We have just released Everyone Has a Story, which is a set of short stories created from The Story Mint’s earliest serials. There are 12 stories, written by 32 authors from 8 countries and, as Kalli Deschamps says in her review, “The serials are well written with a beginning, middle and ending; complete as though written by one author.”
Creative imagination ties the stories together and it makes me realise that groups can achieve great things when they share a vision. That vision can be realised in many different ways. But the shared goal makes the whole endeavour coalesce.
I have never forgotten advice a wonderful producer once gave me when I directed television.
We were part way through shooting an episode of a studio programme and, although I had already scripted the shots, there was one I was not happy with. It constituted just seven seconds of the programme so one might argue it was a detail that did not require much deliberation. But in television or movie, a bad shot can ruin a production. I started to dither with indecision about what to do with this shot and, seeing my anxiety, my producer said, “There is more than one way to shoot a scene. Your job is to choose which one and make a decision.”
So I chose a shot that seemed to achieve what I was after despite still being unsure. The moment had arrived to just go with what I had settled on. This was despite having to listen to camera operators grumbling at me for making the change. Although I had felt so uncertain, I later realised the new shot worked and I was glad I made the decision and stuck with it. The key lay in my willingness and ability to rely on my own judgement and not be influenced by people who wanted to take the easy way out i.e. stay with the status quo. It was a life-changing moment.
As it happened, the shot I called worked and when the programme went to air the story flowed and the viewing experience was enjoyable with no jarring shot to distract the viewer.
I loved working with the television medium because it was such a creative process. I always felt as though I knitted a whole lot of diverse elements into a coherent story. But I knew the key to success lay in the way the team worked together. This involved acknowledging and respecting each person for his or her particular skill.
The final product was a success because people contributed their skills with professional humility. My job, as Director, was to set the framework in such a way that those around me had confidence I would make their work look good and not pretend I had done it all on my own.
The process behind Everyone Has a Story reminded me of my television making times. When we first started writing serials, we wanted them to be a way to work on developing our writing skills and showcasing our work. But this it changed from being the work of individuals to a group demonstrating how well they could work as a team while retaining their creative integrity. This stretches writers and has taught us all how to work with multiple genre. We are all much better writers for the experience.
We aim to ensure our part in creating the story line is perfectly framed with all the readers’ senses engaged and we are learning all the time how to do this effectively.
Like creating a television programme or storyboarding a commercial, the whole piece of work has to hold together, it has to flow, and it has to make sense. A piece of writing that suddenly leaps from one century to another without a bridging explanation will leave the reader confused. The same applies if it shifts sharply in voice or somebody unexpectedly enters the scene with no apparent purpose.
The editor, like a director, is making sure the writer comes out looking like a star because often we, as writers, see the inspiration but not the detail. Again, creating a serial is a team effort. I’m giving the last word to Kalli Deschamps, “Anyone looking for a beautiful, well written, entertaining piece of literature needs to own this anthology titled, EVERYONE HAS A STORY!”