Thursday, February 18, 2010

Blogging lessons learned from Percy Jackson

In my last blog post, I started a review of the new Seth Godin book. And although a couple of weeks have passed, I'm no further along in the book. But I have been to the movies a lot, and one in particular got my blogging juices flowing.

I didn't even plan to see Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief, but my daughter insisted on going since she read the book. It was pretty entertaining for a kid's movie, and it offered me some subliminal advice on blogging strategies. Here are a few of my takeaways:

Take poetic license
Who says everything has to be all accurate and verifiable in a blog? The Greek and Roman myths have been around for centuries, but the stories were conveniently modified to suit the movie plot line. Take the gods' cool weapons ... flying shoes, lightning bolts, swords that fold down into pens ... I don't remember reading about any of these in Mythology 201. But without them, there wouldn't have been much of a story, so bring on more of the ancient powers with a high-tech toy spin!

There were myriad examples of twisting traditional myths in the movie: the doorway to Mount Olympus on the 600th floor of the Empire State Building ... Medusa separated from her head with help from the reflection in an iPod ... the bottom line is that the movie will probably get a whole new generation interested in mythology, and that's a good thing. Once the kids read the stories and find out they're slightly different from the movie version, they'll probably be too engrossed to care.

Keep readers on their toes
This strategy may be a little harder to pull off in writing that in multimedia, but not impossible. One of the things I liked best about the movie was that nobody was who or what they seemed on the surface. Percy, he's the son of Posideon. His friend with the arm braces? No cripple at all -- he's actually a satyr who can kick some serious butt when Percy needs help. The beloved teacher in a wheelchair? None other than a noble centaur charged with educating Percy on the ways of the gods. It might mean blogging a little more on the fiction side, rather than the non-fiction, but convincing readers something is one thing when it's actually something else could make for some interesting blogs.

Exaggerate for effect
Percy Jackson was able to hide his identity until he reached his teen years because his stepfather smelled so bad he covered Percy's natural demigod aura. Really? That is some powerful b.o.! Now that I think of it, a lot of the glowing reviews of Linchpin were pretty exaggerated imho, so if you can't beat 'em, join 'em!

End things ambiguously
This should come as no surprise to children raised on Harry Potter, but the movie ended with a lot of questions in the air: Will the heroes hook up? Are there more demigods waiting in the wings? If demigods have a baby are they semi-demis? These questions and more are sure to be answered in the next Percy Jackson movie.

As for my own try at endings that could go either way, if you're waiting with bated breath to see whether I find any zen-like clarity in the second half of Godin's book, guess you'll have to check back too.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Slogging Through the Seth Speak

If you're trying to stay up to speed on marketing trends in 2010, it's impossible to skip over Seth Godin. The guy is a publishing powerhouse with a handful of bestsellers to his name and a new book, Linchpins, that after just one week is already on the NY Times bestseller list.

The guy obviously knows his stuff.

So why, then, as I try to read Linchpins does my mind keep wandering back to that story I read when I was a kid called The Emperor's New Clothes?

(If you never read the fairy tale, it's about a clothes hound of an emperor who lets two con men scam him into thinking they're making him a suit from fabric so fine that only the savviest of people can see it. He can't see the suit himself, but to admit that would mean that he's unfit for his position, so the emperor parades through town buck naked pretending to be decked out in his finest. It takes a child in the crowd to point out the obvious -- but once the cat's out of the bag the rest of the town follows suit. As for the emperor, he just keeps on walking ... hopefully to the nearest tailor who can fit him with some real clothes worthy of his regalness.)

OK, back to the new Seth Godin book. It's earned stellar praise from everybody who's everybody in marketing. The blogosphere touts it. Traditional publications too. It's utterly the finest marketing book available today. So I've got to have it right? I pick up Linchpins the day it comes out, ready to be wowed. This is where the slogging begins.

The basic premise of the book -- at least the first quarter or so I've managed to get through -- is that the world is changing, it's no longer enough just to do your job, and you better be exceptional if you want to make it in today's scary world of downsizing, outsourcing and job eradication. Be an artist at whatever it is you do. Ignore the part of your brain that's afraid to do anything fantastic. Stop trying to fit in and start finding ways to stand out.

That's it. That's the words of wisdom that everyone's going gaga over. Really? Quick! Somebody put their hand over my mouth before I blurt out something stupid, like "No kidding? You have to do go above and beyond to set yourself apart from the crowd? Why didn't anyone think of this before!"

Surely there's more to the book than this. Any page now I'm going to be barraged with insights and elucidation that'll make my head spin. And once it's done spinning I'll hang it in shame for ever doubting the master of 21st century marketing is anything but that.

Meanwhile, I gotta stop thinking about that naked emperor. The guy's really starting to creep me out.