No matter how you find your way to storytelling, your own individual authorial journey begins with the stories you have been exposed to over the course of your life. This exposure inevitably affects and informs your initial efforts as you necessarily substitute mimicry for what will later become mastery. As you grow and develop as an author, and as your skills and interests broaden, you will leave these initial anchors and points of reference behind in order to explore new narrative territory. As you become more comfortable with different aspects of craft you may even probe the complex dynamics inherent in the interplay of art, craft and commerce. You may also decide to branch out and work in different storytelling mediums such as poetry, short fiction, long fiction, screenplays, stage plays and even interactive fiction.
At some point, if you keep pushing against your limitations, you will realize that stories exist apart from the specific mediums that allow us to document and relate fiction to others. We don’t need mediums to conceive of stories, we need mediums to express and communicate stories. This means that choosing the right medium is, in the end, simply another aspect of craft — albeit one that has unparalleled importance. As you grow in mastery you may even notice that many if not most of your earlier conceptions presumed a medium, and that in some cases that medium was not the best choice. (Not only can choosing the wrong medium dull the potential of a story, leading to a less-than-satisfying result, it can lead to still-born tales that never quite work no matter how many drafts or versions you write.)
Understanding the strengths and limitations of every medium you work in is critical. As I detailed in the previous post, what the world witnessed during the first three weeks of NFL football this year was the complete collapse of an entire medium into a narrative black hole. This self-inflicted debacle was both a chilling and comical lesson in the dangers of authorial hubris, and a cautionary tale for authors who believe they have absolute power. [ Read more ]