Flash Mobs as Fantasy Writing: Some Tips from Mobs

Who doesn’t love a flash mob suddenly breaking out and dancing?  Below are many examples of the Flash Mob, some of my favorites.  I wonder if they could be called Fantasy Writing, in a sense.  A collaborative work that changes the reality of those watching into a fantasy version of reality.  It’s more honestly described as theatre—probably Guerilla Theatre,  and certainly it is based on “musical reality” where tough gangsters in Guys and Dolls dance, or thugs in West Side Story snap their fingers.  But I think the Flash Mob which has really gained popularity has a more recent common ancestor.

A film called, The Fisher King, starring Robin Williams and Jeff Bridges.  In that film, there’s a sequence where all the walking people in Grand Central Station suddenly turn into dancers.  It’s the essence of Flash Mob–to create a dream sequence.  It’s such a stunning moment that I often see it in mash-ups of film retrospectives.  And the fact that modern flash mob dance sequences take place in large public spaces–like Grand Central–nods, at least a little to “The Fisher King.”

Here’s the Fisher King sequence, and then following it a selection of some of the most entertaining Fantasy moments you’ll find, this side of Reality.  Following that is a short selection of tips I think Fantasy writers can pick up from Flash Mobs.

Fisher King dance at Grand Central Station

Michael Jackson tribute in Stockholm

Oprah and Black-Eyed Peas

Frozen Grand Central Station (the opposite of Fisher King)

And for more of Improv Everywhere–they do musicals in grocery stores and much much more!

What tips can Fantasy Writers pick up from Flash Mobs

1.  They know what their audience expects, and they do the unexpected.  Grand central is supposed to be busy and chaotic–but not when it’s choreographed or frozen in place.  Fantasy writing wants to both fulfill desires and offer something new.   If you have a dwarf, an elf, a ring….uh….we know what might happen, we know what could happen, and we may not wait for anything surprising TO happen.  Shrek and Princess Bride play off expectations.  They successfully surprise and entertain their readers—but they are parodies.  Creating completely surprising fantasy realms–with new creatures, new settings, no medieval setting–can also surprise a reader and make him or her want to read.

2.  Flash Mobs bring joy to their watchers, or a sense of wonder, by giving the mundane new life.  Subway commutes, catching a train, buying groceries–now that’s a list of first dates I wanna go on!  But if you give the mundane a new sense of wonder you can re-vitalize something that was boring.  Wish they’d do that with filling out registration for car insurance….  Fantasy writing can take the ordinary and make it amazing.  Look at how exciting a compass got in The Golden Compass (yep, an alethiometer!), or CS Lewis transforming a game of hide and seek in an old mansion on a rainy day, or tornadoes in Kansas….  Find a way to take something ordinary, an object, an action, and give it new meaning, new wonder.  Honestly, I want reality to be a little more like fantasy, a little more like a flash mob.

3.  Flash Mobs are Choreographed.  They look spontaneous!  But in reality, a lot of effort was put in to make them look effortless.  Same in writing.  In writing, you guide the reader’s experience.  It requires you to be more calculating and choreagraphical than maybe you’re used to, but that’s what an interesting plot is.  Imagine if the dancers in these sequences had done boring moves…  Plot is choreography–telling your reader where to move, and what to watch….

4.  But everyday flashmobbing would become boring.  If you saw this happen all the time, you’d start to think this was reality, and ignore it.  It’s the unusual nature of a flashmob–the sudden coming together of people doing the same thing–that makes it unique.  It has to stay unusual to escape being usual.  What does that mean for fantasy writers?  That we should only create one thing— nope, but variation is important.  If you only do one kind of thing, dragons, let’s say, then your reader may eventually become bored with what you’re doing–even your interesting fantasy might become mundane.  Imagine ten more books of Harry Potter.  HP had to have a story arc that encompassed a certain number of books.  Plan that arc, and then, it’s over.  Else you get a Wheel of Time that keeps on spinning.

Good fantasy writing changes reality—and ripples into your reality forever altering it.  

Okay, I could be analyzing too much.  Enjoy the damn flashmobs and stop thinking of writing….  Oh, look, over there, it’s a whole collection of random werewolves doing Bollywood!  Made you look.