated R?

3. Why are people running to the YA market?

4. Why don’t authors and Hollywood understand this?

DARE TO BE DIFFERENT.

Enough ranting.

And if you haven’t heard about it, commonsensemedia.org is a great website for parents or non-parents who want to find out what content/smut is in movies and books. It isn’t all-inclusive, but it has the major ones. You can check out some of their book reviews here. Big thank you to them!!!

I’m still waiting for goodreads to come out with a rating feature so people not only rate how much they like a book, but where it would fit on the PG-XXX scale. Maybe someday.

(UPDATE: there is a new book website called literrater.com which rates books on content. Check it out!)

Okay, I’m done. Stepping off the soap box now. But I’m really hoping you’ll weigh in on this.

Do you agree with me? Disagree? Am I old-fashioned or could this be the new trend? What are your thoughts as a reader, writer, movie goer, music listener? As a parent? As a non-parent? As a consumer?