How I Became a Storyteller

Sometimes people ask me why I do so many different things. Secretly, I’m sure some of them wonder how I can possibly be good at any of them, and in my darkest moments I have asked that same question. On most days however, I take pictures, write, code, compose, sketch and make videos without mentally separating them from each other.

I call myself a storyteller. I’m not trying to sound pretentious, it’s just the best description I have found. Because it’s always about the story.

What is a story then? They are essentially about our basic values, right and wrong, life and death, love and hate. The story makes its point by taking the audience for a ride, it evokes emotion and sparks imagination, all fitted into some kind of structure or frame.

Often the point is a message; a song that says she loves you, an ad that says buy this product, or a speech that says make good art. Other times the point is to ask a question, and leave the audience to ponder it (religious texts are full of stories like these), or even dare them to prove it wrong. Conflict and resolution gets us interested and keeps us vested, but that is just a vehicle, not the destination.

I used to be extremely frustrated by having “too many interests”, and in a way I did have too many — because there was no focus. One day I sat down, listed every one of my interests out, and started looking for commonalities. And there it was – The Story – staring right back at me. Once I centered on story, my creative efforts started aligning like planets around a star. The Story is the star, and the rest are just tools to help tell it. I don’t have too many interests after all; just one.

I love stories. I love finding them, crafting them and telling them. It’s what I do.

Final Prophecy Update and Finishing Things

The second draft of my fantasy short is done. I’ve written about “The Final Prophecy” before, but I will add that finishing the second draft was tougher than expected. When I got to the last chapter and a half, I stalled. That’s usually a good sign, because the harder it is for me to finish something, the more I’ve loved working on it. So much so, I don’t want it to end. Luckily, I eventually got tired of procrastinating and went back to work.

The next step is more revision. Editing used to scare me, but now I see it as a chance to polish and tweak where needed – and in the worst case scenario spot a dud before I send it out into the world. Finishing the second draft is still a milestone worth mentioning, because this is the part of the process where I involve a few trusted readers. They are the Wise Ones who point out where the holes are, and the inconsistencies as well as the gems and the exciting stuff. Their feedback provide the setup for writing draft three.

There is also inspiration coming from the gaming campaign, I’m running parallel to the writing. We just finished running an adventure set a few years after the events described in “The Final Prophecy”, but in much the same location, and some of the questions posed by the players as part of our game, provided excellent fodder for the story. Details about the daily life, geography and mythology that had not crossed my mind before.

And it doesn’t end there. I recently read two excellent pieces that helped kick me back into writing mode. One is an interview with Stephen King by Neil Gaiman. The insight into King’s process and approach was highly motivating to me. Then I read Second Drafts are a Way of Life by Ryan Macklin, the timing of which could not have been better. Both are recommended reading to any writer.

Now I’m going to take a short break from the story, while I filter it out to the Wise Ones. And in the meantime, I hope to ride the wave of finishing things, and get my arcade iPhone game – Nebula Rescue – done and out the door.

Webley, Palmer and Gaiman (aka Favorite Photo of 2011)


Throughout any given year I shoot thousands of photos, so when I was recently asked which one was my personal favorite of 2011, I had a difficult time answering. However, when thinking about it over a couple of days, the one above kept jumping out at me.

On 11-11-11 I documented Jason Webley‘s concert at The Moore in Seattle. That was where I caught this moment in time. Webley is talking about the virtues of love, while Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer sit together behind him, listening.

There is a love story there, and it starts with a look of genuine happiness on Jason Webley’s face, as he looks up into the light, sharing his joy with (and for) the audience. Amanda Palmer represents that audience to me, relaxed, attentive and having a good time, and Neil Gaiman ties the story together, looking down at his wife with complete adoration and a smile that says simply: “I Love You.”

There is enough intimacy in this photo, that I felt a little like a peeping tom as I put it through post processing, like I was crashing a private party. I actually had to remind myself that it was taken at a public event. That is why this is my favorite photo of 2011. It makes me feel like giving my wife a kiss, putting on some good music and take pleasure in the little things in life.

Click on the photo above to view a larger version.