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Narrative Frontiers: The future of storytelling

As we move through the 21st Century, and technology evolves, inevitably so does the way we tell stories.

It is important to consider how to tell our stories in this fast-paced era, as well as the way they are distributed.

The panel jumped into a passionate, but friendly debate about the direction of these narrative frontiers.

Mike Jones, head of story development at Portal Entertainment and author of The Transgression Cycle series, is a self-proclaimed ‘platform agnostic’.

He believes the current state of storytelling, including video games and interactive narratives, have come about naturally as new ‘platforms’ have evolved along with society.

His ‘platform agnosticism’ comes from a desire to break from sticking to a particular storytelling tradition, such as solely writing print, novels, plays, and so on. Instead, he says, you should consider the merit of working on platforms popular with current audiences.

Jones said that he didn’t believe in the writer as the embodiment of self-expression; they must be audience-centric.

Nury Vittachi, author of The Curious Diary of Mr Jam, also contributes to Hong Kong Free Press. He crosses narrative platforms and teaches narrative writing to game developers.

But Vittachi doesn’t buy Jones’ audience-centric argument.

Vittachi said that the personal expression of creativity and story is what is most important in writing.

“Narratives are to do with magic, you can’t industrialize magic,” he said.

Vittachi believes that writing a story with the intention of franchising it kills something in the process.

Marc Fennell, ABC RN’s Download this Show presenter and co-host of The Feed on SBS, interjected in good humour: “I think you’re both wrong!”

To Fennell, self-expression is not a bad thing, but he recognised that working within different platforms does require a degree of mindfulness of the audience. Without this, there is the potential that no one will hear your story.

However, if we are to focus primarily on statistics and data on what is ‘popular’ among audiences, Fennell believed that ultimately we miss something important in the process of storytelling.

I tend to align with Fennell’s approach to this topic. The process of writing does not occur in a vacuum. We must always be considerate of our context. With this said, writers need not compromise their integrity (and creativity) to appease the status quo.

It’s important to acknowledge the progression of new storytelling mediums and writing alongside, rather than against, them. Certain people may never get to experience a great story as a result of the chosen medium of the author.

If writers, and indeed all artists, wish to make a career out of their craft, they will inevitably need to work with an industry.

Although, perhaps I’m optimistic in hoping that good narratives will spread their ‘magic’ to audiences without the author having to fall into an addiction to analytics and a profit-driven mindset.

Lachlan Rutherford is a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) student at Southern Cross University. He is writing his Honours thesis on David Foster Wallace’s fiction.

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