Do Something Different




If you saw the 2018 Sony Pictures production, Searching, starring John Cho and directed by Aneesh Chaganty (who also co-wrote the film with Sev Ohanian), you know it had an innovative approach to telling a story: using the screens of smartphones and computers. Let’s face it—a movie about a man searching for his missing daughter sounds pretty common right? (CoughcoughTakencoughcough) But with this film, the filmmakers subverted convention by telling the story a different way.

While this format might not be everyone’s

it is a unique way of telling a story.

Sometimes, you have to

to breathe new life into a genre.

I can’t help thinking of novels in verse or even epistolary novels (where a story is told through letters, diary entries, newspaper clippings, emails, or even tweets). These formats are great ways to experience the beauty and variety of storytelling.

What is the most unusual format you’ve seen someone use to tell a story or to get a message across? What intrigued you about that format? How did it inspire you to try something different (if it did)? While you think about that, check this out. This is a wrapper from a Halls Breezers throat lozenge. I love that the company included a pep talk on each wrapper.


A great video on the production of Searching can be found here at the Lessons from the Screenplay YouTube channel. It has spoilers though.

Searching movie poster from Envelope gif from Cup of tea from Halls Breezers image from Other photos and screenshots by L. Marie.

51 thoughts on “Do Something Different

  1. I remember hearing about that movie, but it seemed to disappear as soon as it arrived. Seeing a story done solely in pictures with no dialogue is fun. It was a manga chapter, but I forgot which series. Pretty some American comics did it too.

  2. I like stories told with letters or emails. I don’t care so much how a story is told, just that the story has some substance to it– and isn’t a waste of my time to read.

  3. Mint drop Kitty is already paving the way…eh?
    Your post is somewhat like how I do my own journal (morning) pages at times. I am drawn to this sort of thing for sure.
    However, I am so old-school – literally hands-on – I have to cut and paste, manually lay it out in order to get the effect I want. I get too frustrated having to direct my hands/THUMBS!!! to make the computer/phone do ‘art – layout’ stuff manipulation onto a flat screen. HA! Guess that’s cuz I’m more kinesthetic in my approach to life.
    Oh, and, I like the Dove Promises dark chocolate pieces wrapper-notes!!! HA! Way better than Halls throat lozenges!

    • Ha ha! I forgot about the Dove Promises. It’s been so long since I had a bag of those! (The Halls Breezers are very good too. They’re more like a vitamin C drop–very tasty.)

      Yes Mint Kitty is paving the way. Since she is the kitty of Kitty, I hope this is not part of an elaborate caper to gain our trust, only to wind up with our wallets stolen or something.

      I usually am more hands on too when it comes to layout. That was my job back in the day–production editor. I had to paste up newsletters. That shows how long ago that was. All of it is done on the compute now.

  4. I don’t mind the occasional text screen to read during a movie, but it can be overdone, and it can be annoying if the type is too small to read quickly. We don’t like having to pause the DVD and walk up to the TV to see what is being “said.”

    I do have Searching on my Netflix queue. I knew it had a lot of screen time on the big screen. Now I’m wondering if it will be too much “screen writing.” 😉

  5. Do you have to read the messages throughout the entire movie, or is there talking? You named most of the different or unusual ways to tell a story. The way I’m writing my WIP is sort of different, at least for me. It may be why it’s taking me years to write. I’m not sure how to even explain it, but there is a character who is telling the story of two other characters. If that makes sense.

    Hold onto your hat, more wild weather to come. Winter Weather Watch tonight. Ugh. As my friend said to me this morning, this stretch of winter is the most trying.

    • There is dialogue, but everything still takes place on a screen. Do you think you’ll watch it?

      What made you decide to have your character tell the story of two other characters? Are you enjoying the writing?

      Yes, I heard there was more winter to come. We have had our share this year!

      • L. I will keep the movie Searching in mind. In the summer during rerun season, we’re always looking for something to watch.

        My WIP is complicated to explain about the characters. I’ve mentioned it before, because I’ve been working on it for so long. It’s about a 20th century prophet, and his story is being told through a 3rd party character who does research on him after the prophet is dead. So, the author of my novel is my character. 😛

        Stay safe out there.

  6. Cleverly entertaining, L. Marie!

    The latest letter-style book I’ve read is The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, made into a movie perhaps last year (or the year before). In high school I remember reading Richardson’s Pamela when I probably learned the big word “epistolary.” Ha!

    • Marian, I love Guernsey! It’s one of my favorite books! I saw the movie too. (Beautiful, but I prefer the book.)

      Have you read Daddy-Long-Legs by Jean Webster? (Yes the one the movie is based on.) That’s another good epistolary novel.

  7. Love this blog post! These different ways of telling the story engage the reader in a kind of puzzle with so many possibilities. I “read” a lot of movies, but that’s because I’m a fan of world cinema and I don’t know that many languages.

  8. Love this post and the way you use the screens and signs! Telling the story in this way creates a kind of puzzle that engages the viewer or reader. In fact, I’m used to “reading” movies because I’m a fan of world cinema and only know a few languages.

  9. I read a few epistolary novels when I was a grad student. Clarissa by Samuel Richardson was the most chilling. Recently I read The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware. While generally the story was told in a traditional format, at the end of each chapter, there was an email exchange or text message exchange between other characters. It was a cool device to heightened tension. And this was a truly entertaining, creative blog post 🙂

  10. It was fun to read your post. The visual variety grabs your attention. I haven’t tried to use anything besides pictures on my blog. I should be more creative.

  11. I truly enjoyed reading this post. L. Marie.
    There are a few television shows out right now that use a lot of screen scrolling shots with text messages. I find it an interesting way of telling a story, but, half the time I can’t get the words focussed until just about when they go off the screen. Ugh. I’m getting old.
    I loved Ella Minnow Pea! Someone else mentioned it here and jogged my foggy brain. 🙂
    I enjoy books told in diary form/letters. Not all the time, but, often enough.
    V is for Verity is told in poems. I hesitated to read it some years ago – and then, I couldn’t put it down. It was also one of those books that suddenly took me by surprise and made me gasp -I didn’t see it coming. It is YA.

    • I know what you mean about these shows with scrolling screens. Sometimes when the type scrolls across the screen, there’s not enough contrast to read the type adequately.

      I’d love to read another epistolary novel. They are a fun change of pace. (Which is why I love The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society so much. 😃)

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