This is the story of a story. The journey from challenge to the blank page to false starts to the written word, from audio to backburner to more false starts to video. This is the process by which I wrote my first complete piece of fiction in ages and what I did with it after I finished the last draft. This is the story behind The Passing of A Storyteller.
The Story of the Story
Back when I was producing the now defunct “Chronicles Unwritten” podcast, a show in which host Diamond Dave was writing an audience participation choose your own adventure story, he issued a challenge, the 1234 challenge to a few of us. So, of course, I accepted the challenge.
For those who don’t know, the 1234 challenge is a simple writing exercise, create a short story with exactly one-thousand, two hundred, and thirty-four words.
Fast forward to an unassuming workday, where I took a notepad with me to lunch at a diner near where I work and sat about coming up with the short story. After a few false starts, I called my sometimes editor and always best friend Chris for assistance. He started telling me of a writing prompt, something about cleaning out an attic, and while that wasn’t the only prompt he gave me it was the one that stuck.
Lunch came in the form of my usual order at that particular diner; a western omelet, French fries, and coffee, and it was consumed in between paragraphs of the story that just came out of me. Now, I’ve been lucky before in getting an entire short story out on the page in one sitting, but this time, I wasn’t done just because the story had ended. This time, I had to wait until it was typed up to determine what my word count was.
So, back to work I went and when the day was done, I went home and typed the hand-written story into a google doc, editing along the way as I transferred the story from my handwritten scribble onto the digital page. When I was finished I was very close to the mark. I’m not sure how close, but I do remember, that I didn’t have to add or subtract much to get to the finish line of exactly 1234 words.
With that accomplished, I sent it off to the aforementioned Chris for editing, while at the same time reminding him that if he removed or added a word in the edit, it would have to be balanced somewhere else. His edits were minimal, masterful, and when it was all said and done, I was proud of the accomplishment.
But that’s not the end of the story of this story, it is just the beginning. Since the idea from Diamond Dave was that these stories would be recorded and used in a special episode of Chronicles Unwritten, I sent the completed story off to The Podcast Digest’s Dan Lizette for his voice to narrate the story and bring it to life.
And thus with a completed challenge of the story and the recording finished, I waited. No one else completed the challenge, which isn’t to say those who were challenged couldn’t still do it, but I was the cheese, standing alone. And then, Diamond Dave went on hiatus, and Chronicles Unwritten, along with his other shows disappeared and were no more.
So I had this story, in written and audio form, sitting on the digital shelves of my Google Drive just waiting for release. Then I had an idea. I approached Paula, a good friend and host of the Tell Me Stories Podcast about perhaps airing the narration on her show since my story was about a storyteller. I sent her the copy and the accompanying audio and she not only gave me some of the best-written praise I’ve had in a while, but she also agreed to do the show.
So the old story had new life. A recording was scheduled and at the appointed time I connected with Paula via Skype. But there were technical difficulties, so we just hung out on Skype catching up, but not recording. And after a few more failed attempts, in which we still enjoyed talking, the idea of getting it out on her show melted away like ice in a spring thaw.
At this point, the story was still unpublished, unposted, and only the purview of a select few.
The Story of the Video
It was then, some months later that, while talking to Bill of The Wicked Theory Podcast, the idea of creating a video to Dan’s narration started to matriculate. And as such, it went onto my future projects list.
That is where it sat for a while until I finally started to get ready to work on it in earnest. First up was the image selection.
I didn’t write the story to be a video, but I diligently looked at free stock image sites for photos that would fit. I found a few here and there until I landed upon Unsplash and made the decision to exclusively use images from that site alone. And with that decision made, I started to storyboard the video with the images I had started to select.
With 20 or so odd images selected and storyboarded, I decided the next step was to start putting the video together. Now, I am not by trade a creator of videos, so there was a learning curve, but once I got the hang of it, I put together the images I had and then sat back to watch what I had created. And it was not good. The images were on the screen for too long and there wasn’t always a connection, so I went through it a minute at a time, day by day, adding images to make the video more compelling, all the while cursing myself for the imagery I had chose to describe in the text, knowing full well, that I had not intentioned it to become a video in the slightest as I wrote in that day many months ago in the diner.
But as the days turned to weeks, I eventually ended up with a fairly solid rough draft. Re-enter Chris who, during a visit, helped me with the final placement of the images and then, before he left added some motion and transition to a few of them. Well, you can’t just do that for one, so I set about adding some fluidity to the video and added in the motion to many, but not all of the selected images.
With that completed, I turned to my friend Dan Evans of the Deconstructing Dad Podcast, who professionally edits video for his thoughts on the rough draft I had created, still with questions about my recurring image and the fact that many of my transitions were just jump cuts and not transitions at all.
Dan complimented me, but said that I needed to make it “more alive.” I said that there was movement on every image, he said it wasn’t enough. Then we discussed some transition options and back to work I went.
Once I had revived more life out of the still images, the almost final draft was sent back to Bill, because why not. Bill had valid notes and so back to tinkering I went, because it wasn’t all bad, just some tweaks here and there. And I continued tinkering learning a few new tricks along the way.
Then I exported what I thought would be the final draft and watched it. The back half of the video was great, a few more tweaks, but really good, but it appears I didn’t go back to apply all that I had learned to the beginning. So the beginning was more amateurish than the end.
Back to work again, but now I had balanced the quality and added credits. This time, I exported it and found that I only had a few tweaks left, and while you can accuse me of being a perfectionist, I like to think of it as quality control.
So there were two more “drafts” before I shared the final product with my fellow producers. Both approved the video, but now all that was left was a title screen of some kind because as great as Dan is as a narrator just setting it up and getting into it, I felt it required a visual.
After a little more tinkering, it was time, the title graphic was added and I looked it over. Then in full resolution, I had others look it over, and finally uploaded the full resolution version of it to YouTube, unlisted so that only those that helped me produce it could take a look for final approval.
With the final approval of all producers in hand, I sat down and wrote this post, because sometimes people like to know about the process. You can now watch the completed video and if you wish you can also read the text itself separately.
I really hope you enjoy the final version, either in text or video form, as it is something I am very proud of. Inspiration can happen with the smallest of suggestions, don’t ever let anyone tell you otherwise.
And, be sure to listen to the storytellers in your life. Young or old, there’s always a story to be told.