I recently took my kids to see Aladdin on Broadway. This was their first show and, like many people, had a blast. I think we all do the same thing when we leave a show, we endlessly play the music to relive the magic. Good times.
Once I had enough, I decided to introduce my kids to Newsies on Broadway. My oldest was really into the music from Aladdin and, since Alan Menken was a huge contributor to both musicals, I knew this would be a big hit. It was.
Anyone who knows me knows that I'm a huge Newsies fan. I mean, who else would dedicate an entire post to that show. I'm not talking about the Broadway show either. I'm talking about the twelve-year-old boy who saw the movie. That's right. I was hooked from the moment Christian Bale sang Santa Fe on the big screen.
It's weird how this movie ended up on my radar, too. One day my mom brings it up. She tells me that some of the dancers at my sister's dance school are going to dance as extras in the movie. As a kid, this was the coolest thing. I loved the movies. I still remember the Christmas where all I asked for was movies. My parents didn't get it. I never said what movies. I just wanted movies. Perplexed, they got me Batman (89) and Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Talk about a giant win for me. Anyway, I digress. People from my area of the world were going to be in a movie. That's freakin awesome.
Then I saw the coming attractions. To many of my friends that's the turn off. A musical is lame, right? Wrong. You're talking to the kid who could sing all the songs from The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and Aladdin (it came out later that year but you get my point). I was no stranger to musicals and, although I didn't know it then, the guy putting together the music to all these movies was the same genius. Can't go wrong their.
I admit, watching the movie today is a poor decision. What do you expect from a movie from the early 90's. It's not bad, but it doesn't hold up. Knowing this, I refused to show the movie to my kids. Instead, I played up the Broadway angle.
Newsies on Broadway is a masterpiece. The songs are genius. The changes are brilliant to the key songs. The addition songs that are needed to fill out the show are definitely suspect, but they fit. Knowing that the show is on Netflix was a perfect way to introduce this to my oldest. I knew if I played the soundtrack in the car, she would love it. Then we can enjoy the Broadway show on television.
What I didn't realize was how much this show would impact me. The songs are catchy, but they are inspiring too. I started to get chills when the first chords of Santa Fe roll through the speakers. I feel the power of Kings of New York and the power the Seize the Day invokes in me is surreal. I realized that I looked here for inspiration in my own writing. The music speaks to me and has since I was a kid.
As a writer, it's hard to say when I began studying film. I wasn't a big reader as a kid. I hated it. Sometime in my early twenties I started picking up novels and shortly after that I began writing. Then I discovered I needed to learn a lot of stuff about writing so I started studying the craft. I'm funny like that. Hey, it's working out for me. Don't judge.
Here's what I learned when I started learning about story structure and the craft of writing, I've been studying this stuff my whole life. Sure, I wasn't a reader, but structure isn't limited to books. The movies I loved as a kid, the ones I watched religiously happened to follow the same structure. Once I started learning what elements I was looking at I was able to apply that to my writing.
I'm digressing again.
Back to Newsies. This is one of those structures. The three act play breaks down perfectly. I learned, later in life, that there was a booklet given out to all Disney writers that laid out a formulaic structure that the writers were pretty much told to follow. Who knew? Much of my writing follows the same format. This is not by chance.
The thing the format doesn't teach is how to get a story to impact the audience the way Newsies does for me. That's my goal. I want to write a story the will impact one person the way Newsies does for me. One person who can pick up one of my books over thirty years after I publish it and get chills.
That's why I focus my writing on characters. If the format of these stories is the same, the only differentiation is the characters. There's the lesson here folks. When writing aim for compelling characters that your audience can relate to. Jack inspires me as he goes on his adventure. I feel his pain when he loses Crutchy. I want to stand up and high-five him when he wins. I want to be a Newsie working with him.
After all this time, I don't think I will ever fall out of love with Newsies. For me, it's timeless. Now, it's time I got to work on my next set of compelling characters.
Till next time.