I’m sharing this here for the sheer value of Sean Stewart’s talk on the Evolution of Storytelling. I’m not entirely sure I agree with his evaluations, but I do very much appreciate how he’s made me think critically about stories and how they reach audiences.
Tag Archives: storytelling
So, I had an awesome meeting on Monday with one of my instructors. –I say instructor because in Australia and the UK, the term “professor” has a very specific meaning and is not a title easily gained. I’ve heard it equated to tenure in US university terms, but I’m not sure I understand the matter either way.
I say this so you understand if I use the wrong term for someone — no slight is intended.
Anyway. I’m angling to add this instructor as a second academic advisor (she comes from a narrative and prose writing background, while my current advisor comes from a music and production background — combining advice from the two would be, in my mind, ideal), and we sat down to have a chat about things in general. We talked about my project, why I have an interest in transmedia, why I have an interest in the story I’m planning to tell.
When I did my undergrad degree, it was at Gallatin, at NYU. A place where you get to create your own major. I called it “multimedia communications” for purposes of resumes, but when I described it to my instructor (I’ll name names eventually), she smiled and said “sounds very transmedia to me.”
To me, story is king. If you’re telling a story, it’ll tell you how it wants to be told. Sometimes you can shoehorn it into something else, but that often doesn’t end well. My thesis play for my MFA is proof of this. That degree I got from Gallatin, I earned it by taking literature courses, photography, film criticism, video art production, and in my spare time learned how to use Photoshop and Quark. –I may have just dated myself with that remark.
I did all of those things because they’re all legitimate ways to tell a story. I saw myself as a bit of a jack of all trades. This hurt me in the job market because not many people look for jacks of all trades. But it prepped me for what I’m aiming to do now. I’ve always had a holistic view of things, that a thing can’t exist independent of the context surrounding it. Everything informs everything else. I saw it when my plays were performed. I see it when I GM a table top RPG, or I play in one.
The philosophy’s there, has been for years — I used to joke that my degree was a BA in Advanced Storytelling. And it feels as if I’ve accidentally ended up in exactly the right place at exactly the right time.
People are internally self-contradictory. We’re not the same from day to day. You might catch me on a bad day and I’ll growl at a kitten. Most of the time I’m rendered a speechless wibble of goo.
Take a given event, get a bunch of people to watch it, and then ask them afterwards what happened. Forgo meaning for now, just ask for the passage from moment to moment, reasonable amount of detail.
No one person will ever completely agree with another. Like the men groping an elephant anc oming to different conclusions, human experience can only capture so much. We have environmental factors that stop us — maybe an obscured line of sight, maybe we’re at the epicenter and are too dazed to get the whole picture. We have internal factors, too. Culture, personal philosophies, perhaps a nasty break-up the night before.
This prism of perception of experience, it’s not a feature, it’s a bug.
Using more than one medium to tell a story is just like this. You got the trunk storyline, you got the foot storyline, you got the tail. And one person — the audience, the reader, the watcher, whatever — that person gets the joy of discovering things. They get to poke around, find something, gain some clarity. Or maybe muddy the waters.
In my mind, this is a great way to get around preconceived notions.
My project will have a broad audience, and it includes people who are going to have some very solidly formed opinions on immigrants. Opinions which aren’t very, let’s say, compassionate toward them. I think, if I do things right, transmedia vectors will keep them around. Because invariably someone will share their point of view.
This is also a challenge for me. Because I’m going to have to think like people that make me very, very itchy. Well. Empathy goes both ways, I suppose.