One of my favorite activities is sitting around a campfire with a couple of friends. Preferably in the midst of mother nature’s beauty after sunset on a bright Scandinavian summer night.
Everything becomes so quiet and the mixture of pure air and smoke from burning birch tree encapsulates my senses and sets my imagination on fire. I don’t have to sit there long before I begin telling stories.
They are not the kind of stories we are used to from books and movies, though. They are thoughts that pop up in my mind and become threads of words I can weave together, and if I am lucky they turn out to be a minor tale with a point or two.
It all depends on my audience, of course. They are not sitting there in the flickering dark listening quietly like in a movie theater. They interact with me and have a habbit of interrupting my story with a comment or two – and usually a funny one. It breaks up my rhythm, and I have to be aware of what they are saying in order to continue my story. I need to use it to keep my momentum.
Non-linear is natural
The result is a story build through my interaction with my friends. I never know where it will go beforehand but have to go with the flow of the situation. It’s not a story from A to B, but a story with many twists and turns along the way. More often than not, what I initially assumed to be the main point of my story gets buried under a whole new storyline that arises from their comments and reactions. My story quite simply becomes non-linear all by itself.
It occured to me the other day that storytelling has always been like that. Only since the invention of the printed book have we designed our stories to be linear. But it’s not our natural way of telling stories. It’s a designed approach. Something we have learned in school, and it seems to me that we have more or less forgotten that there is a much more natural way of telling stories.
The Internet has given us our natural way of telling stories back again. Here it’s all about interacitivity and linking in and out of the story line. And, depending on how you comment on my story, you influence my next move.
It’s all about the platform
We haven’t fully embraced the opportunities yet, have we? I certainly have not, and I’m doing it for a living! Maybe it’s because we have been telling stories in a linear fashion for so long and need to be reminded that a deeper focus on interactivity can make our storytelling natural again. Or, maybe it’s because the right technological platform for interactive storytelling just hasn’t been fully developed yet?
If you ask me it’s a combination of the two, and one of the things I tell myself every day is that it’s all about the platform. When the right platform is there and starts penetrating the market we just can’t help telling interactive stories all the time. They come to us naturally. But we need the platform. It’s the new campfire in the world…