Janalyn Voigt’s unique blend of adventure, romance, suspense, and fantasy creates worlds of beauty and danger for readers. Beginning with DawnSinger, her epic fantasy series, Tales of Faeraven, carries the reader into a land only imagined in dreams.
Janalyn also writes western romance novels, and will publish in that genre under Janalyn Irene Voigt. She is represented by Barbara Scott of Wordserve Literary. She serves as a literary judge for several national contests and is an active book reviewer. Her memberships include ACFW and NCWA.
When she’s not writing, Janalyn loves to find adventures in the great outdoors.
We welcome Janalyn to the Turn Write Series. Be sure to leave her a comment at the conclusion of this post and be entered to win a free copy of her just released novel, DawnSinger.
Capture a Wide Audience Walt Disney’s Storytelling Techniques
“I can never stand still. I must explore and experiment. I am never satisfied with my work. I resent the limitations of my own imagination” ~ Walt Disney.
Each morning during my visit to Disneyland when the rope dropped to allow guests into the park a spontaneous cheer rose from the waiting crowd. Why? What brought people from all over the world and united them with happy expectation? And how can I allow this happy magic to inform my own writing?
The answers take us straight into the heart of Disneyland — to Walt Disney himself. He’s present in every corner of the park, beside you as you fly with Peter Pan, fight with the Force, adventure Indiana-Jones-style or ride a runaway train in the Old West. Walt Disney’s appeal goes beyond his fine understanding of story, evidenced by the following quote:
“If I can’t find a theme, I can’t make a film anyone else will feel. I can’t laugh at intellectual humor. I’m just corny enough to like to have a story hit me over the heart…” ~ Walt Disney.
From this quote, a writer can draw the following inferences:
- A story needs a theme.
- Be real to reach readers.
- To touch others, engage your own emotions as you write.
Walt Disney detailed the elements present in his stories:
“My entertainment credo has not changed a whit. Strong combat and soft satire are in our story cores. Virtue triumphs over wickedness in our fables. Tyrannical bullies are routed or conquered by our good little people, human or animal. Basic morality is always deeply implicit in our screen legends. But they are never sappy or namby-pamby. And they never prate or preach. All are pitched toward the happy and satisfactory ending. There is no cynicism in me and there is none allowed in our work.” ~ Walt Disney.
To emulate Disney’s formula:
- Build your story around strong conflict and soft satire.
- Allow good to win over evil through your character’s virtues.
- Allow morality to inform your story world.
- Never manipulate with sappiness (excessive emotion without cause).
- Don’t let your storytelling become wishy-washy or run-of-the-mill. Know what you want to express and do so in a unique way.
- Don’t lecture the reader.
- Don’t preach at the reader.
- Develop your story toward a satisfying conclusion. As Walt Disney put it: “A good ending is vital to a picture, the single most important element, because it is what the audience takes with them out of the theater.”
- Don’t allow cynicism to enter your writing.
Walt Disney’s insights into storytelling were matched by his equally keen understanding of his audience:
“You don’t build it for youself. You know what the people want and you build it for them.”
Disney’s opinion flies in the face of the popular notion that writers should write to please themselves. Contrary to today’s pursuit of niche markets, Disney successfully defined a wide audience for his work:
“To captivate our varied and worldwide audience of all ages, the nature and treatment of the fairy tale, the legend, the myth have to be elementary, simple. Good and evil, the antagonists of all great drama in some guise, must be believably personalized. The moral ideals common to all humanity must be upheld. The victories must not be too easy. Strife to test valor is still and will always be the basic ingredient of the animated tale, as of all screen entertainments”
Let’s review how to capture a wide audience:
- Maintain a simple focus in your storyline.
- Believably personalize good and evil (no cardboard characters)
- Uphold universally-held moral ideals.
- Keep tension high with conflict to
- Don’t give away the ending with a too-easy resolution. Make your characters work for victory.
If Disney’s formula for success seems calculated for profit, think again. I’ll let Walt Disney explain for himself:
“I knew if this business was ever to get anywhere, if this business was to ever grow, it could never do it by having to answer to someone unsympathetic to its possibilities, by having to answer to someone with only one thought or interest, namely profits. For my idea of how to make profits has differed greatly from those who generally control businesses such as ours. I have blind faith in the policy that quality, tempered with good judgment and showmanship, will win against all odds”
I don’t know about you, but I’m all for winning against the odds.
Janalyn Voigt’s DawnSinger
The High Queen is dying… At the royal summons, Shae mounts a wingabeast and soars through the air to the high hold of Faeraven, where all is not as it seems. Visions warn her of danger, and a dark soul touches hers in the night. When she encounters an attractive but disturbing musician, her wayward heart awakens. But then there is Kai, a guardian of Faeraven and of Shae. Secrets bind him to her, and her safety lies at the center of every decision he makes. On a desperate journey fraught with peril and the unknown, they battle warlike garns, waevens, ferocious raptors, and the wraiths of their own regrets. Yet, they must endure the campaign long enough to release the DawnKing—and the salvation he offers—into a divided land. To prevail, each must learn that sometimes victory comes only through surrender.
Don’t forget to leave a comment below and be entered to win a free copy of DawnSinger