Little Things are a Big Deal

Bending elephant treesThere are many things both big and small that affect our perceptions. We often concentrate on the big things because, for example, everyone really will notice if there’s an elephant in the room. But sometimes it’s the small things — the subtle things — that have the greater impact on how we perceive the big things. Your story may be the big thing, but the little details we include or the little distractions we take out can have the greatest subconscious effect on how much impact the story has.

Subtle cues affect whether or not we trust a person. Politicians know this, which is why they hire public relations firms to tell them how to dress, how to smile, how to wave and how to look interested. How do you feel about the elephant in the room? The elephant himself may make you feel uneasy because of his size relative to the room — the same feeling one has when confronting the bull in the china shop. But what if this elephant has a timid smile and is tiptoeing around the room. His intentions become more clear and those two clues may set you at ease.

Speaking of elephants and their toes, there’s an old joke about why the elephant paints his toenails red:

Moe: Why do elephants paint their toenails red?
Joe: I don’t know. Why?
Moe: So they can hide in cherry trees.
Joe: But I’ve never seen an elephant in a cherry tree.
Moe: See how good it works?

If we’re to trust the joke, the big elephant would be completely visible in the tree were it not for the red toenail polish. Makes you want to pay more attention to the little things, doesn’t it?

In drama, a good actor uses so much more than his lines. There are the subtle body movements, the glance to the left, and the hesitation before the reply. The way he holds himself when he walks can speak volumes about his character. These are more of the little things that are so important to the big thing.

At Creative Genius Productions, we specialize in telling stories through audio, even when that audio accompanies pictures. And audio storytelling often benefits from the little things that one can do to create a deeper soundscape. For example, foley effects allow us to record a character as he climbs up into the big leather chair and sips from a large mug of frothy hot cocoa. Subtle musical tone can create a slight tension within the room just before the wooden door squeaks at the unexpected intruder’s entrance. These are all little things.

On the other hand, some little things can destroy a soundscape. If this character in the leather chair cries out at the sound of the door, but instead of saying “Stop!” says “StoPPPP!” with a blast of his breath hitting the microphone on the letter “P” creating a loud plosive sound, then the mood will be broken. The listener’s suspension of disbelief will be gone because the microphone suddenly becomes visible and it, therefore, suddenly becomes apparent that the scene isn’t real. It’s just a guy with poor mic technique recording the story.

What distractions do you need to remove from your storytelling? If you use music, does it fit? Do the sound effects fit? Does it sound like your character is where she claims to be? If she is supposed to be standing on the beach, we’d better not hear her voice reflecting off the walls. And the questions are still important even if the storytelling is made up of the voice alone. Do the words you choose move the story forwards making it stronger at every step? Or are there some things that should be edited out so as not to distract?

To bring this back to the elephants with the nail polish, makeup is yet another example of the little things making a big difference. When a person applies too much makeup, you stop seeing the beauty of the person and start seeing the makeup. The wise person knows that one’s own beauty is brought out more when the makeup is subtle and merely highlights what’s already there.

Let the team at Creative Genius Productions help you fine tune your story and make sure the big things and the little things are all working together to tell it in the best way possible.