We live in a crazy busy, hyper-connected, driven-to-distraction world.
It’s never been easier to use your voice — and it’s never been harder to be heard.
What if you could break through the noise and connect? Really connect?
You can do it. I can help.
For fifteen years, I've worked in the world of interactive entertainment,
developing award-winning, bestselling titles.
That work helped me to understand what makes people tick -
- how to keep audiences entertained, for hours on end -
- and what it takes to inspire users to overcome obstacles,
swing into action, and kick some ass.
Now I'm sharing everything I know about how to tell stories in the modern era.
You CAN make a genuine emotional connection, even across the digital divide.
When your audience feels seen, heard, and understood,
your story resonates, and your reach expands.
Your work makes a difference.
Make work that matters.
Want to learn more? Let's talk.
$ 500 million
Nominee, Outstanding Achievement in Story, AIAS
Nominee, Best Narrative, GDC
Over 8 million copies sold worldwide
Star Wars 1313
31 award nominations,
10 wins at E3
Far Cry 2
Nominee, Best Writing, GDC
Nominee, Game of the Year, AIAS
Winner, Game of the Year, AIAS
Winner, Best Writing, GDC
Over 4 million units sold
Launched a franchise
Shakespeare at Hamlet's Castle
"We want you to develop a script, retelling the moment Hamlet meets his father’s ghost. Our actors will be wearing motion-capture suits behind screens to create fantastical virtual puppets. This script must not use any words, because it is for an international audience. And it will need to have an interactive component! Can you do it?" Yes! Yes I can. For this project, we found new ways to bring interactive storytelling techniques to the stage, and reinterpreted Hamlet for a modern audience in a way that connects his dilemma with life in the 21st century. The play will be performed at Hamlet’s actual castle in Elsinore, Denmark, summer 2016.
The client had a dilemma. They wanted to develop a new strategy to connect with their customers on an emotional level - but how? People hate taxes! Well, guess what: I hate taxes, too. But I love helping people overcome obstacles. Together with the client, we developed a deeper understanding of people’s complicated relationship with their money, and developed storytelling strategies (drawn from video games) to help move people from paralysis to action around their finances. The project led to a pitch to the company’s CEO and insights that continue to be implemented company-wide, 18 months later. (And I am very grateful for that crazy job title they gave me. It still makes me laugh!)
The studio was ready to bring Star Wars to an adult audience, with a grittier, darker environment and storyline. This was a soup-to-nuts project: in collaboration with the design team, we developed new playable characters, along with the game's narrative design, storyline, and script. The story development process focused heavily on understanding players’ emotional connection to Star Wars and creating ways to deepen that connection in new and surprising ways. The final product received an enthusiastic stamp of approval from the executive team, and the team was deep into production. Then the game’s entire design was revamped, and the project storyline required a reboot. But this remains one of my favorite projects.
The project was deep into production, and the original writer's story was testing poorly with testers and users alike. The team was under intense pressure to make significant narrative changes within tight time and budget constraints. They brought me in to take a look at the script. Together with the narrative designer, we did a deep dive on the script and identified where changes to story structure, character motivation and dialog would solve the story’s problems. The project went on to receive multiple nominations for storytelling awards. Hooray!
What They're Saying
Game Designer, Telltale Games & LucasArts
Susan is an amazing writer who's able to challenge the tired cliches of video game narrative while still accommodating the demands of gameplay. Her style is sharp and creative. She's got great instincts for genre and character motivation. Working with her was a great privilege.
Lead Narrative Designer, Crystal Dynamics
Susan is a strong narrative firefighter who can identify problems and provide both broad and detailed solutions. Her thoughtful approach is rooted in structure and process - she can quickly get to the heart of what a story is really about, and bring that throughline front and center.
Susan is a great collaborator who thrives under pressure. Her great sense of humor and easy manner makes her a pleasure to work with. In tough situations, she's the picture of grace under pressure.
Senior Director, Game Development
I had the pleasure of working with Susan as a contract writer/creative consultant with LucasArts for several years while in preproduction on the StarWars 1313 game project, a compendium game to the proposed LucasFilm television series.
First and foremost Susan is an excellent interactive writer – that’s her bread and butter – she knows games, how games get done, how to best weave story in with gameplay, and the inherent challenges in doing so. As a producer, it’s tough to find a good writer who can also work within the parameters of modern game development. I was pleased to also discover her talent as a skilled listener, group leader, and presenter amongst larger studio teams and executives, as well as her ability to work with other writers – as we had a cadre of television series writer’s work to overlap with as well.
In the end, Susan put together a great script, but most importantly a framework and way of thinking, working, and tone with our creative team that left a strong impression that remained with the team long after her consulting gig was up that only a seasoned pro could do. I highly recommend and look forward to working with her again on future creative projects with either direct involvement on a team or in a workshop setting.
The short verison:
I tell stories for a living.
I help studios reach more people.
When I'm not at work, I'm planning my next surf trip.
Want to work together? I'd love to hear from you.
Slightly longer version of bio follows.
I still remember the first time seeing Raiders of the Lost Ark -- Marion Ravenwood was EVERYTHING to me. She ran a bar in Nepal. She could drink any guy under the table. And she took pot shots at Nazis.
This, I thought, is my kind of dame.
After college, all I knew was that I wanted to be a writer. I had no idea how to turn my love for writing into a paid gig. Then I found Human Code. It was a small studio in Austin that made CD-ROM games for kids. They were about to start pre-production on Girl Talk - “the slumber-party game for girls!” Of all the writers who applied for the job, I was the only one who had ever BEEN to a slumber party -- so I was a subject-matter expert. I got the job.
Human Code was magic. It was the Muppet Show, minus the chickens. None of us really knew what we were doing -- games were a new thing, for all of us -- but we meant well, tried hard, and did our best. My best friends are all from Human Code. Many coworkers went on to marry each other and raise families. It was that kind of place.
Later, Human Code was acquired in a foolish dot-com merger, and months later we were all laid off. This was terrible news. But the $30,000 severance package made me feel like a GOD - a wealthy, emancipated god. I decided to start working for myself.
It was a good time to be a game writer. Consoles were coming into their own. The XBox was right around the corner. I started working on over-the-top action titles. (Adios, Girl Talk!) Suddenly, I WAS taking (virtual) potshots at the bad guys - just like Marion.
It was an adventure, and a revelation. This was a new medium. There were no rules of the road. The learning curve was a line, and it went straight up. I had to learn how to combine narrrative with gameplay. I had to learn how to work with designers and engineers, as well as actors and animators. I had to grasp the big picture, sense the emotional implications of the game design, and translate those feelings into characters, desire lines, and plot points.
Above all, it was my job to know how the player felt, so that our story would connect. It was my job to be emotionally open and empathic - to see the world through his eyes.
I loved being able to break all the rules: the rules of storytelling, the rules of engagement, even the rules of gravity.
Games made the impossible feel possible.
A lot happened over the course of a few short years. I contributed to a Microsoft title that became a franchise that has gone on to sell nearly 20 million copies. I collaborated on a project for 2K that sold 4 million units, earned critical acclaim and spawned a franchise. And I worked on a title for Square Enix that sold 8 million copies. Our projects won writing awards -- Best Narrative, Best Writing, Best Character. I was named one of the top writers working in the industry.
As time went on, the industry changed. And I changed. I realized how much I cared about what was happening in the world around me. We don’t need to fight virtual monsters on a computer screen; there are plenty of monsters in real life. We need courage to face those monsters -- not the courage that comes from strapping armor on, but that comes from taking that armor OFF, to show up in the world in a real and genuine way.
I watched comedians like Louis CK and Tig Notaro talk about life in a way that was so real, and honest, and most of all vulnerable. It reminded me that THAT is what I have always loved about stories -- the way they give us permission to be ourselves. To be imperfect. To be flawed. And to still be worthwhile, despite all that. I saw people like Meryl Streep and Amy Poehler change the narrative about what women can do, and be, and say in the world. I marveled at the way The Daily Show told the truth about the world, in the most brutal and funny way, night after night.
And I said "Yes. That is what I want to do. I want to help make sense of things." Because that is what stories have always done for me.
So now I’m taking what I’ve learned about how to connect with audiences --
And I’m working with teams from all walks of professional life -- entrepreneurs, content strategists, theater companies, adventure-travel documentary filmmakers, financial companies, women’s rights activists --
- to tell stories that matter.
Mary Oliver said it best. “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”
(Want more? Go here and sign up for a FREE 15 Minute Storytelling Hotline session.)