Storytelling and The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

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I confess, I’m obsessed…

Strike that. Possessed. With the art of storytelling.

It’s why I’m about to spend four 10-hour days in a NYC workshop led by Robert McKee called simply Story next week. McKee’s taught many of the top screenwriters and novelists in the world how to craft stories that have defined the genres for decades.

Because, storytelling isn’t just entertainment, nor is it just about books and movies. Storytelling is about power. The power to transport, enrapture, uplift, inspire, devastate, surprise, enthrall, destroy, eviscerate, elevate, drive to tears, laughter, love, hysteria, awe and inspire action.

Powerful stories told beautifully wield immense potential.

So, when I was offered a sneak peak at a movie based on the first book in Swedish author Stieg Larsson’s Milennium series, I couldn’t say no.

Partly, because the novels have sold more than 25 million copies (I’m so easily swayed by social proof). Partly, because the trilogy, beginning with The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, has been heralded as a stunning example of dark, moving, deeply engaging storytelling. And, maybe I was even swayed by the mysterious “supposed” heart attack that killed Larsson, an oft-threatened anti-right wing activist, before the books were even published (conspiracy theorists, delight)!

When the dvd arrived, I unwrapped it and popped it.

First surprise…it was in Swedish! Ack! My friend never mentioned that to me.

I’m generally not a foreign film guy, but this became an interesting challenge for me. Could the power of the story, the acting, the cinematography overcome the challenge of having to follow along with subtitles? Two and a half hours later, the answer was…bigtime.

I hadn’t known the story before watching the movie. It was beautifully filmed in the cold Swedish countryside. But, it wasn’t the setting that drew you in, it was the characters, their quest and their struggles.

Raw, flawed, honest, conflicted, constantly bouncing between a sense of justice, service and revenge.

It felt unfiltered. Very un-PC. And, it immediately pulled you in and kept you immersed in the arc, sometimes cringing, other times pondering, still others exalting. It felt complete. Not that it left no questions unanswered. In fact, it set up the second book/movie the way a master copywriter sets up the sale. You’re left simultaneously satisfied and teased. Knowing there’s more to come.

I sometimes wonder if story has become increasingly relegated to the level of second class citizen.

Forced to stand in line behind special effects, glitz and A-list celebs with a proven draw. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is a stunning example of how to bring it back to the center. And, I’ve no doubt, that’s what’s driven the books to such an extraordinary level. I’ll be buying copies of all three.

Which brings us to why I was was given a preview copy of the movie and asked to write anything I wanted about it—The big, bad Dragon Tattoo Blog Hunt!

If you’re one of my regular readers, here’s what it’s all about…

As part of the movie launch, there is a worldwide blog hunt being conducted. You can join the Dragon Tattoo Blog HUNT – an internet wide scavenger hunt tied to the feature film launch of bestselling book The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. Win great prizes – freemovie tickets, books, movie soundtrack, posters and more. To join the contest, start at the beginning of the HUNT by visiting for full details and the first clue. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is in theaters near you starting March 19th.

If you’ve landed here by following a clue from another blog, this is what you’ve been searching for…


After fantasizing about her husband’s funeral, this blogger decided she was going to fix her marriage no matter what. Her ‘project’ is to find her fairy-tale ending with humor, raw honest, karma and a lot of rolling around in the hay. See for yourself if she’s living Happily Ever After.

Now, go forth, hunt, read, watch, and, above all craft a great story…

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20 responses

20 responses to “Storytelling and The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo”

  1. Michael says:

    These three books are beyond awesome. The characters are gripping and so distinctive. It’s a brutal read at times – the author shows some of the systemic violence that is practiced against women. And they’re wonderful. Good pick, Jonathan

  2. I think every writer should read McKee’s “Story”. It is one of the best books out there on the subject and as an editor it has helped me immensely. I’m jealous you get to spend four long days with him!

  3. Babs says:

    Oh this is cool. I’ve never heard of a scavenger hunt among blogs so I’m excited to start the search!

    Oh, and the movie sounds good too… 😉 Makes me want to buy the books and read them first though.

  4. Normaderm says:

    Like this article thank you for share

  5. Satu says:

    I have read Stieg Larsson’s series too. Honestly, I do not think the books are that good, but the story is still gripping. I think the second book is the best in the series, mainly because it focuses on Lizbeth Salander. Compared to her, Mikael is kind of boring.

    The movie series launched in Finland some time ago, but I haven’t seen them yet..

  6. I loved the book. It kept me up reading late at night.

    The movie sounds really interesting too. Oh and I read Robert McKee’s book “Story” and it freaking rocks! You’re going to loooove his event. 🙂

  7. I love the blog hunt! And the movie sounds amazing.

    I took McKee’s class a few years ago and loved it. Prepare to have notebooks full of ideas- enjoy!

  8. Kasey says:

    I just watched the trailer on their website. The movie looks way cool. I am thinking I may have to check out the books as well.

  9. Timely post. My friend was telling me yesterday about the Toronto Festival of Storytelling which begins March 25, 2010.

    The kick-off event, featuring world-renowned NYC storyteller Diane Wolkstein, is in honour of my friend’s late father.

    And, thanks to sponsorship by the Toronto Reference Library, the event is free.


    In case you or your readers are in town….

  10. Jonathan, Enjoy McKees’ seminar. I did it over 10 years after reading his book of the same name, and got a lot out of it. I’d love to know if he’s changed it at all in the last decade! Give us a some of the highlights when you return.

  11. Dom says:

    hi Jonathan –

    I’m right in the middle of the second book, and it’s a gripping read. One of my clients introduced me to this trilogy and I’m glad he did.

    Enjoy the seminar. Looking forward to some highlights.

  12. You’ll find that McKee is all about McKee, and some of his concepts are shall we say, dated. You’d do better by simply purchasing his book, and saving yourself the expense of traveling to NY for four days….

  13. Obviously I’m the last person on the planet to hear of these books. Then, good old Baader Meinhof kicks in, and everyone’s talking about them.

    Storytelling? Everyone’s talking about that, too. And that makes me really happy because a good story trumps empirical data every single time. Also, I’m a great storyteller, and I’m glad the rest of the world is thinking about catching up.

  14. Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by writingroads: RT @jonathanfields Storytelling and The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

  15. So glad I signed up for your newsletter so that I found out abt the scavenger hunt, as the “Girl” trilogy (or at least the first two!) are among my all-time fave books. And? Got to read some great posts and made it to the end of the hunt, whoohoo!

    Thanks 🙂

  16. I agree. The three books and the three movies are awesome. Since I’m Norwegian, I have read the books in Swedish and saw the original movies in Swedish as well. It was like a dream come through. I’ve been waiting for stuff like this for ages.

  17. Kim Maxwell says:

    I am an American living in Sweden. At a critical point in my Swedish studies I picked up The Girl With the Dragon Tatoo. What those three books did for my Swedish was immeasurable. Even in a language foreign to me it was immediately clear that Larsson had an engaging style. The story actually overshadowed my need to learn Swedish sentence structure, so now I plan to go back and reread them for the lesson that began the whole adventure. Read the books, and trust me they will be just as engaging in English!

  18. Jonathan says:

    I am not a big foreign film guy either. Not saying the films are bad but they sometimes just don’t sit right with me. However, I do have an open mind and I may have to check this one out.

  19. Frazier says:

    Who were your best friends? What were they like?

  20. Love all three books! Greatest trilogy I’ve read in a while.

    And you are right, the art of storytelling is truly amazing!