Our newest upcoming series, The Martian Chronicles, is a work-in-progress! We wanted to take this opportunity to give listeners a glimpse into what goes into creating new Sparkle Stories. From story seed to fully produced audio, David Sewell McCann (our Chief Creative Officer) and the Sparkle Stories team invest a whole lot of hard work and creativity. And at 1300+ audio stories and counting, we know it takes a little bit of magic too!
We had some questions for David about creating The Martian Chronicles:
What can you tell us about The Martian Chronicles? Where did the original idea come from?
The broad strokes are still forming but the inspiration behind the collection comes from a very personal question I’ve had since I was young: “What if I was actually an alien from outer space?” I know I’m not alone with this question or questions like it. Children often wonder why they are different from their parents or from their friends and wonder what it would be like if it was true. And since the Mars probe just landed, it seemed like Martians would be the logical place to start.
The idea is that there is a family of four that behaves in uniquely strange ways. The community accepts them but things get more complicated when they discover that the family is actually from Mars.
At first I thought of putting the story in the geographic center of the country in Nebraska, but since then we thought about all the opportunities a place like Florida could offer: a more diverse population, nearness to the Kennedy Space Center, the culture of Disney World and Epcot Center.
How much does a story change from that first moment of inspiration to the final product?
Generally, we start with a request or need from the community that listens to our stories. Over the years, children have asked for stories about space or science fiction or aliens and it’s never felt like the right time. Suddenly, it does feel like the right time! I begin by feeling into potential characters — what they experience emotionally, feeling “outside” or “different,” and then I begin to have fun with potential storylines. Once I have a sense of a potential collection, I present it to the full team.
We are in the clarifying and questioning process now. As a group, we are taking the initial idea and exploring ways to be more inclusive to a diverse listenership. We ask ourselves probing questions. Does this story offer a mirror to a narrow group of children or could we make the group bigger by changing specific things? Is this a window into a new group of people? What do we want to teach our listeners?
Once we get clear on the intention of the stories, I start a first draft — this requires lots of research and occasionally interviews with people who have a lived experience of the characters or environment. I follow the narrative and it always brings me to solid draft. The stories are then read and questioned and tested and edited and I begin the second draft. This part is very collaborative. Ultimately, it lands on a final draft that then moves into the audio production.
What is your favorite part of the process?
I love the discoveries that the stories bring me. My intuition generally leads me to make choices I don’t fully understand until later. It feels like magic when something curious suddenly makes sense and becomes necessary to the full story.
Can you tell us a little about creating the drawings and the original compositions?
They are generally the last part of the process but sketching potential characters can often help me find them in the beginning. Since I am still working out the characters, it was fun to start sketching them and seeing what happens. I tried some of the images with big “alien” eyes and there might be something there, but we’ll see!
Watch as David works on some initial character sketches below:
The Martian Chronicles is in progress! Can you give us any sneak-peaks or story teasers in the meantime?
It’s still too early to commit to anything in particular but I’m pretty sure there will be a connection between amusement parks, discoveries from the Kennedy Space Center, and then good small town fun in suburban Florida.
About the Author
David Sewell McCann
David Sewell McCann fell in love with spinning stories in first grade – the day a storyteller came to his class and captured his mind and imagination. He has been engaged in storytelling all of his adult life through painting, film-making, teaching and performing. Out of his experience as a Waldorf elementary class teacher and parent, he has developed a four step method of intuitive storytelling, which he now shares through workshops and through this website.