In 2012 I published Inside the Story, a collection of secrets from some of the most respected digital producers around the world. More than 2,000 downloads later and I'm really excited to show you the next iteration of the project: a high quality, quarterly web magazine.
Inside The Story Magazine is about designing and building better stories in a digital world.
Are there rules to storytelling? No, but, as Robert McKee says, there are principles: there are techniques that work and those that don't. Any professional worth his or her salt must understand and appreciate these - even if it is in order to break them. It is time to make sense of what is so often guesswork.
There are countless articles and websites about the so-called 'power of storytelling' but I don't see anyone really trying to understand the underlying mechanics of how a good story works.
This project is an attempt to do that. Rather than talking in vague terms, Inside the Story Magazine gets its hands dirty looking at the architecture of story structure. It talks about things like plot, tempo, progression, and events. Two highlights from Issue 1 are interviews with filmmaker Brent Hoff and RadioLab producer Soren Wheeler, where we break their award-winning stories down into their raw narrative parts. This isn't done anywhere else, and it's enlightening to read.
Each issue has a rough guiding theme. Issue 1 is about science: how can we communicate science, medicine, technology more effectively through better constructed narratives?
Issue 2, published in April 2013, will be all about telling stories with pictures.
One thing I want to make clear: I am not editing and publishing this magazine as someone who knows about storytelling. I haven't produced anything near the volume of work to claim expertise in anyway.
In fact, I'm approaching it from the opposite direction. I know very little about how storytelling works (less than you, most likely) but I'm insanely fascinated in finding out. It is something I want to understand.
I could just start teaching myself, or take a course, but where's the fun in that? Building a platform like this means I can talk to some of the best producers, filmmakers and storytellers out there today. More importantly, a platform means I can connect with other storytellers (that's you) and share everything I discover.
If you want to come on this journey with me, then please subscribe.
Inside the Story Magazine is also a publishing experiment, under the umbrella of HotPursuitPress my digital publishing laboratory.
All my previous publishing projects have been based around the .pdf document: easy to create but difficult to share, difficult to navigate and not at all web friendly.
2012 brought forth people with new ways of looking at publishing. In particular Matter Magazine, Marco Arment's The Magazine and Craig Mod's much-shared manifesto on Subcompact Publishing have all inspired this project and I'm grateful to all of them.
Inside The Story is what some people call a web-native magazine: it's built with HTML (rather than as a self-contained document) and is not intended to look like or be influenced by the magazines we are familiar with. There is no art direction, big centrefolds or ambitious design. In fact, there are just two colours and two typefaces running throughout the whole thing. There are only five articles (each one clocking up around 2,000 words) and none of the fast features that make it into mainstream publications. In short, it is the simplest iteration of my idea I could come up with. On the plus side, it means there's nothing between you and the words: I hope it makes it a nicer read.
Inside the Story Magazine is designed to be read on tablets, desktops and smartphones - all without going through an App store.
Why a magazine?
I could have done it as a blog, sure, but there are enough storytelling blogs out there already. More importantly, a blog, by its nature, is about writing short, simple, posts in a couple of hours and getting it published quickly. I wanted to spend weeks and weeks researching, interviewing, studying and before finally producing something worth reading.
And that's what I've done here. You'll be the judge of whether I've succeeded.
I want future issues to contain other voices, so I am interested in hearing from anyone with something new to say about non-fiction storytelling. I'll even pay contributors a percentage of the magazine's revenue. Details of how to do it are in the End Matter of Issue 1.
This is an experiment
Ultimately though this is an experiment and there are lots of unanswered questions. Is storytelling something you can actually study? (I'm open to the idea that it isn't). Is anyone even interested in it, if it is? Do the principles of fictional storytelling apply to non-fiction? Was a web-native magazine the right way to do this? Should I have gone through the App Store? Should I have done it all in video instead?
...Will it work?
These are all questions floating around in my head. Some of them you can help me answer: please, if you have any feedback about this project - good or bad - then please email me.