Michaeline: Diary of a “Damn Daniel” Discovery

Father Time with an old-fashioned shoe from 1896

Damn, Daniel. Shoes are a timeless topic. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

April 1, 8:35 p.m.: Surfing YouTube. Jimmy Fallon references “Dang Daniel” in a throwaway joke. “What is this ‘Damn Daniel’?”


April 1, 8:36 p.m.: Google blurbs are useless. All I’m getting is shoes and “Damn, Daniel.” Now I’m curious: Why would Jimmy Fallon think this is a thing?


April 1, 8:37 p.m.: I say screw it and look for the original “Damn Daniel” video clip. It’s only 30 seconds long. Yes! I can invest this sort of time.


April 1, 8:37:30 p.m.: Damn. It’s shoes and Daniel. Still, I like the sound and rhythm. I see in the videos recommended underneath the clip that Ellen has had the kids on her show.


April 1, 8:45 p.m.: Aw, Ellen!She’s got her fingers on the pulse of the internet. The kids are adorable, seem pretty mature for 14 and 15, and Josh, the writer/creator of the viral meme is properly grateful for a “Damn Daniel” surfboard. I like these boys! I want to know more!


April 1, 8:46 p.m.: Recommended video: “How ‘Damn Daniel’ Ruined my Life.” Eight minutes long . . . well, OK. I’m hooked by now, and I’m ready to give it a try. Thirty seconds later, I turn it off. Nothing about shoes or Daniel, too much about guy on the screen. Backstory is boring. I’d rather head for bed.


April 1, 8:53 p.m.: Goodnight.


Lessons learned:

  1. Catchy hooks are catchy. And follow them up with more of the same. (The short “a” sound motif in the whole video is the key, I think. dAmn dAniel, bAck At it agAin with the white vAns.)
  2. Cut out the boring parts, even if it means your work is shorter. Filler is a huge turnoff, and readers/watchers will find better things to do.
  3. Don’t waste time with introductions and backstory.
  4. Steps for an interesting narrative experience: a.) Tease the reader/watcher (Jimmy Fallon). b) Provide content, and for god’s sake, don’t spell out the subtext. Let the reader/watcher figure it out. c) NOW you can introduce a little backstory – where are the kids from? Why do they like Vans? How did this video clip come to be? Our interest is piqued; now’s the time to satsisfy it. (Thank you, Ellen.)
  5. The big takeaway: provoke their curiosity first. Then you can take some time to satisfy it.
  6. Don’t take too long to tell your story.


And that, my friends, is how I spent my evening. Damn.

4 thoughts on “Michaeline: Diary of a “Damn Daniel” Discovery

  1. If it weren’t for you, Michaeline, I would be clueless. Now that I’ve spent a half-hour checking this out, I feel hopelessly out of it, but what a hoot! And I agree with your takeaways. Cut the boring parts, because if a kid can get dozens of other kids laughing just by saying “What are those?” then we sure don’t need a lot of backstory to stir some emotion!

    • LOL, I should have put a “time-suck” warning on it. It’s really hard to explain Damn Daniel in words, because it’s not a three-act structure or whatever. It’s a rhythm and a repetition, which happens to have a backstory. I included the story up to the romantic “happy ending” (internet sensation), but the story took a dark turn after the boys became famous. Someone “SWATTED” them. That is to say, someone called the police and said there’d been a shooting in the filmmaker’s house. Brrr. The internet can be cruel. But, I like to think this is just the dark act before the reversal. This is going to be a twisty story, but I think a lot of it will take place off the internet.

  2. Damn, Michaeline, you provoked my curiosity. The internet is a strange and (sometimes) wonderful place.

    I’m closing my eyes and ears to your comments about backstory, because my new WIP is built on it. I’m just going to have to sneak the important bits in to the story under cover of darkness, whistling loudly. And I keep telling myself, at least this time I have a possible prequel/novella if/when I need one 😉 .

    • Oh, yeah, no! Backstory is absolutely what needs to happen in a first draft. I’m at that stage myself, so I don’t know why I’m attracted to the editing stage of things.

      Even the filmmaker did drafting. “Damn, Daniel” is the result of several days (weeks?) of filming his friend. I’m sure there were some shots that didn’t make the final cut. And of course, they are teenagers. There’s a whole lot more to their friendship than one guy running around with a phone saying, “Back at it again with the white vans!”

      After I posted, I found this earlier article by Wired: “Finally, an Exhaustive Structural Analysis of ‘Damn Daniel'”. It’s got a lot of good points; some of which I’ve made, some of which are new and cool. (-: But you’ve got to have a pile of materials before you can really start building the structure.

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