Very early on, I told stories—not always well, not always clearly, but always with words and with pictures. One of my earliest influences was a collection of Gustav Dore prints, which taught me how much drama and meaning could be expressed in one image. A Buck Rogers hardbound collection, larger than my 6-year-old lap, taught me the art of storytelling over multiple images, and this was reinforced to me later by Batman, Kamandi, 70s horror comics, and X-Men. Of course, I began to imitate this art form as best I could, drawing my own comic books. And after my first role-playing game in Middle School, I learned to create entire worlds with strange landscapes filled with strange creatures.
I realized the need for logic and structure while trying to create my own roleplaying game systems. The game system ended up being cumbersome, but it worked, and I gave the players neat things to look at (lots maps and monsters), but their gaming experience was not interactive enough. It was boring for the players. I didn't know what I was doing, but I enjoyed it immensely. Little did I realize I would be using these skills later in life while constructing wireframes for websites. I was a young User Experience Designer before there was such a thing.
Since the early 90s I was involved with comic book creation, and later, publishing. As I immersed myself in the process of illustrating and writing comic books and graphic novels, I researched more about the craft of storytelling. Ironically, this research into wordcraft led to my departure from comic books. An 80 page graphic novel lies abandoned in my files, because I realized I needed to better understand the logic and structure of plot.
Not For Naught
I had grown up with computers. I was programming BASIC on a Sinclair ZX-80 (with a whopping 2k of RAM) when I started high school, and continued coding in Flash's Actionscript code language. But, just as Joseph Cambpell referred to computers as Old Testament Gods: "Lots of rules, and no forgiveness," coding had become too sterile and absolute for me. Although I know enough code to modify pre-existing templates (like this website, thanks HTML5 UP), creating code from scratch was something I didn't have the patience or inclination to pursue. I stuck to my strengths—storytelling and illustration. The niche I fell into was Flash Animation, heavy on the art and narration, light on the Actionscripting. The sequential art skills I developed over 20 years fueled the storyboards I created for advertising agencies. All those comic book panels I had drawn translated into an important skill.
Writing became more of a focus for me, and I started my first novel in 1997. It was a chaotic mess of outlining around chapters I had already written, and filling the gaps in with chapters that ended up reading like filler. I recognize a similar pattern in the way a lot of websites are built—with no overarching theme to the content, and haphazard link schemes.
Play To Your Strengths
Plotting out a website is not terribly different than plotting out a novel. Everything needs to be logical and interconnected, and the user's journey must end with a satisfying click of that call-to-action button, the same way your novel needs to have a satisfying emotional click. Every human mind is built essentially the same and looks for the same experience—a mirror of themselves. Carl Jung recognized this, and he created patterns to identify personality types and the methods by which each personality type could improve him or herself. Joseph Campbell recognized the same baseline psychology to all humans, and he created a singular Hero's Journey story-pattern into which all world mythologies neatly fit. Screenwriters adapted Campbell's Hero's Journey into structures of logic on which to build plotlines and scripts. Designers even created a pattern for building brand personalities, based on what service or product they offered, and the core essences behind that brand. These patterns of personality and storytelling all link back to archetypal psychology, and an understanding of basic human behaviors. In order to keep it simple, you must design a solid structure first, and in order to do that, you must understand human nature, which is optimizing laziness.
Everything Is Made of Stories
I have always been a storyteller. I have learned that every project needs a structure and logic to make the most of its potential—be that a novel, a website, a brand redesign, or a powerpoint presentation—and that structure and logic is based on the human hunger for experiences that mirror their own humanity—stories that resonate.