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Summary: Inciting incidents consist of one or more of three distinct story functions. This essay explains what each function is, how it works, and how I arrived at my current understanding.

Bestselling fantasy author Brandon Sanderson talks about the difference between “chef writers” and “cook writers.” (1) A cook can create a lovely meal, but he is dependent on following a recipe for his success. A chef, on the other hand, understands how the underlying ingredients function. While a chef may choose to follow a recipe, she can also go “off script,” combining…

Epistemic status: Just the kernel of an idea.

Epistemic effort: Been kicking around this kernel of an idea for a while but without really investing in fleshing it out or drawing conclusions.

There’s an interesting thing that seems to happen predictably in so-called “creative” fields as technologies become less expensive to own and less complex to operate.

I first noticed this in the printing industry. Thirty or more years ago, the tools for printing and publication were so expensive and complex that only mid- to large-sized organizations could own them, and only specialists could operate the machinery. …

The sound of the foundry pounds all around me.

Blasting and burning and breaking and boiling,
And twisting and turning and taking and toiling.
The bending of steel and the grinding of wheels,
And the pushing and the pressing and the stamping and the stressing.

The dark and the heat and stench and the smoke,
The soot in the eye, the scratch in the throat.
The click and the clack and the bang and the boom,
The bodies pressed close in the arms of the tomb.

Young Sammy and Billy and Bobby and Ron
We sent to the factory, but…

Découpe de la tête | David Sidoux, Flickr | CC BY 2.0

By Nate Listrom

Years ago, there was a discussion in the online design community about the merits and demerits of using things like filters, drop shadows, gradients, bevel effects, and the like. At the time, CSS3 wasn’t even a thing yet. The discussion was about Photoshop and how to use it properly. More recently, designers have held a similar discussion about minimal design and then material design.

These are good discussions, but they’re prone to a lot of confusion.

In order to think clearly about design and its purpose in the world, I believe we need to understand the difference…

This all began with a basic frustration I have with tap-based interaction. From there, it kind of got away from me. I ended up with a slightly new twist on gesture-based navigation, one that’s (hopefully) scalable and intuitive.

But first things first — it’s easy to pick on Amazon because they’re the big guys; but actually, I love my Kindle app for iOS. I really do. Yes, the typography is a tad rough and the column width on the screen of my deprecated little, older-generation iPod Touch is ugly . . . But I still love it.

Kindle on my…

“Knowledge is not skill. Knowledge plus ten thousand times is skill.” — Shinichi Suzuki

I’ve been thinking about this quote for a long time. It sums up an ideal I subscribe to. I’m enamored of the idea that mastery of a skill comes from having done something over and over and over again, that there’s tremendous value in pouring yourself into a worthwhile pursuit, that hard work pays off in the end.

It may be helpful to think of mastery of a skill in terms of three basic domains: talent, education, and experience.


Nate Listrom

Artist. Designer. Traveler. Reader. Writer. Thinker. Believer.

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