The Next Generation of Storytelling – Mark Staufer’s “The Numinous Place”
While technology evolves faster than any of us can keep pace with – it has yet to truly change the way we read and absorb fiction. E-books and e-readers have made reading more convenient, but they still follow the format of traditional books. You just turn the pages electronically.
That is, until now.
Hollywood screenwriter Mark Staufer is in the process of changing the fiction experience – to, get this, eliminate the necessity for the “suspension of disbelief.” He’s written The Numinous Place (TNP) a first-person account of protagonist, Henry Meat, a man on a spiritual quest to discover secrets of the afterlife. What TNP does is not just tell you a narrative, it tells it through multi-media – which means along with reading text, you hear audio, watch video, read articles, newspaper reports, webpages, see photographs, listen in on phone calls, view security camera footage, and get in on lucid dreaming instructions to journey through the story with Henry.
Fascinating, isn’t it? That’s what I thought. This has the potential to change not only how we experience fiction, but how we write it. Creating an immersive experience that allows readers to enter the fictional world as deeply as possible. Bridging an elusive gap between a “character’s world” and a “reader’s world.”
I asked Mark to tell us more about TNP and his creative journey. He’s currently in the midst of a busy rewrite season on scripts and is crowdfunding TNP through Kickstarter. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be part of the birth of the next generation of storytelling. Please check out The Numinous Place.
As a screenwriter, Mark, you’ve worked with some of Hollywood’s top talent. What inspired you to write TNP? How did this concept present itself to you?
The creative genesis of The Numinous Place has been something more akin to discovering and investigating an entire world than the usual process of story building. It’s a concept that has revealed itself to me little by little over the last decade. Slowly at first, and then more rapidly after I began to write it down three years ago.
TNP is referred to as the “world’s first multidimensional work of fiction.” You are introducing a new way to “experience” fiction. What can the audience/reader expect?
Storytelling has been around since before fire, and although the same principles have always applied, we’ve used different methods to bring our characters to life. With The Numinous Place I’m using nearly every method of storytelling to create the storyworld. The first-person narrative is linear, but because it’s told “as real” it’s enhanced with the inclusion of authentic newspaper and magazine articles, webpages, news reports, photographs, phone-calls, security camera footage, a comic and lucid dreaming instruction. It allows us to create a really believable and creepy universe that I believe people will react to on a visceral level.
What was the intention/vision behind developing this project?
The intention is to create as an authentic experience as possible. After spending so much time with these characters before giving them life “on the page” to me they’re actually living, breathing individuals. Telling story this way is the closest I’ll ever come to reproducing this interior world for other people.
Tell us about the Story. It’s about a man on a spiritual quest….??
I started with this premise: How would the world change, if science proved incontrovertibly that there was a hell. In other words, how would people act if they knew for a fact everything they did in this life absolutely had an effect on them for all eternity. Then I had to work out a couple of minor points, like how did science discover that the afterlife exists, and (the biggie) what is the afterlife like?
What was the writing process like for you? What has it been like to live/interact with the characters for so long?
I’m a slow writer, and by that I mean, I spend such a long time gestating my storyworld and characters. I laugh to myself about The Numinous Place turning me into a “method writer” in terms of having to experience a similar journey to the main character. I think we’re all on a spiritual quest from the day we’re born, it doesn’t just begin when we announce it to ourselves or to the world. But, I’ve had to increase the intensity and velocity of mine to keep up with Henry Meat’s because TNP doesn’t operate in “real time.” I should add that the actual “writing” is not fun at all. It’s never been fun for me. You have to use a cattle-prod to get me to the desk and then threaten me with time on a Judas Cradle if I leave before bleeding a few words out an hour. And then I spend weeks rearranging the words into some sort of order that makes sense. It’s agony. The words enjoy causing me as much pain as possible.
Do you envision that TNP will change how e-books/aps present “fiction experiences”?
I think all modes of storytelling will survive, but technology has given us more opportunities to explore narrative. I’m just surprised it’s taken so long for writers and publishers to embrace multimedia. It’s like the digital revolution came along and bypassed books completely.
The public and investors can be a bit skeptical about something that they haven’t experienced before. What would you say to them?
I’d ask them to step outside yourself and watch how you experience information and entertainment for a few hours. Or, if you’re still a newspaper/6 o’clock news kinda person, observe a teenager for an evening as they multitask and interact with technology and society and merge with the supermind. I never underestimate the sophistication and intelligence of my audience/target—I figure if I make it fascinating, worthwhile and honest, they’ll take the journey.
You are in the process of crowdfunding on Kickstarter. What will the funds be used for? What’s the next step?
I’m really excited by the whole concept of crowdsourcing. It puts creators and inventors directly in touch with their audience. We have quite a lot of production, design, art and tech building to do to get us launch-ready, and all the funds from Kickstarter will be used to make the app, e-book and online elements sing to each other.
Thanks, Mark, for taking a moment to share this with us. What an exciting journey for a writer to be on!
You can follow Mark Staufer on Twitter at @markstaufer.