Everybody loves a good story
$ 500 million
Hi. I'm Susan.
I'm a writer, a teacher, and a creative consultant.
If you’ve got a story to tell, I can help you tell it.
For over 15 years, I’ve been crafting narratives for award-winning, multimillion-dollar projects. Now I want to work with you.
If you develop scripts (for ANY medium) I can share everything I’ve learned about digital storytelling - so that your projects can connect with today's audiences in a new and more powerful way.
If you’re a content strategist I can help your studio create an experience that resonates with your users and inspires them to take action.
If you’re a developer I can partner with your team as a story consultant or script doctor to develop and hone your narrative - for VR, AR, console, or anything in between.
If you’re an organization on a mission I can help you shape your message, so that it resonates with the people you’re here to serve.
If you’re a journalist I can share the tricks of the digital trade, so that your stories stand out in the online crowd.
If you’re a creative studio I can be your team’s secret weapon.
If you’re a comedian call me because I love funny people.
For over 15 years, I've worked with artists, writers and designers to bring
faraway lands, underwater cities,and wretched hives of scum and villainy to life.
I've transformed people like you into detectives, explorers, tomb raiders - even superheroes.
It's my job to make the impossible feel real.
I've worked on over 25 projects, including -
Nominee, Outstanding Achievement in Story, AIAS
Nominee, Best Narrative, GDC
Over 8 million copies sold worldwide
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
As a speaker, I offer presentations, seminars, and workshops worldwide.
I help creatives find their voices and tell their stories.
Past venues include TEDx, New York University, The Kennedy Center, and SxSW.
"Your masterclass was on another level! Your experiences and your passion for storytellingmade your talk outshine all the others."- Dominic C, 3D animator, Montreal
"I had a great time in your masterclass...it was inspiring."- Arne, level designer, Montreal
As an adjunct professor at the University of Texas at Austin,I help creatives like you explore two of the most powerful forces in our lives:the stories we tell, and the technology we use.
What do stories and computers have in common?
They connect us with the world - and with each other.
Help bring the art of storytelling into the digital age.
"One of the best instructors I've ever had."- Jack F., Radio-TV-Film graduate, UT Austin
How I Work
Whether I'm writing a script, crafting a speech or teaching a class, the process is the same:
Step One: nerd out.
Often on projects, it's my job to get up to speed - at light speed. I'm here for it. As Anthony Bourdain once said, "I love being at the bottom of a steep learning curve." I absorb as much as possible about the subject at hand - whether that's Star Wars, or higher education, or an international life of crime.
Step Two: go deep.
It's easy to get lost in the details of a project. But the big picture matters.
What insights can we pull from all this material? How can we turn these ideas into something fun, or mindblowing, or magical for other people?
With a bright North Star, all things are possible.
Step Three: make the donuts.
Together, we turn all of the ideas and insights from Step Two into stories, scripts, presentations, workshops, movies - AKA the good stuff.
We make something we can be proud of - something that can serve the audience in a big way.
Step Four: put it out on the street.
Stories need an audience. A big part of the work is advocating for the work - pitching it, sharing it, helping it find its home in the world.
What They're Saying
Stephen McManus, Narrative Designer, Telltale Games
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.
Kavita Appachu, Consultant & Experience Designer
Susan is truly a master storyteller. She makes learning & working with her fun. I find myself applying everything I learned from her almost every day.
"Destroyer of work" (but in a good way)
John Stafford, Narrative Director, Crystal Dynamics
Susan is a true mentor and master structuralist who taught me the painful lesson of destroying my work to make it better. I often hear her voice in my head when I’m preparing to cut a character or break some story bones. “There’s no crying in baseball, son.” Ain’t that the truth.
When I was a kiddo, I knew for sure that I wanted to tell stories for a living.
There was only one problem: I had no idea how I was going to make that happen.
My big break came a few years after college when a local studio needed a writer for their latest project. It was Girl Talk - the virtual slumber-party game. For girls!
Of all the people who applied for the position, I was the only one who had ever BEEN to a slumber party. I was a subject-matter expert, so I got the job.
I spent my days writing stories about cootie catchers and hidden kingdoms and rascally pirates with huge handlebar mustaches. It was so ridiculous and fun.
Then a few years went by, the industry exploded, and the next thing I knew, I was working on massive, high-profile projects, writing scripts about African mercenaries and intergalactic bounty hunters and bohunk space marines with chainsaws at the end of their machine guns.
"Huh," I said to myself, "I did not think Girl Talk was going to lead to this."
I never became a fan of the space marines. But the medium itself was exciting, uncharted territory. This was a new way to tell stories - a new way to connect with people and move them into action. (Deranged action, maybe, but action nevertheless.)
I love adventure stories, and these were definitely adventures.
A lot happened over the course of a few years. I contributed to a Microsoft title that launched a franchise, selling over 20 million copies. I collaborated on a project for 2K that sold 4 million units, earned critical acclaim and started yet another franchise. A Square Enix title in my portfolio has sold 8 million copies. Our projects won awards - Best Narrative, Best Writing, Best Character. I was named one of the top writers working in the industry.
But as time passed, I saw more and more warning signs - signs that I was working behind enemy lines. Eventually, I had to admit that it was time for me to move on.
But I've never lost my passion for the kind of storytelling that helps people make sense of things - that helps people feel seen, and heard, and understood.
It turns out that what's true for virtual worlds - full of people yearning for meaning and connection and maybe a laugh once in a while - is true for the real world, too.
And I knew that what I had learned about storytelling in the digital age went well beyond games, and could help other people.
So I'm expanding my reach. I'm taking what I've learned about persuasive storytelling, and sharing those insights with other creative teams and groups that want to make a difference.
Want to find out more? Let's talk.
"Netflix’s latest episode of television is an experiment in storytelling that will be familiar to people who are familiar with video games (or Choose Your Own Adventure books). The company launched an interactive TV show today, the first in a series of efforts that will allow viewers to decide which turns a story takes." - Polygon
Watch this space for an announcement in 2018!
Torn, for PlayStation VR
Torn takes place in the mansion of a physicist who disappeared 64 years ago. The mansion brims with strange, Willy Wonka-like machines haphazardly installed into its walls and floors. What are they for? And what happened to the people who built them?
I had so much fun working on this project. If you are a Twilight Zone or Black Mirror fan, this game is for you.
The University of Texas at Austin
I LOVE TEACHING. And it's so nice to be back at my alma mater. Here's the description for the class I teach in the Radio-Television-Film department at UT: "Interactive storytelling is a form of dramatic writing, just like theater or television. What makes the medium unique is that the author does not control the story; the audience does. Creatives have only just begun to explore the storytelling possibilities of this field."
When the client first reached out, I thought "uh oh, these people have called the wrong person." The subject matter was taxes, and nobody would ever mistake me for an accountant. But this project was a revelation. We went beyond the numbers, and thought hard about the EMOTIONAL relationship people have with their money. We crafted a new experience for the users, one that stayed connected with them every step of the way. It changed the way the team thought about their mission, and it changed me, too. One of the best projects I've ever worked on. My client loved it, too, and he'll tell you all about it here.
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?" !! 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 was performed at Hamlet’s castle in Elsinore, Denmark.
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’ love for Star Wars and finding 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!
Want to know more?
Call the Storytelling Hotline for a free 15-minute chat about writing, work, the creative life, you name it.
Stay In Touch
susan [at] susanoconnorwriter [dot] com
It's like Bob Loblaw's Law Blog, but different
Represented by United Talent Agency
Cover photo by Jp Valery on Unsplash