Making something up is really, really easy. Telling a story is really, really hard. “Why must it be so?!” You interrobang-cry at the internet with both fists shaking angrily at your indifferent ceiling. Well, I don’t know you but I’m willing to bet it’s that you aren’t telling your story.
First go check out 50+ web ways to tell a story (a terrible title). Ok did you check it out? You must have because you seem like a trustworthy sort. I believe you.
Ok, Let’s get right down to it: tools, understanding, and willingness.
The aforementioned and poorly-named website above (which also has a surprising number of typographical errors) really browbeats you with how easy it is to get your work out there. Where the struggle is with tools is in knowing which one you feel comfortable using. Or spending the time with a lot of different tools to really understand which ones you think are right with you. Personally? I like a blank document. Words and their processes suffice for me to make lovely little lies. My old classmates, some of whom are friends now, are the same: we’re typists. Lines, breaks, phrase and metaphor in a literal sense work.
Let’s play a game though, real quick: I want to tell a story without words and I need to convey some narrative meat.
Screenshot of a text message between two people.
Still image of an apartment in west van.
Google earth aerial tour programmed to fly from that address to a tiny apartment in Shibuya.
Zoom down to street view.
Still image of the apartment.
Still image of the text message on a different phone.
In a series of discrete steps we’ve drawn a parallel between two characters using screenshots and google earth. Stolen straight from movie making trickery and available to the enterprising auteur. Tools! Learn them!
Ok, this is the place where you’ll fall down a lot. What makes for a good story? Do you know the audience you want to reach? Do you know your story? I mean, specifically, do you understand why the things you’re going to tell via selective application of tool use are interesting enough to warrant the effort? Let’s discuss the snippet above. Two people with a connection on opposite ends of the world are linked together. Why? Lazy romance? Complicated attraction? Curse? You have to know why! If you want to tell a story about trans-pacific destinies, the middle has to be hard. Hard for the characters you introduce and hard for the reader to know what’s coming.
Using new tools gives you a distinct advantage because how you implement them is up to you.
Second apartment, interior still hotlinks to a google tracks file overlayed on a map, showing a circuitous trip through Tokyo and out into the country.
End point is random wilderness. Hotlink to:
fake news article: Mysterious stranger appears in middle of produce section at whole foods! Grocers mystified. Next page link:
still image of first apartment, door off the hinges, apartment trashed. hotlink to:
tweets hashtagged #wtfwestvan “omg dude just jumped from his window and ran off! #wtfwestvan” “@firsttweeter I saw him knock a cop car over! #wtfwestvan”
Vine video of stranger with a baseball bat standing in a school field all dramatic and whatever
vine video of another stranger walking up holding phone from shibuya apt
fake article : “Must be seen to be believed: Youtube clip shows daring fight between strangers that defies explanation. Experts claim video is authentic, authorities have released no comment.
…and on and on and on. Without any explicit narrative, you can tell a story, just be interesting.
You have to tell your story. Not mine, not the story of someone else, not a story you’ve heard before. You have to be willing to put yourself out there to say what you want, even if you think it’s going to fail and you’ll be laughed off the internet and into a cabin in the woods. You have to be willing to tell the story you think is interesting and you have to be honest about how interested you are. You can fake it and write for the masses, plenty of people do, but here’s the thing: you will never be happy doing it.
Tell all the bullshit stories people want and find all the success you crave. Go ahead. It won’t make you happy if you aren’t telling stories you want to tell. Want to know why so many people have said You can’t buy happiness? It’s true. Selling something you don’t believe in for money is exchanging one thing for another that won’t make you happy. Let me say it again, and again, and again: YOU HAVE TO BE WILLING TO TELL YOUR STORY, AND FAIL.
Honestly, this is where I struggle. It’s where I’ve seen a lot of people struggle, and quit, and move to another country to work in a starbucks while they pretend at being a person. You put yourself out there, and you look at your own work while you write it and never feel like it’s what you want, so you try to write what you think people want to see. You start lying to yourself, and everyone else, and soon the material is crap and you hate yourself, and you quit. Better to be honest and fail than 80’s Stephen King.