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A Pen, a Keyboard, a Song, & a Sandbox
Walk into a Writers’ Room...
Christy Dena
Story Hack
26th June, 2020
Commissioned illustrations by Marigold Bartlett
“[N]arratives both expand and diminish
our sense of the possible.”
“[N]arrative practices can be
oppressive, empowering, or both.”
Closure
Closure
“the satisfaction of expectations and the answering of questions
raised over the course of any narrative”
(H. Porter Abbot)
A Pen, a Keyboard, a Song, & a Sandbox
Walk into a Writers’ Room
The Keyboard...
The Song...
The Sandbox...
The Pen...
B storyline...
C storyline...
D storyline...
A storyline...
B storyline...
C storyline...
D storyline...
A storyline...
Endings
Closed
Ironic
Ambiguous
Open
Closed Endings
“[A]ll questions raised by the story are
answered;
all questions evoked are satisfied. The audience
leaves with a rounded, closed experience —
nothing in doubt, nothing unsated.”
1. Idealistic/Up-ending
2. Pessimistic/Down-ending
Closed Endings
“[A]ll questions raised by the story are
answered;
all questions evoked are satisfied. The audience
leaves with a rounded, closed experience —
nothing in doubt, nothing unsated.”
1. Idealistic/Up-ending
2. Pessimistic/Down-ending
Where do these ideas about a
specific desired
positive or a negative
ending come from?
Brémond, Claude (1970) “Morphology of the French Folktale,” Semiotica 2, 3: 247-276, p.249, doi: 10.1515/semi.1970.2.3.247
[Brémond, Claude (1966) “La Logique des possibles narratifs,” Communications, 8, 60-76.
Brémond, Claude (1973) Logique du récit. Paris: Seuil.]
“Standard Hollywood narrative movies prescribe linear narratives that
cue the viewer to expect predictable outcomes and
adopt a closed state of mind. There are, however, a small number of
movies that, through the presentation of
alternate narrative paths, open the mind to
thoughts of choice and possibility.”
“Optional thinking refers to “the cognitive ability to generate,
perceive, or compare and assess alternative hypotheses that
offer explanations for real or lifelike events.”
“There is evidence that not deploying the cognitive ability to
generate optional or alternate hypotheses in real-life situations
can lead to premature acceptance of inadequate or incorrect
hypotheses that may result in dire consequences.” (2)
“Standard Hollywood narrative movies prescribe linear narratives that
cue the viewer to expect predictable outcomes and
adopt a closed state of mind. There are, however, a small number of
movies that, through the presentation of
alternate narrative paths, open the mind to
thoughts of choice and possibility.”
Optional thinking refers to “the cognitive ability to
generate, perceive, or compare and assess alternative hypotheses
that offer explanations for real or lifelike events.”
“There is evidence that not deploying the cognitive ability to generate
optional or alternate hypotheses in real-life situations can lead to
premature acceptance of inadequate or incorrect hypotheses
that may result in dire consequences.”
Let’s look at how we experience this in the everyday
Black Lives Matter
● “Justified” Police Brutality
● “Justified” Incarceration
● Definite Health Harm (Self)
● Definite Health Harm (Others)
● ...
In a world run by a closed, linear logic,
we are warned of the worst outcome,
we fear the worst outcome,
and it becomes in our head the only outcome
So how do we get beyond life as it is...to new possibilities?
More Optional Thinking…?
Open
Endings
Alternate
Narrative
Tracks
(Sequential)
Alternate
Narrative
Tracks
(ZIG ZAG)
Alternate
Narrative
Tracks
(Tandem)
Character
POV Shifts
(Same
Event)
Narrative
Alternatives
to History
(Counter
Factual)
Narrative
Alternatives
to Previous
Work of
Fiction
Narrative
Alternatives
to Magical
Norm
History
Narrative
Alternatives
to Magical
Norm
Narrative
Alternatives
to Magical
Norm
Futures
Alternatives
to Objectives
Cliff Writing...
Open Endings
Open endings answer most of the
questions raised, “but an unanswered
question or two may trail out of the
film, leaving the audience to supply it
subsequent to viewing.”
“The answer will be found in the
privacy of postfilm thoughts.”
Open Endings
Alternate Narrative Tracks -sequential
“Such films, in their
overlay of options,
bring forth to the viewer’s
attention the
inherent probabilistic
and optional nature
of narrative causality....”
https://www.theguardiangame.com
Alternate Narrative Tracks - ZIG ZAG
https://eko.com/v/possibilia
https://www.kongregate.com/games/lemmibeans/one-chance
Character POV Shifts (Same Event)
Narrative Alternatives to Previous Works of Fiction
https://twitter.com/lackingceremony/sta
tus/1276307760741666820
Narrative Alternatives to History (CounterFactual)
“[H]istorical dramas may powerfully
encourage optional thinking if [...] that
history could have feasibly taken another
course, encouraging not just optional thinking
but also the notion of an ultimate
unpredictability in the course of past events,
gearing viewers toward considering
viable and optional futures…”
“Our job is to kick open the door of radical possibility as wide and as long as possible.”
Naomi Klein, quoting colleagues at The Leap
Narrative Alternatives to Mythical Norm History
https://www.elizabethlapensee.com/#/games
Narrative Alternatives to Mythical Norm
Narrative Alternatives to Mythical Norm Futures
https://buriedwithoutceremony.com/the-quiet-year
https://w.itch.io/end-of-the-world
Alternatives to Objectives
Joel Lehman and Kenneth O. Stanley (2011) “Abandoning Objectives: Evolution through the Search for Novelty Alone,”
Evolutionary Computation Journal, (19): 2, pages 189-223, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Alternatives to Objectives
Radically Different Futures
Cannot Be Written
With Narrative Norms
(& By The Mythical Norm)
...Optional Thinking...
Open
Endings
Alternate
Narrative
Tracks
(Sequential)
Alternate
Narrative
Tracks
(ZIG ZAG)
Alternate
Narrative
Tracks
(Tandem)
Character
POV Shifts
(Same
Event)
Narrative
Alternatives
to History
(Counter
Factual)
Narrative
Alternatives
to Previous
Work of
Fiction
Narrative
Alternatives
to Magical
Norm
History
Narrative
Alternatives
to Magical
Norm
Narrative
Alternatives
to Magical
Norm
Futures
Alternatives
to Objectives
Cliff Writing...
So...What Will Happen Next In Your Writers’ Room?
Ask We Anything...
Ask each
other first...

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A Pen, a Keyboard, a Song, and a Sandbox Walk into a Writers' Room

  • 1. A Pen, a Keyboard, a Song, & a Sandbox Walk into a Writers’ Room... Christy Dena Story Hack 26th June, 2020 Commissioned illustrations by Marigold Bartlett
  • 2. “[N]arratives both expand and diminish our sense of the possible.” “[N]arrative practices can be oppressive, empowering, or both.”
  • 4. Closure “the satisfaction of expectations and the answering of questions raised over the course of any narrative” (H. Porter Abbot)
  • 5. A Pen, a Keyboard, a Song, & a Sandbox Walk into a Writers’ Room
  • 6. The Keyboard... The Song... The Sandbox... The Pen...
  • 7. B storyline... C storyline... D storyline... A storyline...
  • 8. B storyline... C storyline... D storyline... A storyline...
  • 10. Closed Endings “[A]ll questions raised by the story are answered; all questions evoked are satisfied. The audience leaves with a rounded, closed experience — nothing in doubt, nothing unsated.” 1. Idealistic/Up-ending 2. Pessimistic/Down-ending
  • 11. Closed Endings “[A]ll questions raised by the story are answered; all questions evoked are satisfied. The audience leaves with a rounded, closed experience — nothing in doubt, nothing unsated.” 1. Idealistic/Up-ending 2. Pessimistic/Down-ending
  • 12. Where do these ideas about a specific desired positive or a negative ending come from?
  • 13. Brémond, Claude (1970) “Morphology of the French Folktale,” Semiotica 2, 3: 247-276, p.249, doi: 10.1515/semi.1970.2.3.247 [Brémond, Claude (1966) “La Logique des possibles narratifs,” Communications, 8, 60-76. Brémond, Claude (1973) Logique du récit. Paris: Seuil.]
  • 14.
  • 15. “Standard Hollywood narrative movies prescribe linear narratives that cue the viewer to expect predictable outcomes and adopt a closed state of mind. There are, however, a small number of movies that, through the presentation of alternate narrative paths, open the mind to thoughts of choice and possibility.” “Optional thinking refers to “the cognitive ability to generate, perceive, or compare and assess alternative hypotheses that offer explanations for real or lifelike events.” “There is evidence that not deploying the cognitive ability to generate optional or alternate hypotheses in real-life situations can lead to premature acceptance of inadequate or incorrect hypotheses that may result in dire consequences.” (2)
  • 16. “Standard Hollywood narrative movies prescribe linear narratives that cue the viewer to expect predictable outcomes and adopt a closed state of mind. There are, however, a small number of movies that, through the presentation of alternate narrative paths, open the mind to thoughts of choice and possibility.” Optional thinking refers to “the cognitive ability to generate, perceive, or compare and assess alternative hypotheses that offer explanations for real or lifelike events.” “There is evidence that not deploying the cognitive ability to generate optional or alternate hypotheses in real-life situations can lead to premature acceptance of inadequate or incorrect hypotheses that may result in dire consequences.”
  • 17. Let’s look at how we experience this in the everyday
  • 19. ● “Justified” Police Brutality ● “Justified” Incarceration ● Definite Health Harm (Self) ● Definite Health Harm (Others) ● ...
  • 20. In a world run by a closed, linear logic, we are warned of the worst outcome, we fear the worst outcome, and it becomes in our head the only outcome
  • 21.
  • 22.
  • 23. So how do we get beyond life as it is...to new possibilities?
  • 24. More Optional Thinking…? Open Endings Alternate Narrative Tracks (Sequential) Alternate Narrative Tracks (ZIG ZAG) Alternate Narrative Tracks (Tandem) Character POV Shifts (Same Event) Narrative Alternatives to History (Counter Factual) Narrative Alternatives to Previous Work of Fiction Narrative Alternatives to Magical Norm History Narrative Alternatives to Magical Norm Narrative Alternatives to Magical Norm Futures Alternatives to Objectives Cliff Writing...
  • 25. Open Endings Open endings answer most of the questions raised, “but an unanswered question or two may trail out of the film, leaving the audience to supply it subsequent to viewing.” “The answer will be found in the privacy of postfilm thoughts.”
  • 27. Alternate Narrative Tracks -sequential “Such films, in their overlay of options, bring forth to the viewer’s attention the inherent probabilistic and optional nature of narrative causality....” https://www.theguardiangame.com
  • 28. Alternate Narrative Tracks - ZIG ZAG https://eko.com/v/possibilia https://www.kongregate.com/games/lemmibeans/one-chance
  • 29. Character POV Shifts (Same Event)
  • 30. Narrative Alternatives to Previous Works of Fiction https://twitter.com/lackingceremony/sta tus/1276307760741666820
  • 31. Narrative Alternatives to History (CounterFactual) “[H]istorical dramas may powerfully encourage optional thinking if [...] that history could have feasibly taken another course, encouraging not just optional thinking but also the notion of an ultimate unpredictability in the course of past events, gearing viewers toward considering viable and optional futures…”
  • 32. “Our job is to kick open the door of radical possibility as wide and as long as possible.” Naomi Klein, quoting colleagues at The Leap
  • 33. Narrative Alternatives to Mythical Norm History https://www.elizabethlapensee.com/#/games
  • 34. Narrative Alternatives to Mythical Norm
  • 35. Narrative Alternatives to Mythical Norm Futures https://buriedwithoutceremony.com/the-quiet-year https://w.itch.io/end-of-the-world
  • 36. Alternatives to Objectives Joel Lehman and Kenneth O. Stanley (2011) “Abandoning Objectives: Evolution through the Search for Novelty Alone,” Evolutionary Computation Journal, (19): 2, pages 189-223, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
  • 38. Radically Different Futures Cannot Be Written With Narrative Norms (& By The Mythical Norm)
  • 39. ...Optional Thinking... Open Endings Alternate Narrative Tracks (Sequential) Alternate Narrative Tracks (ZIG ZAG) Alternate Narrative Tracks (Tandem) Character POV Shifts (Same Event) Narrative Alternatives to History (Counter Factual) Narrative Alternatives to Previous Work of Fiction Narrative Alternatives to Magical Norm History Narrative Alternatives to Magical Norm Narrative Alternatives to Magical Norm Futures Alternatives to Objectives Cliff Writing...
  • 40. So...What Will Happen Next In Your Writers’ Room?
  • 41. Ask We Anything... Ask each other first...

Editor's Notes

  1. We have the title of this talk, “A Pen, a Keyboard, a Song, & a Sandbox Walk into a Writers’ Room”. On the title screen I have four smiling figures with little round ears, one is holding a pen, another a keyboard, one is singing, and one is carrying a bucket and spade. Unlike my colleagues, I haven’t worked in tv writers rooms, but I’ve run VR writers rooms for other people’s projects and I’m about to step into another one for one of my own projects. One of the things that is important to me with my writing is that I’m creating projects that open up the world rather than close it down.
  2. As researcher Hanna Meretoja argued in her book The Ethics of Storytelling, which I have the brown and rust-coloured cover of up on the screen now, “Narratives,” she explains, “both expand and diminish our sense of the possible.” “[N]arrative practices,” she continues, “can be oppressive, empowering, or both.” I want to talk with you today about a particular aspect of narrative design that diminishes our sense of the possible, and see how we can instead expand our sense of the possible. The part of narrative design I’m talking about here is...
  3. ...closure...
  4. ..closure is defined as “the satisfaction of expectations and the answering of questions raised over the course of any narrative.” Let’s look at how these expectations and questions are set up in the first place...
  5. “A Pen, a Keyboard, a Song, & a Sandbox Walk into a Writers’ Room”. OK, and now, given the initial set-up of these figures coming into the writers room, what is the next step in the structure of the narrative? What do you expect the narrator to say next?
  6. For instance, the structure you’d expect with this setup is for the narrator to tell you something about what The Pen says or does, then The Keyboard, The Song, and the Sandbox
  7. In the writers’ room the process is often about the different storylines of an ensemble cast. There is an A storyline for the main character for instance, a B storyline for a less important character, C storyline for even less, and D storyline. In some ensemble productions and multiplayer games, they will be given equal airtime.
  8. Each storyline will have an expected outcome, and that outcome will be relative to the genre too. Like the arrow I have from the figure moving out to the end of the story. In longer narratives, there is a setup and possibilities at the beginning but as you move along the options become less and less until you get the singular outcome that is the only one that makes sense. So let’s talk about how we’ve come to expect this.
  9. Robert McKee is a story consultant and educator, whose book “Story” I have the cover of up on the screen, and whose rules about story design are followed by experienced and inexperienced writers alike whether they are filmmakers, TV writers, or game writers. His descriptions of endings represent the norm of how writers structure narratives. On the screen I have listed his key categories of endings: Closed, Ironic, Ambiguous, and Open.
  10. Closed Endings are the dominant form of narrative structure. There are the norm in films, TV shows, plays, books, games, and more. The closed ending is when and I quote: “[A]ll questions raised by the story are answered; all questions evoked are satisfied. The audience leaves with a rounded, closed experience—nothing in doubt, nothing unsated.”
  11. McKee explains how there are two kinds of endings. One, the most popular, is the “idealist/up-ending”, with, and I quote, “optimisim, hopes, and dreams [...] positively charged vision of the human spirit, and life as we wish it to be.” Or the ending can be “pessimist/down-ending,” and that experience is, I quote, “expressing our cynicism, our sense of loss and misfortune, a negatively charged vision of civilization’s decline, of humanity’s dark dimensions; life as we dread it to be but know it so often is.” Black Mirror is an example of these kinds of dystopian stories. It is no coincidence that the creator Charlie Brooker has stepped away from writing the 6th season because he says “I don’t know what stomach there would be for stories about societies falling apart.” The screenshots are from his book, showing how the narrative goes through positive and negative moments until ending on a high or a low.
  12. Where do these ideas about expecting a specific positive or negative outcome come from? [Aristotle just mentioned the “rule of probability or necessity”. So the seed is there. But I have looked through early screenwriting & playwrighting books, and literary theory, and so far it seems it isn’t until relatively recently that the specifics of certain binary outcome are articulated.
  13. It was around the 1960s and 1970s, when structural approaches to narrative took hold. On the screen I have a scan of a page from an essay by Claude Bremond, where he flowcharts the “elementary sequence” of a french folktale: There is the potentiality at the beginning, the objective to reach, then either Actualisation, the procedure to reach the objective, or lack of actualisation with inertia or prevention to act. If one attempts to reach the objective, then we have two possible outcomes: success (we reach the objective) or failure (the objective is missed).
  14. I want to introduce the work of Nitzan Ben Shaul here, and his book “Cinema of Choice”. The cover is an x-ray-like photo of the different branches of a tree.
  15. Shaul talks about how Standard Hollywood narrative movies prescribe linear narratives that I quote “cue the viewer to expect predictable outcomes and adopt of a closed state of mind.” But, Shaul then offers a salve: “there are a small number of movies that, through presentation of alternate narrative paths, open the mind to thoughts of choice and possibility.”
  16. He continues, introducing the concept of Optional Thinking, which refers to “the cognitive ability to generate, perceive, or compare and assess alternative hypotheses that offer explanations for real or lifelike events.” Okay, so optional thinking is about possibility, about opening up the world. Shaul explains the antithesis of this is close-mindedness. And he says that “There is evidence that not deploying the cognitive ability to generate optional or alternate hypotheses in real-life situations can lead to premature acceptance of inadequate or incorrect hypotheses that may result in dire consequences.” So your mind closes up to accept a single outcome no matter what it is.
  17. Let’s look at how we experience this in the everyday.
  18. Everyone is aware of the Black Lives Matter rallies that have been and are still happening around the world. We had the ones recently here, in the land known as Australia. The day before the rallies were to take place, the NSW Supreme Court declared the protest illegal. And on the screen I have screenshots of the articles alerted this news. Let’s have a look at what this action does to our sense of the possible.
  19. I have Bremond’s flowchart up again, and now I have the success branch crossed out in red, and the step before that, prevention to act, highlighted in red. What this court ruling created was a narrative in which the negative outcome, failure, is now prematurely considered to be the outcome. The effort tries to prevent us to act because with the ruling we now have a justification for police violence and for incarcerating people. The court order claimed the protest to be a public health risk, and so we also think the rallies will certainly result in health harm to ourselves and to others.
  20. I now have an image of a frowning figure guarding a big gate. In a world run by a closed, linear logic, we are warned of the worst outcome, and we fear that worst outcome, and it becomes in our head the only outcome. And so what do you do in this scenario?
  21. I now have up an illustration of a figure surprised, looking at a dawning sun. We have to come up with an option that has not being offered. We have to figure out a way to make a different future possible, even though the world is setting us up to expect the most feared scenario.
  22. And then as people were making their way to the locations for the rallies, with the hope of a possible outcome in their heart, but the awareness of a defined one in our minds -- two barristers won the appeal to have the protest go ahead as a legal protest. Their smiling faces are on the screen. And thousands attended, in record turnouts, with high majority of people wearing masks, unlike any other public gatherings, and one record of police violence at the end of the day in Sydney as protesters tried to get home.
  23. So how do we get beyond life as we expect...to these new possibilities? How do we see the big golden sun of possibility all the time, and how do we encourage that as storytellers?
  24. OK! I now have up a screen with lots of big yellow bubbles. I have some options for encouraging optional thinking in your narrative design listed in these bubbles. We’ll go through some quickly.
  25. Open endings answer most of the questions raised, “but,: I quote, “an unanswered question or two may trail out of the film, leaving the audience to supply it subsequent to viewing.” “The question must be answerable, the emotion resolvable. All that has gone before leads to clear and limited alternatives that make a degree of closure possible.” An open ending is one “that leaves a question or two unanswered and some emotion unfulfilled,” that the audience can answer themselves. An example McKee gives is the ending of Wim Wenders’ feature film Paris, Texas, which I have the movie poster up on the screen. McKee explains that at the end of the film the father and son are reconciled. But the husband and wife, and mother and son relationships are not. “The answer will be found in the privacy of postfilm thoughts.” Your beliefs about families will inform whether it is a sad or happy outcome.
  26. Let’s look at other examples of open endings, of which I have posters for up on the screen. In most of these there are still a binary of outcomes expected, but it is up to the audience or player to determine which it is, according to their own decisions about the narrative leads and their own beliefs. Inception is an example, where we do have enough information to figure out what the ending could be. It is up to us to write that final line. The same with the film Juanita, and her moment on the beach, barefoot, and smiling. And perhaps the game Thirty Flights of Loving, with the motorcycle driving, and then epilogue scene. It is up to you to fill make the decision about how the worlds end. But in our stories and games, the norm is that people are told how things end, the norm is to expect a certain outcome. It is not the norm to encourage people to make their own decisions about the world, and in fact these kinds of projects can be called anti-games or ungames. Ones that are more like play. It is not the norm of narrative design to encourage trust in or place any value on your own truth.
  27. Back to Shaul’s book. Shaul speaks about the effect of alternate narrative tracks. Shaul analyses Run, Lola, Run, but I have also added stills to GroundHog Day and Edge of Tomorrow, and the game Guardian MAIA. The narratives keep beginning again, and each time the protagonist can do something different. Shaul explains how [I quote] it is the “overlay of options” that “bring forth to the viewers attention the inherent probabilistic and optional nature of narrative causality.” (130) In other words, we think about options and how the future is not inevitable. The is not a linear causal path through life, there are things that can change.
  28. The feature film Sliding Doors is an example that shaul gives for another kind of alternate narrative track, but this time we zig zag between the options. I’ve also put an image from the game One Choice by Awkward Silence Games involves you playing a scientist. in the last 6 remaining in-game days on Earth, and you zigzag between different ways of living your last days, and the VR experience Possibilia, which is a love story set in a multiverse. In all of them, through a variety of techniques, optional thinking is facilitated.
  29. Another technique Shaul outlines is character perspectives, a shift of POV about the same event. This works when there is empathy for more than the lead protagonist, and there is the pleasure then of the different outlooks which compells a reassessment for narrative comprehension. An example is Akira Kurosawa’s Rashomon, where we experience contradictory versions of the same event through flashbacks of different characters narrated by an unreliable witnesses. Ultimately, though, it is not about the loss of truth, but the searching for truth and “the feasibility of choice and change in one’s life”. Another example I’ve put up is the VR & tablet experience by Lucas Taylor for NBCUniversal, called ElevenEleven. You follow various characters as they each experience the last 11 minutes and 11 seconds on a planet that is about to be destroyed. What is also interesting is that you can jump to what is happening to other characters at the exact same time, just like the zigzag technique mentioned before, and you can switch to “Goddess” view to see them moving around below. There is also David O’Reilly’s Everything game, where you can switch your POV of the world to anything, whether a cow, rabbit, or blade of grass, the event being the life.
  30. There is also the effect of a narrative alternative to a previous work of fiction. For instance, I have the cover of Chuck Tingle’s recent book called Trans Wizard Harriet Porber, created in response to the transphobic rants made by JK Rowling. The recent feature film Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse suddenly saw Spiderman become many different people and animals being spider-man from multiple realities, co-existing. Just this morning, RPG designer Avery Alder shared a quick tweet on ways the cop show Brooklyn99 can be reimagined away from a police setting, including an alternate universe where they work in a post office. The worldview shifts in these are powerful in relationship to the previous works.
  31. There are also narrative alternatives to History, the CounterFactual. This is another strong device to encourage optional thinking. Shaul explains that this works when the alternate history could have feasibly taken another course.” When viewers see this rewriting, it sets up “the notion of an ultimate unpredictability in the course of past events.” Shaul gives the example of Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds, who are featured in the movie poster on the screen. A more recent example is Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, and also Ryan Murphy’s TV series Hollywood, though that one does not get all the techniques aligning as successfully. This is where Shaul’s categories end, but I’ll keep going.
  32. Because as Naomi Klein said recently, “our job is to kick open the door of radical possibilities as wide and as long as possible.”
  33. So I’ll stretch the alternate history further than the counterfactual and include narrative alternatives to whitewashed or magical norm history. Magical norm is the term introduced by Audre Lorde in 1980 “as white, thin, male, young, heterosexual, Christian, and financially secure.” I have three movie posters on the screen, one for Spike Lee’s Black KKlansman, Trisha Morton-Thomas’ satirical documentary “Occupation: Native,” and Phillip Noyce’s Rabbit Proof Fence. And there is a screenshot from Beth LaPensée’s game When Rivers Were Trails, and Navid Khonsari’s game “1979 Revolution: Black Friday”. In all of these projects, they’re based on real events, and they move us beyond mythical norm history.
  34. And with this, there are also narrative alternatives to the mythical norm in general. With Jordan Peel’s film Get Out ; the tv series Sense 8 by Lana and Lilly Wachowski and J. Michael Straczynski, the recent film by Tyler Nilson and Michael Schwartz’s called “Peanut Butter Falcon,” and Kan Gao’s “To the Moon”. All of these works present a world that is different to the mythical norm.
  35. Another kind of narrative alternative I’ll suggest here are ones depicting futures that are not mythical norms. Mythical norm futures are The Terminator, for instance, Children of Men, and Black Mirror. Indeed, as the quote credited to Fredric Jameson goes, “it is easier to imagine an end to the world than an end to capitalism.” Whereas the recent Black Panther feature film showed a different way of conceptualising a Black-run technological future, and The Deep Forest tabletop role-playing-game by Mark Diaz Truman and Avery Alder, where you spend time decolonising and reclaiming, and Anna Anthropy’s “Queers in Love at the End of the World”, invests in the intimate moment. In each we’re either watching or making different kinds of futures and presents.
  36. And the last option I will suggest quickly today is this: alternatives to even aiming for an objective in the first place. I have an illustration of a figure running to a finish line ,and the title of a study on the screen. What if aiming for a particular objective is what is defining the outcome for us in the first place? In their research into evolutionary computation, Joel Lehman and Kenneth Stanley found that if they gave the system an objective, it actually leads to more dead ends than what they’re trying to achieve.
  37. So instead, what they found is that if they designed the system so it sought out novelty, that is, it sought out things that have not been done before, then it actually out-performed the objective-driven approach. And this is it -- when the norms of our narrative design facilitate close-mindedness, then it makes sense that we have to go outside the norms to encourage options we want in our stories, games, and the world.
  38. Radically different futures cannot be written with narrative norms (and by the mythical norm). It means playing with our narrative design, mixing things up, open things up.
  39. Today I briefly shared 9 of the 11 alternatives to narrative design norms that facilitate optional thinking and expand the world, and there are more. .
  40. So...what happens when a pen, a keyboard, a song, and a sandbox walk into a writers’ room, and what will happen next in your writers’ room…? It’s up to you to see it is something that hasn’t been done before.
  41. Instead of a Q&A, I do an Ask We Anything -- because we’ve all got views and answers in here...