(this post originally appeared at Scott Walker’s “This Monkey Can Type” on September 9, 2010.)
Two types of choice make up the storytelling world of today: The first is the creator’s choice: the choices that we as content creators make to build the world of the story we’re telling. The second is the audience’s choice: limitless, and changeable at the click of a mouse or swipe of a finger.
Everyone is a storyteller. What separates the clicked on from the clicked away is how we build a symphony of story and choose to perform it.
The tools of expression are everywhere. In every device we hold. In every screen we look at. Whereas previously it was enough to look at a big screen, or a small screen, or the light pages of a bunch of pieces of paper bound by staples and glue, today’s world is a different place. We are now faced with something none of us (save novelists) have experienced: Near limitless potential.
As a former composer, the symphony was the holy grail of the compositional world. To write one signaled you either had too much time on your hands or had reached “the big time.” Or both.
What symphony implies in the digital storytelling world is the complete convergence of all members of the orchestra into one coherent being capable of giving pleasure to a group of people for the duration of the event. In the new digital age of filmmaking (a title I’ve long abandoned), symphony is the new world order.
A feature film, once thought to be the symphony of the visual storytelling world, is now a section in the orchestra of convergence. Comic books, once the bastard stepchildren of everything, are now regarded as viable storytelling platforms (and indispensable in my current project, Whiz!Bam!Pow!). Mobile. Games. Shorts. ARG. Twitter. Facebook. Blog. Book. Short story. Social networks. MMORPG. It’s unending.
What separated the great composers from the mediocre was not what they used in their symphony but what they left out. Great works are created within chains, so now the trick is not to use everything at our disposal, but to select each piece carefully and methodically, embracing its nuance and capabilities to best reach the intended end goal: Symphony.
We have to not only be composers in this transmedia world, but disciplined and gifted conductors, knowing those nuances inside and out, molding and shaping them into the pinnacle of story symphony for the venues we choose.
Each and every instrument we choose to play, each and every medium we choose to implement, must compliment and build within the chains we have to mold around each work. In the digital world, where our greatest enemy is not lack of choice, but too much, it’s only through discipline and organic story creation – being the sharpest tool in the shed – that we cut through the surfaces that the dull instruments can’t reach.
The unlimited potential of digital creativity is a wonderful thing – but not because of its unlimited potential. What makes it great is how we choose to utilize the tools at our disposal – through a disciplined (and highly creative) exploration of their nuances to build each and every one of our digital symphonies.
If we successfully do that, we place ourselves in an infinitely better place for the audience to make their choice – and not click away.