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Monday, April 2, 2012

Lessons in Storytelling—Double Mumbo Jumbo


I came across this idea for the first time in Blake Snyder’s book Save the Cat. (I’m going to be talking about some of the principles I learned in this book on Wednesday. It was amazing!)

Double Mumbo Jumbo is when a story has more than one magical element that makes you suspend disbelief.  Example: Time traveling vampires, Alien zombies, Mermaid demon hunters.

I think the main principle behind the idea is: Don’t over load your stories. Keep it simple. Keep it concise. Keep it to one unbelievable element.

A few years ago I read a retelling of Cinderella. There were little elements of magic here and there (exactly what you would expect) and then suddenly we find out that the fairy godmother characters is actually an alien that came through a portal. Huh?!?! The author lost me right there.

I know you’ve felt this in books or movies. You’re watching and all the sudden werewolf ninjas show up and it’s over for you. Most of the time more doesn’t help the action or the plot. Sometimes it just muddles things up.

I would love to hear any literary examples you all can think of. And if you disagree, “Heck yes! More is better!” Tell me why you feel like that :)

-Angie


20 comments:

Rachel Schieffelbein said...

I know I've had moments like that, of course I can't think of an example right now, but I totally know what you mean.

Tobi Summers said...

I feel like time-traveling aliens (or something like it) can work if it's established early in the book and a major plot point. Or if it comes up late in a book, but early in a series. But I totally know what you mean about them just showing up randomly and serving no other purpose than to be weird.

Kyra Lennon said...

Like Rachel, I can't think of a specific example of Double Mumbo Jumbo, but I know for sure I have flung books to one side when I've read that kind of thing!

Deana said...

I think I totally misspelled definitely :)

Deana said...

Hey wait, where is my comment? Weird. Well, I said in my earlier comment that I realized I had done this in my latest wip. It was quite a slap in the face to realize it and now I am ready for a major overhaul...or else a new idea:)

Brinda said...

This makes me want to read Mumbo Jumbo! My brain hurts trying to think of an example. :)

Cassie Mae said...

Just gotta be done real well. Like, I'm totally cool with a werewolf getting turned into a vampire hybrid, but I'm in love with Vampire Diaries, so they could pretty much do anything and I'd be alright with it, lol.

Gwen said...

Sometimes it works though, I mean finding out your fairy godmother is an alien is a huge plot twist, and probably about as dramatic as finding out she's also your mother. But creepier. Don't get me wrong, there are time when enough is enough, but I totally like the idea of alien fairy godmothers

Angela Cothran said...

But that works because the same magic that makes the vampires makes the werewolves. What doesn't work is when you start mixing magic. Like we can time travel because of the special alignment of these plants, but then you throw in some magic elves that draw their power from language. That is just a mess. Only one KIND of magic.

Donna K. Weaver said...

Mumbo jumbo, huh. lol I'd never heard that term. And yes, you need to know what genre you're reading from the beginning.

Leigh Covington said...

I don't mind having more than one magical element, but when there is no foreshadowing and it just comes out of nowhere, it kind of loses it's flavor. Yunno?

Emily R. King said...

Great advice! I can't wait to read this book. I know I'm going to love it. :)

Tara Tyler said...

i think mumbo jumbo is a future wave since most of the other ideas are taken, these will morph

and you gave me a great idea for a short story!

Jeff Hargett said...

I've read tales where disparate magic types were a crucial plot element (e.g., one acceptable, one shunned) and found it worked well. However, crossing genres usually (but not always) stops me cold.

Brittany said...

Um, two words: Vampires AND Werewolves. I can suspend belief for one in a book, but not both. Sorry Twi-hards.

Ruth Josse said...

Yeah, sometimes people get a little TOO creative. :)

Sarah Pearson said...

Even 'better' is the one that gets dropped in just to get the hero out of trouble :-)

Kelley said...

I totally agree. Keep it fairly simple with all the bibbidi bobbidi boo ;)

elizabeth seckman said...

LOL...you crack me up. But I agree, keep the unbelievable realistic.

Small Town Shelly Brown said...

I don't dare argue with Blake or you! Yeah, it is possible to do several things but you have to be SO smooth about it. I don't think I'd touch it with a ten foot pole. I'm no good at alien fairy wizard cowboys.

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