Category Archives: Tom Abba

Building Suspense Seminar

How are people going to navigate the podcasts? How will they know where to start or finish?

Will there be photographs, illustrations, a list? How will they be planned out? Will there be an interactive calendar?

Does listening to one podcast prevent you from listening to any others until a later time?

Is the ‘Main character’ highlighted in any way? If you have photographs, is his large or small?

Do you want to limit peoples options when listening to them?

When you follow the links on the postcard or brochure, where does this take you?



Who is a fish out of water? Is it the listener? How are they introduced to the story?

There are lots of instances of ‘themes’, for example, the barking dog, or the man who smashes bottles. We do not need to be told these things are there to know that they are there. I can use these to create foreboding.





Building Suspense

How does one build suspense in a story?

(I am having a little bit of trouble with my pacing, so this is important.)

It’s basically two stages of five steps, divided up.

  • Work Backwards
    Start at the end, work out how to get to that point. Once you know what the big mystery or reveal is, you can start to shroud it.
  • Plant Seeds
    Make sure people know what is going on, that they can follow what’s going on. If you plant enough seeds, they should be able to keep up with the main character, and eventually begin to predict what is going to happen next just before the character does.
  • Give hooks
    Draw people along, hook them in. They need to be following the story.
  • Displace the audience.
    Don’t make it too easy. If they are in unfamiliar terrain, they will sympathise with the protagonist, if the protagonist is also in unfamiliar terrain.
  • Emotive Response
    Make the audience feel, make them empathise, make them sympathise with the characters. If they are in the same place as your main character, that puts them in the same position of mystery and discovery, meaning the story is as much an exploration for them as it is the main character’s.

The audience should be just ahead of the main character.

This makes them smart. This makes them feel clever. It also gives them just enough foresight to see what is going to happen, and then give them enough time to wonder how the characters are going to deal with this.

The second stage goes like this:

  • Location as character
    Make the location organic, real, make it relevant. Make it a metaphor for the story itself, make it matter. Choose your locations for a reason.
  • Foreshadowing
    Dropping clues so that people can see what is coming, but not until it is nearly upon them. If people suspect something is about to happen, that puts them on edge. Tell people what is coming. This can be done a number of ways, but a classic example is the cello in Jaws. It’s a sonic signifier, it’s a theme. We know the shark is there when we hear that sound, so we are set on edge, waiting to see what will happen.
  • Tell Lies
    This is your job, as a storyteller. Tell lies. Make stuff up. If you can also string the audience along a bit, they’re in your world. They respond how you want them to.
  • Character Identification
    Amnesia is a common trope in many stories, because it puts the audience in the same boat as the main character. If we identify, we explore as they so. It makes us empathise with the character more.
  • Counterpoint
    Make things resonate, make them harmonise, make things counterpoint for other things. Get metaphorical, draw comparisons, give things a contrast. By juxtaposing things, you highlight more things about them. Make contrasts.

I have already hit on most of these in my scripts, but I can work them in better. I need to go back and rewrite them with these in mind.
I also need to read more Graham Greene.

The Next Fortnight

I have my stories written, I have started to plan what I need to do next in terms of planning out maps and thinking about my website, but there are others things at play here rather than just layout design.

  • How is it delivered?
    How am I going to package the podcasts themselves? The navigation page for the podcasts will be an important thing to consider in terms of how people interact with it? What order do they go in? How do they know what order to go in? How does this change the way they understand the stories?
  • How does it look?
    What does the website look like? What do the postcards look like? What does the navigation page look like?
  • How does it sound?
    Are there comparisons you can draw with other podcasts, pieces of sound design? Is there music? What does that sound like? What does the narration sound like? How is it delivered?
  • How does the audience interact with it?
    How do they find the website? How does it work when they get there? What process do they go to to get to the stories?
  • Think less about the story and consider the physical thing. The stories are written, they need rewriting, but this is a multi-media piece, consider the other media.

Once you have worked out all of the above, I need to create:

  • Briefing documents.
    All of the above, constructed in such a way as other people could create what I want them to create. How do they know what I want them to do? What should they be looking at or listening to? What sort of research should they be doing? What is the tone of the piece? How can they help me to create this world?
    I need to describe to them what I want, and what I want from them, and then give them ways to help them understand. I will need these in order to progress.

This is not to say that there won’t be a two way interaction. I will need them to come back to me with stuff, ‘I was thinking it could sound like this’, and then it becomes collaborative and we work together on it, but to get everyone to work towards a common goal, I must first define that common goal.

With this in mind, I can start making my stories multidimensional, and we can start working towards building a world.

Check List

Things I need to have done within a month, or at least begun working towards.



  • Write ‘to done’ list
  • Plan all episodes
  • Finish first draft of all episodes
  • Write timeline for all episodes
  • Plot graph/map for all episodes (chronology, relationships, etc.)
  • Rewrite
  • Rewrite
  • See above
  • Repeat ad infinitum
  • Write a production proposal (target audience, overall storyline, log lines, etc.)
  • Design website
  • Design Tourist leaflets
  • Design Maps
  • Prototype
  • Critical analysis (at least 6 of other works)
  • Production schedule
  • Detailed production diary
  • Hazard Assessments
  • Identify what will not be done in time
  • Identify what else needs to be done
  • Evaluate these issues
  • Critique other work
  • Research
  • Write research reports from a writer’s perspective


  • Write notes on their scripts
  • Document those notes
  • Write script reports
  • Tell the writers what they have missed/what needs to change
  • Highlight relevant resources (similar things they may wish to look at)
  • Annotate scripts



  • Map the town
  • Map the characters
  • Write the calendars
  • Finish the first drafts

Dissertation Titles

So, the dissertation is coming along. I’ve written a second draft, changed some bits around here and there. I still don’t have a spine, but I sort of know where I’m going with it now.

I came up with some titles in the hopes that this might help me work out what it is I’m writing about.

  • Modern storytelling
  • The importance of storytelling
  • The evolution of storytelling
  • Stories, games and interactivity
  • Storytelling and interactivity
  • Interactive storytelling
  • The relationship between game and story

But these all seem to be just as vague as what I have now. Which isn’t great.

What I need to do, then, is to break apart my dissertation and put it back together. Work out what each paragraph is saying, why it’s there, and from that work out my spine. Then I’ll know what to cut and what to change and hopefully I’ll have some structure. I just need to break it apart and put it back together again.


I also need to work out my flow. I can use footnotes to great advantage here, and I should use them more. If there’s a point I need to make but it breaks up the flow of the writing, I can go back and footnote it.

Once I’ve got a decent essay, I can make it into a nice publication, make it interactive and have fun with it.

But I need the spine first.

A Run Down of Today’s Lectures

New forms of readings texts are constantly emerging. Most recently, I read an interesting article titled The Rise of the Fragmented Novel which looks at some of the ways in which literature is evolving and intended to be imbibed in different, unorthodox ways. Over the last century or so, the novel has evolved and adapted, challenging the ways that they are intended to be interpreted and received. With the rise of Multi-Platform, this is becoming increasingly relevant.
Today I learned the term ‘Ergodic Literature’, which was described by Espen Aarseth, and is helpfully echoed by Wikipedia as:

“[In] ergodic literature, nontrivial effort is required to allow the reader to traverse the text. If ergodic literature is to make sense as a concept, there must also be non-ergodic literature, where the effort to traverse the text is trivial, with no extranoematic responsibilities placed on the reader except (for example) eye movement and the periodic or arbitrary turning of pages.”

Thanks, Aarseth. Thaarseth,

This sounds like it might well be helpful when it comes to writing my dissertation.

Mark Z. Danielewski said, of his books:

“My books are not CD-players. They’re instruments. A reader has to be willing to play them.”

By which he implies that there has to be some response, some interaction from the reader in order to imbibe one of his books. Again, with new media and the rise of interactivity in everything (thanks Apple. Thapple.) it stands to reason that there should be some sort of evolution when it comes to literature. That isn’t to say that the book shouldn’t also remain as it is, but what with eReaders getting about now, it seems unlikely that the standard Paper-And-Ink format of books will remain the standard. I don’t think they’re going anywhere, but there has to be room for change. I can imagine purists screaming at their screens as they read this, even as I write it. Ironically, they would be reading it on a screen of some sort, and so their argument is automatically invalidated.


Preparation is key. You have to love the question you’re asking, know where to look for relevant research and know what to follow up and what to discard as you swim through paragraph after paragraph. Research thoroughly, remember to cite your references, and you’ve got a way better chance of getting ahead.


Story is key, it is important, but it is evolving.

Jorge-Luis Borges was a god among men. (according to my lecturer.)
(To me, Rod Serling also fits this role.)

“90% of everything is crap.”

Sturgeon’s Law – Theodore Sturgeon

Make Things Fast

Making Things Fast is important when you’re working on something. Especially something new and hopefully innovative. (but it doesn’t matter if it is or not, really.)

What matters is not the planning (although there is the need for some) and it’s not about whether or not you fail (although your producers may not see it that way) but it’s about MAKING things.

Content is Dialogue

What’s important, really, is making stuff. Don’t be too precious with your ideas; share them, get out there and make them. They don’t work? Never mind, start a new project.

Don’t plan for so long you run out of steam. Hit the ground running, sprint, then stop when you’re done. Catch your breath. Do it again.



“You don’t build a community, the community builds itself.”

Thomas Howalt


“The story stays the same, it’s the teller who keeps changing.” [paraphrased]

Lance Weiler


LEADERS are NOT who are important. The most important people you  can have on your side are the FIRST ADOPTERS.

These are the guys who are into your cause from the beginning. They’re there and not afraid to say ‘Hey, I think this is cool!’
Even if it makes them look stupid. They’re taking that risk.

Without at least one follower, a leader is just a guy.

Trying and failing is as important, if not more so, that succeeding.


Story, Goals, Audience, Interaction.
There are what you need to create something, especially something interactive, and successful.
If you can, try and conceive all of these SIMULTANEOUSLY.

Consider ‘Media Specific’ storytelling.

Does your story have:

If not, make it so.

Final Major Project: Round 2

I am still struggling somewhat with my FMP. I know the problems, but fixing them is easier said than done.

I need to find my voice, work out the audience’s part in the story, and work out who the character is.

  • Are they being put there?
    “You are driving down a long country road, when your car breaks down… You are in; The Twilight Zone…”
  • Are they being told about it? Is the narrator a character?
    “Welcome… Sit down… I will tell you a story…”
    “I once went to a town where things were weird…”
    or, less personal,
    “There is a place, between light and dark…”
  • There’s lots of possibilities, and I have to work out which one is best.

How do I do that?

Write out a short story using each narrative voice, and see what works best for what I want.

I am going to go back and look at In Search of Oldton and pester Tim Wright a bit to see what I can find out about creating discovering an imaginary invisible town.

I need to work out the history of the town.

  • Why is there?
  • Where did it come from?
  • Why is it how it is?
  • What came before?
  • What comes after?
  • What is the geography of the town?
  • What are my boundaries?

I am going to do some research into the Norse traditions and history, because I think they had something to do with it…

Well, Ive got some work to do… At least I know what I need to do.


I need to know what’s going on, I need to know my boundaries, just so my story is true to itself.

Be true to yourself story

Dissertation Considerations: Round 2

Things to consider when writing my dissertation.

I’m having a bit of trouble writing my question, so I’m going to think about some stuff.

I want to write about Story Telling, its relevance and how it is adapting to modern technologies… There’s more to all this, but as a broad overview, and for the purposes of this article, it’s all you need to know.

Kurt Vonnegut knows what he’s on about. His writing on Story Theory is excellent, and has already helped me understand stories to a much greater depth. Good stories stand the test of time. This applies to Kurt Vonnegut’s lectures, also.

Think about Marshall McLuhan… Again… Yeah, yeah, you’ve heard it a million times before;

“The medium is the message.”

but this is relevant to what I’m talking about. Think about things like Twitter or Vine, when they came out, people thought ‘What is this? 140 characters? 6 seconds? What can you do with that?’ but in an incredibly short amount of time, less than a year in the case of Vine, people are using it effectively to tell stories. This is part of the future of storytelling.
In the case of cinema, there was worry that cinema would die out because it’s becoming too expensive, but the introduced 3D to try and coax people back in, and now they do live screenings of films, gigs and interviews and beam them to cinemas all over the world. They’re re-interpreting Cinema as a space.

I have to consider what my focus is, really zero in on my question, on what I want to write about…

  • The history of storytelling?
  • The future of storytelling?
  • The way storytelling is being reappropriated?
  • The new technologies available as a medium when telling stories?

I think I want to write about the importance of storytelling, and how it is evolving with modern technologies.

I have to look back, to the history of story, as well as to the future, and the cultural and historical context it is given. There’s a lot to consider…

My New Tools




1. having or seeming to have a supernatural or inexplicable basis; beyond the ordinary or normal; extraordinary: uncanny accuracy; an uncanny knack of foreseeing trouble.
2. mysterious; arousing superstitious fear or dread; uncomfortably strange.



adjective, ee·ri·er, ee·ri·est.

1. uncanny, so as to inspire superstitious fear; weird: an eerie midnight howl.
2. Chiefly Scot. affected with superstitious fear.

Uncanny: The presence of what ought to be absent.

Eerie: The absence of something that ought to be present.