Posts Tagged ‘storytelling’

Lynsey Addario
Photo Credit: Lynsey Addario

Jimmy Briggs is telling a story about a Congolese woman he is interviewing.

The woman is describing how she was raped twice in one day.

In the interview, the woman explains that her brother, husband and children were present when she was first attacked in the morning by the Congolese government army.

When they were  finished, the army left the house.

Later, that afternoon, non-government soldiers arrived. They are more brutal. The woman’s husband ran away.

Her brother tried to hide on the rooftop. The militia shot him. The group of men (5 in all) proceeded to rape the woman inside her house. Her children began to call for help outside the home.

The militia men stop the attack and proceed to leave. The woman follows them out. Then, one by one, they shoot each of her children in the back of the head. They proceed to finish the rape.

They leave.

I heard this story while at the Congo/Women opening reception this past Thursday (curated by this organization). The room is surrounded in black and white photos of Congolese men, women and children.

There are huge color photo displays detailing the life and violence in the Congo.

It’s beautiful. Yet, it is also tremendously tragic.

The room shudders with a very still quiet. Mr. Briggs tells the crowd that he wants us to remember this woman’s story. Do not be afraid to remember it. Be brave enough to keep it in your mind.

He wants us to remember that we have the power to change the world if we remember to tell each other’s stories.

Sometimes, the only power you have is simply telling someone else’s story.


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storytellingTelling a good story takes skill – as well as an interesting platform. Great platforms don’t have to be gimmicky or involve an overwhelming amount of information. If you can’t tell great stories about yourself… well, frankly, why should anyone be listening to you in the first place? If you don’t know where to start, remember that you only need the following:

  • A beginning, middle and an end
  • Characters people care about
  • An interesting conflict that gets resolved

How does that apply to a great career story? Easy. You already have the characters (YOU), the plot (finding your dream job) and some juicy conflict (overcoming professional challenges).

Keep it positively simple

Let’s not wax philosophic. Avoid telling people (eg. potential employers) that your last job didn’t tap into your potential to be a great [insert whatever job] therefore you must embark on a quest to find blah, blah, blah.

You aren’t applying to become a space trooper to save the world from certain doom – be realistic about your interests and what you hope to accomplish.

Keep the ideas simple and leave phrase like “conceptual development” and “professional enrichment” OUT. They make you (and your story) sound boring.

Themes are so much better

People always talk about what kinds of careers they want, but they never seem to focus on why they want those kinds of careers. Make a list of what makes you want the kinds of jobs you want. Create simple, pithy observations about yourself that speak to your story line’s “theme.” I did a similar exercise a few months ago when I first decided to blog.

In your list, you should be able to recognize the commonalities in connection to your dream job. If you like working in finance, I’m pretty sure you like money (and that’s OK – everyone likes money, some more than others, though).

If you have a career as a fundraiser, let’s hope something is in your list about promoting causes or connecting with people. You get the picture – the themes will speak to your core values.

Have a beginning, middle and an end

Good stories engage you all the way, right up until the very end. You can begin your story a number of ways – but it only takes one bad beginning to create an onerous tone to your story. 

Don’t begin with any resentments, professional unhappiness or gripes. Present conflicts and challenges and explain (briefly) how you over came them (i.e., a career transitions, industry relevance, etc.)

The vehicle in which you translate your story is simple: how do you want people to remember you? The main thing is to keep it relevant, not only to you, but to your potential employer. Play up the highlights, but move things along so you have transition.

Finish your story – but give it an “open” ending. After all, your career journey doesn’t end with you getting the job – it begins anew with another professional opportunity.

Have a relevant (i.e. interesting) platform

Cool platforms simply elevate your story from good to great – it’s a literary and storytelling vehicle. In other words, it’s your pitch – your professional “blurb.” As such, your pitch sets the story’s pace, moves things along and keeps listeners interested.

Authors have to do this all the time when they are trying to sell their books to publishers – how well are you going to author your story? Create evidence of your accomplishments – press clippings, portfolios, written recommendations – even your blog. The platform is your gateway to establishing relevance (and connection) to your potential employer.

What else do you think makes a good career story?

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the-simsDid I ever tell you Will Wright was my personal hero? Perhaps, I’m giving away too much about myself. If you don’t know who Will Wright is, take one word: game design genius. OK, that was actually three words, but I don’t think one word would adequately cover it.

Game Debate

As the creative leader of Maxis (a division of EA games) and creator of all things Sim-related, Wright has developed an empire out of a simple concept: having players tap into their inner divinity to create endless, manipulative possibilities. His games have sparked interesting discussions about the idea of consumer related behavior to the ideas of social Darwinism and evolutionary ecologies.

It’s safe to say that The Sims (and subsequent platforms) have spawned an entire world on its own (including custom content sites, machinima artists and hack specialists).

Additionally, hardcore gamers and occasional players have found a common link when it comes to using The Sims as a showcase to express ideas about some heavily adult issues. The Sims is not just for kids, nor is the subject matter that is broached by its Sim “filmmakers,” artists and storytellers.

Talent Showcase

Decorgal’s site Adventures in Dating trails the lives and loves of two sisters, Ellen and Emma. One struggles with the inner turmoil of an unhappy marriage and the complications of commitment. The other grapples with coming to terms with what true love and marriage definitively mean to her.

It’s powerfully directed, painstakingly organized and displays the enormous talent one must use when not having the “luxury” of working with human actors (or real objects, for that matter). 

Artccgrrl implements a surrealistic setting to introduce viewers to a philosophizing and moody artist (recovering from clinical depression) and his mysterious blue-eyed muse.

There’s even room for an intricately plotted situational comedy in which director, Serenity, details the intersecting lives of 3 “newly” dead souls charged with ensuring love connections for the living on “Cupid’s Arrows.”

All this in a computer game?

Yep. And, there’s only more. Sim directors have taken their talents to be broadcast on YouTube, The Sims 2 web page and a host of other sites dedicated to Sim movie makers. One can find themed promotional contests challenging filmmakers to develop the scariest, funniest, weirdest Sim movie to date or reinterpret japanese folk tales.

Anything goes.

What’s the Connection?

The innovation of these directors and artists is only fueled by their devotion to showcase the merits of machinima storytelling (as well as using “Sim-tech” as an increasingly valid form of animated storytelling). 

As such, Directors have to be opportunistic when it comes to exhibiting these productions while accessing an otherwise inaccessible or unexplored audience (non-sim players, inexperienced computer gamers and film/media enthusiasts).

This only lends itself to “branding” Sim presence through the likes of social media and the web.

Lovers of all things Sim can download special animation hacks, “buy” custom created fashions and furniture, or be entertained with various films of all genres. The ROI on the purchase of a Sim game is beyond tenfold.

Such an extension of virtual worlds and computer/games is not solely limited to The Sims, but by far, Will Wright’s invention has one of the most well rounded reaches (with the exception of virtual world phenom Second Life).

Learning Models

Machinima directors are beyond the individual sociological experiments a casual Sim gamer may implement (what will happen when the introverted, creative genius falls in love with the extroverted, dumb slob? Oh, the drama!).

Enthusiasts can learn how to create their own movies and, through trial and error, learn about hacking and creating custom content. Thus, players increase their own familiarity and effectiveness with Sim gaming and the gaming experience.

This kind of complexity within a complexity creates a multi-tiered web of connections. In other words, new techniques and innovations revolving around this expertise are developed, learned and taught by a virtual community of gamers – all linked by their passion for the Sims.

Apparently, perhaps, this is the natural progression of all learning as more and more people come to depend on the instant access of information (as well as the overwhelming amount that is readily available).

Of course, there are other sorts of virtual communities with similar learning models. The Sims, however, is of particular interest beause gamers are using the medium of “film making” to express ideas about human behavior and connections in the world at large while redefining artistry in every sense of the word.

So, in the end – what?

The Sim community, gamers, artists, story tellers and film makers are paving ways for creatively crafty methods of storytelling. The web and social media is their marketplace for imaginative exchange as well as garnering opportunities for quick (and enthusiastic) feedback.

Hobbyists and professionals alike can easily collaborate on projects while enriching the “brand presence” of Sim movie making and developing its ever growing fan base.

As a (not so casual) observer, I can’t wait to see what else those quirky, funny and immensely talented “Sim Artists” cook up next.

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