Storytelling, But In Which Medium?

Star Wars A long time ago introductionI’ve been interested in storytelling since I was a wee one – my time with Lego and GI Joe figures was very rarely based around simple action and destruction, though that had its place, but rather around telling dramatic stories.  I created an all-black Lego figure, with a black helmet and cape (very Darth Vader-esque), and named him The Phantom.  Over the span of years, his interactions with other Lego figures, usually my Space Police, continued on in one long, poorly-constructed story.  Sure, I created ramps for car-crashing and enjoyed blowing up my Lego ships like the average boy, but the majority of my play was filled with storytelling and fantasy.  It was my creative escape back then, and as a 32-year-0ld, it still is, today.

When I play a video game, I love immersing myself in the world – imagining it as another world with a story to be told.  Yes, there is good, silly fun to be had in open-world online games (like GTA: Online or Red Dead Redemption), but I just as much prefer NOT breaking the reality.  I create storylines for my characters as I play, entertaining myself and telling a tale.  I actually find that very relaxing 🙂 .  Obviously, if you’ve spent any time reading my site, you know that I love the creative outlet of the arts, too: writing, drawing, acting.  Heck, even Out of the Box plays out here, every week, as if it’s an ongoing reality – as if this cartoon character actually exists as a sentient drawing/creature (I mean, of course you’re real, stickman… just… um.. ignore that sentence).  Ultimately, this all basically boils down to storytelling – an effort to express something I care about in an interesting manner to be enjoyed by myself or to be shared with others.

Why is all of this coming up, though, you may ask?  Well, I recently bought myself a really nice new computer (more on that in an upcoming post), with 90% of its purpose devoted to my ability to create and tell stories.  Whether its through animation, video, or the written word, this machine is going to be a fantastic tool in helping me achieve my storytelling interests.  After a few days of exploration (and, admittedly, a little bit of SimCity 4 fun), yesterday I started prepping my computer for writing; I downloaded a screenwriting program, installed LibreOffice (for word processing), and set up my Dropbox and Evernote accounts to sync from my desktop.  While perusing my Evernote collection of old creative thoughts, I was reminded of a number of story ideas I’ve had — some more fleshed out than others.  A number of these little concepts are really kinda great.  I’m not tooting my own horn, here, simply expressing how much I’d enjoy exploring these stories and finding a way to tell them.  That’s where I hit an interesting point of contemplation that I have come to several times before – what is the best way to tell them?

I no longer have any genuine aspirations to make it in Hollywood, but movies are certainly my favorite medium for storytelling.  I struggle to enjoy reading fiction novels, but I could read screenplays all day long.  That’s just what appeals to me the most — the beauty of how movies can combine every storytelling/artistic element (photography, writing, performance, design, and music) into one.  I recently wrote my first full-length movie script, and while it’s simply a fond farewell to a group of wacky characters my friends and I made movies about when we were a little younger, it’s still a fairly decent screenplay.  If I had to write the novelization or draw out a long comic for it, well.. it probably wouldn’t have happened.  In years past, I struggled with the idea of writing novels/short stories because 1. I visualize my stories as they would play out in movie-form, and 2. I don’t really enjoy reading novels, myself.  So, as I was browsing this list of old ideas, I was considering which ideas belonged to which category.   Obviously, in regards to the general public, sharing a little tale in the form of a short story makes it FAR more accessible than if it were a screenplay, and that idea extends to larger stories, too, no?  I mean, I should want my stories to be accessible, right?  Otherwise, they’re just as valuable where they currently are, bouncing around in my head.

Being at a point where, for the first time in my creative pursuits, a movie-making career is NOT of any real consideration, is making it much easier for me to get back onto this saddle with a fresh approach, I think.  The concept of storytelling — not of making a movie, or writing a book, or creating beautiful art, but of storytelling — is a very welcoming outlook for me to simply explore which medium best-fits these ideas of mine.  I do have feature-length screenplays, one of which is currently resting at ~60 pages, but I also have stories (probably the majority, actually) that would probably be better-shared in the form of a short story or novel.  During NaNoWriMo a few years ago, I decided that it was finally time to give it a whirl, so I leapt in with an old idea and watched it morph into something that I really, really love.  As much as I may visualize it as a movie’s story, it’s a story that would need to span multiple movies and be produced by someone other than a soon-to-be special ed. elementary teacher who maybe wants to make a little movie during his summer break or on the weekends 😉 .

If I’m honest (and I’m pretty darn honest on here), I still have natural reservations in writing stories in novelization form (by the way, is there a better term for non-screenplay writing??  “Creative writing” doesn’t seem exclusive enough).  Some of my reservations are technical: in a screenplay I can jump between scenes with a simple” CUT TO” and in-text editing can show a different scene while a character does a voice-over in the present scene.  Some of my reservations are creative: losing some impact of a great moment that would be better served when accompanied by beautiful/powerful music and losing the potential for visual detail that simply can’t be expressed in written form.  Of course, then I realize that I’ll probably never sell these large-scale screenplays or make them, myself, so it’s kind of a moot reservation 🙂 .

Ultimately, however, I am moving forward with this fresh goal of storytelling, and with great new tools at my disposal, I am certainly excited to see what can come about.  I love stories, I always have, and I’m in a place where I think I can finally properly express that without the internal restriction on format.  I began writing in non-movie form, I’ve done it since, and I can do it now – without feeling as if I’m “shortchanging” my stories.  While pursuing an online search for the keyword “storytelling,” I came across a great TED Talk by Andrew Stanton from a couple of years ago — an inspiring and movie piece (even that little bit of WALL-E and Finding Nemo made me teary) — so I’ll leave you with that (and a warning that he does start it off with a somewhat blue joke) as I head off to start writing my next story…


About Mark Mushakian

Just a man who loves God, women, kids, dogs, movies, and every other lovely thing in life :)
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8 Responses to Storytelling, But In Which Medium?

  1. Erik Conover says:

    Mark, as a fellow Storyteller, I can’t thank you enough for sharing this. A good friend of mine worked directly under Stanton of the film John Carter. What a guy. Amazing storyteller. I look forward to seeing more of your stories.



  2. sdbmania says:

    I’m going to try and write a little bit every day. I find it’s helpful to do so when you don’t feel particularly inspired. Even if it’s just a sentence. Sometimes that’s enough to get you going! I’m glad you are thinking about writing a novel. For me, it’s easier because I don’t have to worry about technical direction.

    I also feel like I visualize my stories like a movie and then I try to describe that in my novels. This is one of the things I think we have in common. 🙂


    • I definitely learned a lot going through that full-length screenplay… there are times to just plow right through and fix it later, and there are times when one just needs to take a breather. Strangely enough, I actually tend to be a little wary of book-form writing because I’m such a detail-oriented person, so for me to describe what I visualize almost seems overwhelming.

      One of the other things we have in common is are affection for attractive women 😉


  3. sdbmania says:

    I also find myself visualizing my stories like a movie or TV show. I try to describe what I visualize on paper. I have tried writing in the script format, as you know, but it doesn’t feel natural to me. I prefer to tell the story without technical direction. I’m glad that you are trying out writing a novel!


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