Clues to a Great Story: The TED Talk

“What this scene is doing…is making a promise that the story will lead somewhere that will be worth your time.”

The brilliant filmmaker behind stories like WALL-E and Toy Story, Andrew Stanton, brings us a TED Talk about learning how to tell the best and most effective story. He shares his insights on writing and drafting and using your own experiences to gain inspiration. I plan on listening to this Talk more than once, because even during my first listen, I could tell that this successful man had some amazing tips to share.

Aspiring writers? This one’s for you.

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5 Childhood Movies That Probably Drove Me to Vegetarianism

As you all know (or probably don’t know considering I’ve hardly mentioned it), I’ve been a vegetarian for a very long time – just shy of 14 years now.

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And the number one question people ask me when they discover that I stopped eating meat at the ripe old age of six is “How?” Everyone always wants to know how I was able to make that kind of mature decision when most other six year olds were busy stockpiling Beanie Babies and watching Toy Story 2. And because I’m me, I always give them the most thoroughly-examined answer I can possibly offer: “I honestly have no idea.”

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No one ever seems satisfied with that answer though, and sometimes I feel a little embarrassed giving it (shouldn’t I know what was going on in my head at that age?), so I try to follow up that answer with the much more intelligent sounding “I think I just figured out where meat came from and didn’t like it.” Probably.

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But because I myself am not satisfied with that answer, I’ve attempted to dig a little deeper into my six year old psyche and unearth a few more influences that must have been at play. I’m told that I had a shockingly long attention span for a six year old, so much so that I could sit in one spot and do one activity for hours on end. It’s because of this fact that I believe I have found my influences…

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5 Childhood Movies That Probably Drove Me to Vegetarianism

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Chicken Run – (2000)

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Plot: A feisty chicken and her chicken friends attempt to escape from a farm on which they are about to become baked into pies. Stop motion.

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Lesson: Animals have emotions, hopes, and dreams too. They’d much rather frolic in a warm and sunny paradise than be cooked up for dinner. I can relate. I don’t want to be a pie either.

101 Dalmations – (1996)

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Plot: Skunk-headed Cruella De Vil tries to steal and murder 101 adorable puppies so that she can make clothes out of their fur. Live action.

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Lesson: The fur industry is a cruel world, and wearing the skin of a fellow animal is a little creepy (“It rubs the lotion on its skin…”). Don’t wear fur. You might be wearing puppy.

Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey – (1993)

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Plot: After three pets think they have been abandoned (their owners really just went on vacation), they cross California in the hopes of being reunited with the family they so dearly love. Live action.

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Lesson: Getting into the mind of your pets puts a very different perspective on things. The love and devotion they extend to you should always be reciprocated. Also, leaving your pet anywhere while you go on a trip is likely to make you very, very sad.

FernGully: The Last Rainforest – (1992)

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Plot: A clan of fairies and one human-accidentally-made-fairy-size fight to save their rainforest home from deforestation and a Tim-Curry voiced pollution monster. Animated.

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Lesson: Recycle and take care of the environment. You’re not just killing trees; you’re killing all the life within them. And the brief mentions of animal testing on the lovable Robin Williams-bat character makes me think that that’s probably not a very nice industry either.

The Fox and the Hound – (1981)

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Plot: A really cute fox and a really cute dog grow up as childhood friends but are soon turned natural enemies as adults. Animated.

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Lesson: I can’t get through that scene without crying.

Movie Review: Miss Potter

It’s tough being a woman in the literary world.

No one knows that better than famed early 20th century author Beatrix Potter.

And while she has come to be known as the creator of, among numerous other children’s books, the beloved Peter Rabbit tale, Beatrix Potter was not taken so seriously at first.

As an unmarried and slightly eccentric woman well into her thirties, Beatrix Potter’s abilities both as a writer and an artist were often mocked, not only by her soon-to-be publishers, but also by her mother.

But Beatrix soon found solace in the positive encouragement of one of her publishers, Norman Warne.

The 2006 film Miss Potter chronicles not only the budding love between Norman and Beatrix, but also her struggles to break into the publishing scene during a time when women were wished to be a little more domestic in nature.

The movie has a light and fun tone, with only one instance or so of a deeply sorrowful event. The film mixes a touch of animation (very little of it actually, not overly distracting) with real-life acting as it delves into Beatrix Potter’s very heart and soul.

Though the film does take its usual few liberties with her life story, it remains fairly true to the actual happenings of her life.

 (I did take the initiative to do a bit of research and the filmmakers got a lot of it right – even Norman Warne’s mustache)

Ewan McGregor as Norman Warne

Norman Warne

(But honestly, how could you mess up a great mustache like that?)

An excellent film for any aspiring author or period film enthusiast, Miss Potter sheds some light on a woman who, despite unhappiness in her own life, sought to bring happiness and joy to others through her heartwarming stories.

Are Book Trailers the Next Big Thing?

When people think of books, rarely do the words “visually compelling” cross their minds. Writing is certainly visual in its own imaginative sort of way, but besides the act of reading itself, viewing the images described in a novel are usually put off until the book is translated onto the big screen.

Lately, however, advertisers have found a way to put books on the little screen: book trailers. Now, I definitely claim to be one of those people who quite enjoys watching movie trailers – after all, they’re supposed to get you pumped up for the actual film. But I’ve never really thought of making a little preview like that for a book. After watching some of the following trailers, I’m absolutely sold on this concept.

Here are a few of my favorites that I found while exploring the trailer-sphere:

“Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children”


This trailer was clearly not made by an amateur, and the effect (though starting off a little Princess Bride-like) was the same as any movie trailer – it made me want to know more.

“The Night Circus”


This one wasn’t as comparable to a film trailer, but the elements it did have (soundtrack, some background visual interest) allowed it some extra bonus points. This type of trailer is more akin to something anyone could make (self-publishers, hm?) because of its relatively low technical complexities. The words forced the viewer to pay a bit more attention to reading, which I don’t think entirely kills the watching experience, simply because the viewers are probably avid readers in the first place.

“City of Lost Souls”


Wow, okay. That might as well have been a movie trailer. Clearly this one was done by professionals (and considering it was uploaded by Simon & Schuster, it was probably one of theirs) and is a very well-made book trailer for an already popular book series. But the question remains – did watching this make you want to read the book?

“The Great Gatsby”


Alright, I was just seeing if you were paying attention. This trailer is actually a real movie preview for the latest adaptation of The Great Gatsby. I am a fan of Baz Luhrmann’s, so I’ll be interested to see what he does with this excellent novel.

What do you think? Were the book trailers at all similar to the film trailer? Whether they are as good as movie trailers is arguable, but I think making them in the first place is an excellent advertising tactic and I hope to see more of these produced in the near future.