Fuck the Story

In spring 2013 I went to Austin for the SXSW-conference. On my first day there, I went by random into one of the many talks. A young guy, who was introduced as a brilliant thinker and maybe the next Steve Jobs went on stage. He told a well crafted story, about the problems of the world and how they can be fixed – a great talk.

He had thought carefully about his story, it was a very convincing story. But – and it took me quite a while to realize – what he said, was pretty banal. It felt new and exciting, but it was not.

A great story, almost no content. And I am sure the guy had spent much more time thinking about his story than thinking about what he wanted to say – these are two different things. But so often people take the story for the content and vice versa. The authors as well, as the audience.

A story is a construction, and if we build this construction in a way, that it lets us see things, that we could not see without the construction: it is a good thing! If the construction functions as a tower that lets us look into the distance: Great!

And sometimes stories do exactly that. They let us see things.

But most often the story is a construction, that is in between us and the thing we are interested in. Like a wall. So we look at the wall, not at the thing, that is behind it. The author puts a wall between the audience and the reality behind the wall.

So the audience watches the wall, and they even might enjoy it. Because it might be a pretty pretty wall. But is that really, what we want?

I rewired my brain using Korsakow over the last 13 years, and I have to say: I don’t enjoy it any more to watch the wall. I enjoy complexity (at least to a certain point), I enjoy that an informed author shows me around, but does not tell me what to think.

Korsakow is a tool that allows authors to create open narratives. Flexible films. The author does not pre-think the paths. The author of a Korsakow-film is like a guide that shows you his favorite places, but he does not tell you what to think.

But I often get the criticism: people say: “This is boring”. These people say, that the audience wants to get a story told and that the audience does not want to do the work of the author. And I agree to a certain point. It is not about the audience doing the work of the author. There still needs to be a strong author that works – hard – do create meaningful viewpoints; a strong author that voices his opinion, a strong author that simplifies reality to a point that it can be understood without spending too much time.

But I have to say: I get terribly frustrated if authors oversimplify. And it seems to me, that this is what authors usually do for the sake of the story. The story needs it simpler, than the audience. And I can see this everywhere: In documentary films, in journalism, in politics. People get more and more frustrated with that. Just like me, who rewired his brain with Korsakow. Other people are currently re-wireing their brains with the internet.

It is the beauty of computer-based storytelling, that you have more freedom. More freedom as an author, more freedom as the viewer. Open and flexible stories can be done in a way it can not be done in a film. And it can be done better, on a computer than in any other medium.

I totally dislike, when the author pre-thinks the story. When the author seduces the audience to think, what he or she wants them to think. By using cheap tricks. The cheap tricks of storytelling, perfected in linear film.

Most of the time, I am audience as well. And when I sense, how I get seduced by an author, and I notice that, when I recognize the tools of drama, when the story is _too_ good: I get an allergic reaction and:

I do not believe the story – I just don’t buy it.

When I make a korsakow-film ( the last one is geld.gr – Money and the Greek, a Korsakow-film about the financial crisis in Greece ) I don’t want to convince anyone of anything. I want to discuss ideas. In this case the ideas that I found on my travels in Greece and talking with people.

The goal of a good Korsakow-film is not to come up with answers. Good Korsakow-films generate questions. And I think we don’t have to focus any more on the answers answers. There is a paradime shift. For a few years now, we live in the time of answers. Every smartphone is the gate to the answers. This is a new thing. I remember very well how difficult it was to get the them.

Now that we have the answers it is time to find the right questions.

Stories give answers.

Good nonlinear narratives create relevant questions.

This is, what I am looking for.