David Kennedy Q&A
I was drawn to David Kennedy because his academic path — with storytelling at its center — is not unlike my own PhD program. He also grew up in DeLand, FL, where I lived for the last 18 years before moving to Kettle Falls, WA.
Bio: David A. Kennedy is a multimedia specialist with a master’s degree in interactive media from Elon University. He was born in Ft. Lauderdale, FL, and has worked as both a journalist and copywriter, writing for magazines, newspapers and corporations. Nothing enthralls him more than a good story, so he writes, hoping to enthrall others. To find out more about him and his work, visit his website and his blog, (e)INTERtain.
Q&A with David Kennedy, Question 1:
Q: You are pursuing my master’s degree in interactive media from Elon University. To what extent has storytelling been part of your master’s program? You list some possible fields you might want to get into upon your upcoming graduation. How is that thinking developing, and to what extent do you feel storytelling will be part of your future work?
A: I chose to pursue this degree because storytelling exists at its core. I originally wanted to obtain a MFA in creative writing. But every time I tried to finally decide on that path, it didn’t feel right. And I couldn’t shake that. Until I discovered Elon’s program.
To me, interactive media represents storytelling’s future. I wanted to be a part of that. I’m not saying creative writing is a dead form of storytelling either. I still get out my pen and write poetry or song lyrics longhand. But creative writing is just one aspect of interactive media, and to take on the challenge in integrating images, audio and technical tools with writing, my first love… well, it’s a challenge I couldn’t resist.
Look at my multimedia portfolio; there’s a story in every one of those projects. It’s at the core of how we communicate.
I graduate May 20, and don’t have a clear path in front of me yet. But I know, no matter what, storytelling will be at the center of whatever I do. Whether it’s multimedia journalism, digital public relations, educational technology or something else, I can’t not tell a story. I’m a writer at heart, but all writers are storytellers.
Paul Auster, one of my favorite authors, said this: “Becoming a writer is not a “career decision” like becoming a doctor or a policeman. You don’t choose it so much as get chosen, and once you accept the fact that you’re not fit for anything else, you have to be prepared to walk a long, hard road for the rest of your days.”
No matter what, I’ll keep walking that road.
Q: How did you initially become involved with story/storytelling/narrative? What attracted you to this field? What do you love about it?
A: I wrote a book in the second grade about my Dad and his time in the U.S. Air Force. It mixed truth and fiction, and included my own illustrations. We created our own book covers and bound the books as well, so in the end, it was like a real book.
Looking back, I was enamored by the notion that I could string 26 characters into words, sentences and paragraphs that made sense, and took readers on a journey. I’ve always been a dreamer, embarking on journeys of my own, so I want to enable people to do the same. And that’s really what I love about stories and narrative — the idea that people can go on a journey and learn something that could potentially change them in a dramatic way.
Q: The storytelling movement seems to be growing explosively. Why now? What is it about this moment in human history and culture that makes storytelling so resonant with so many people right now?
A: Think about it. Stories are how we communicate and how we’ve always communicated. Cave paintings came about as one of the first ways humans told their stories and the Internet is no different from that. One of my colleagues, Paul Wagner, calls Wikipedia society’s digital cave paintings. So in a sense, we’ve come full circle. Stories work.
They resonate because they are part of us, and our history. There’s a tremendous amount of information available today, thanks to the web. So people grasp the things that truly mean something to them. Most of the time, that’s a story. Stories have characters, emotion, twist and turns. More importantly, a good story gives us context, more meaning than most forms of communication.
Q: If you could share just one piece of advice or wisdom about story/storytelling/narrative with readers, what would it be?
A: Embrace your own story. Without it, your are lost. If you are lost, you can’t tell stories very well at all.
And realize your story is a process. Trust it. Sometimes, you won’t have a clue as to where your own plot is headed, but hey, isn’t that fun? I think it’s glorious. Because there are never any right or wrong words in YOUR story. The only thing that matters is what you take away from each twist and turn.
Q: What future trends or directions to do foresee for story/storytelling/narrative? What’s next for the discipline?
A: The web is really driving storytelling now. It has changed everything. Television, newspapers, books and word of mouth have all begun a fast-paced evolution because of it. All these traditional and modern-day storytelling avenues will continue to change at a rapid rate. Here are my two big predictions and observations:
- Stories will continue to become more “collaborative.” The web has connected us like nothing has before. As more people gain Internet access, thanks to mobile technology, the stories of society as a whole, of organizations, of brands, of individuals and the stories we tell for pure entertainment will become more of a organic, team-like process. The ability of any of these types of stories to exist on their own has long since gone. Different messages and values will intermingle with all of these, creating communities, small and large all over the world. The ability of stories to have a true, powerful impact will depend upon how well a community’s different authors embrace each other as co-creators.
- People will demand “honesty” from stories. Again, the Internet has connected people in new and incredible ways. It’s easier than ever to ferret out the truth because we now have the wisdom of the crowd. I’m not just speaking about non-fiction and journalistic stories when I say honesty either. It’s harder and harder to hide the truth because of the wisdom of crowds, but it’s also more difficult than ever to tell a story (that really reaches a lot of people, and makes an impact) without putting some “heart” into it. So, honesty also means sincerity in this case as well.
Q: You write in a blog entry listing three ways storytelling and social media are alike: “Both offer the opportunity to follow characters. Admit it, we stick with stories or visit social media profiles because we enjoy seeing what the characters there do next.” What are some ways people can develop their “characters” in social media? Should people keep “personal branding” in mind when presenting their “characters” in social media?
A: You should keep personal branding in mind when you engage in social media. You can really paint a picture of who you are there. But don’t just jump onto social media because you think you should. Do it because you are passionate about something. Then share that.
As you develop your character, keep these things in mind:
- Genuineness trumps all else. Be who you are, not who you think you should be. That also means that if you establish your character as a “biker type,” you probably shouldn’t flip the switch one day and become the “super mom type” That is unless your the biker/super-mom type. :)
- Be human. That means be courteous and thank people. Share your work and the work of others you admire. Remember, it’s not all about you.
- Don’t be completely predictable. People follow characters to see what they do next. Throw a surprise out there every once in awhile. You’ll seem more genuine.