An Experiment in Immersive Storytelling
Behind the Scenes:
My Spouse & Partner in Crime
I'm about to dispel a myth that many people believe but don't often think about. The director of your favorite film didn't do everything all by themselves. Your favorite actor? Same thing. They didn't do it all by themselves either. No matter who your favorite person is involved in your favorite movie, that movie in the form you love probably wouldn't exist without the whole cast and crew working on it. And that's not all; there are artists, marketing and distribution people, a whole host of people who work together to pull it all off. When was the last time you read the full credits for a film? Have you ever?
You know those TV shows, films, and even books that tell you a writer banged out a new great novel over a weekend of booze and sex with strangers? And then remembering their agent demanded a book from them? So, they go on a coke bender Sunday night and henpeck at the typewriter, but when the sunrises on Monday morning, you get the dramatic sequence of them typing 'THE END' and then falling to the floor in exhaustion. Ever seen those? I have. A lot of them.
When was the last time you read the acknowledgments for a book?
Regardless of what popular media tries to tell you, your favorite film director or actor isn't solely responsible for your favorite film, and your favorite writer doesn't produce the works you love all on their own (Especially in one weekend at a cabin.) I mean, logistically, how would that work?
Writers have editors, beta readers, critique partners, books about writing, draft after draft of their manuscript to send to anyone willing to read it, etc. All of the people along the way who help a writer in their journey impact the work. It's an essential part of writing, just like a costume designer is an essential part of the team for a period piece film.
For Absolution, I had my spouse Tae. She was absolutely critical in making all of it happen. You'll get more about her specific editing and prop-making later, but for now, here's a brief bio of Tae and a quick walkthrough of how my life partner in crime helps me in my creative endeavors.
Tae doesn't hang out on social media or anywhere you're likely to stumble across her. She is kind-hearted and has the soul of an artist.
You're kind if you shovel your neighbor's car out from under a pile of snow, stop to help a stranger change a tire, or pause to give an obviously lost person some directions—even if you're not the type of person to bother saying "Bless you," when someone else sneezes.
— Read more about kind vs. nice on Lifehacker
Tae's art interests are as broad and varied as her skill in cooking, nutrition, or herbalism, and since you don't know a thing about her because she's not on social media, I'll tell you she's an expert in all those things.
I probably have hundreds of photos of foods she's made. Like I said, she's an expert, and I'm lucky enough to be able to take breaks from work to eat whatever she puts in front of me, then ask what the hell delicious creation it was that I just ate.
We've been together for decades and found a common interest early on in creating. Creating what? Anything, everything. We have complementary skill sets and use that to our advantage. Because of this, I could let my creative juices flow freely while writing for Absolution, knowing that Tae would step in and help make the idea a reality.
What you're about to see here is a random sampling of Tae, the person, which you won't find anywhere else. This should serve as an illustration of how I was able to confidently write whatever the hell I wanted for Absolution and know, without the shadow of a doubt, that Tae could turn my ideas for props into reality. Everything you see, Tae has given me permission to share. She doesn't put these up anywhere. These are all for herself, sometimes for us, and occasionally she'll create something as a present for a friend.
Blobby Hill is the atropal in the final boss battle of Tomb of Annihilation. Tae and I also created a 3d boss battle map for the final showdown of that campaign I was running.
Speaking of videos, did you see my short video El Psy Kongroo? That's not a real book in it. I do all of these short videos from concept to finish in one night. I didn't have the book I wanted, so Tae made one for me.
She contributes to a lot those short videos, and on any random evening we might be playing with knives and falling to the floor for sound effects, recording overlapping voices after freezing in the cold at a playground, or even turning our closet into a temporary haunted doll habitat. Sometimes, she even steps up my Christmas game with her attention to detail.
In Absolution, I needed some journal papers to look quite old. Tae not only aged them, but she also wrote the originals in fountain pen.
I've had people ask me how I pulled off Absolution so quickly. The answer is simple: I had help.
And now you should see why I was so secure in thinking I could pull off the idea of Absolution in such a short time frame. I wasn't alone, and I knew that Tae would happily stand up to the challenge of anything I threw her way. Like I said before, we share a common interest in creating things—anything, everything—and a love of manipulating perception and reality.
Whenever you see my name on something, I guarantee Tae touched it somehow, and it's better for it. You should see some of the stuff I bang out on the keyboard before she looks at it. Actually, on second thought, don't. Your eyes might bleed.