“I have a 13-month old and my dream is that he reads my stories when he’s older.”Stephanie Carmichael, Head of Storytelling
If you’ve ever wondered about the story behind the story of the Classcraft Universe, we have a surprise for you! We recently chatted with the creative talent guiding our Storytelling team and asked her some fun questions about inspiration, the Classcraft Universe and Story Mode. This is what she had to say.
Q: Tell us a little about yourself. What does your team do?
Stephanie Carmichael: I run Classcraft’s Storytelling department, which used to be known as the illustration department. The reason we evolved to Storytelling is because there’s always been a world in the background of Classcraft, but we never formalized it into something cohesive.
We’re bringing that story to life and to the forefront. For example, we’re giving context to assets like characters, gear, and cities you see in the team backgrounds. This helps students and teachers get a more immersive experience that’s at the heart of Classcraft. We’re creating a whole universe for them to dive into and explore. There are secrets all over the place and fun little easter eggs that help compliment the greater everyday experience of Classcraft for kids. We want to inspire kids to really get into their roles, and the teachers to become the Gamemaster.
Our hope is that Classcraft becomes a really fun cultural experience that adds a lot of meaning to classrooms. By creating Story Mode as a compliment to the Quests feature, we’re sharing engaging and fun pre-written stories so teachers can leverage the power of storytelling in their classes without having to do the extra work themselves.
Q: Can you explain how your creative process works?
Stephanie: The process we have in the Storytelling team is very different from anything I’ve done before because my background is in writing creative novels, which is long form and a solo process.
Writing the episodes that go into Story Mode is a collaborative process, and is short form. We try to keep the stories themselves very short because we want to go from place to place and keep the story moving all over the map within the Classcraft Universe. We try to cover a lot of ground and also keep our stories moving at a fast and exciting pace to help keep the more reluctant readers engaged. There are two of us developing the stories, so it’s not my own creative process, it’s the team process. We have to do what works best for us.
It can be difficult, but is actually really good in the long run because we challenge each other and end up for the better in the end. We always challenge ourselves to make sure we’re telling a good story and finding the best path forward. We’re building up this bigger world the more we contribute to it — which involves some risks — but it’s really rewarding to see it come together.
Q: Where do you draw your inspiration from?
Stephanie: For Story Mode, we draw inspiration from books, TV shows or video games that we’re into. For example, Fortnite has been a big inspiration to us because of its huge cultural relevance in schools.
We believe that the prevalence of these games can be harnessed for good in education. Ultimately, we want our stories to have an emotional impact and to bring teachers and students together. We also have our personal favorites like Avatar, Legend of Korra, The Mysterious Cities of Gold. I also love the new She-Ra and The Dragon Prince. The characters are really fun and the worlds are magical and interesting — they resonate with me. That sense of mystery, exploration, and discovery is what we strive for in Story Mode.
Q: Do you ever get blocked, creatively?
Stephanie: All the time! It’s really hard when we’re in a brainstorming meeting and it feels like we’ve hit a wall, like we don’t know the right idea to move forward. So we step back and try to think big picture. It takes some time because the creative process can be very messy. You never know when an idea is going to hit, but it usually hits when you don’t want it to — like the middle of the night …
Q: If you could become one of your characters, which one would you choose?
Stephanie: That’s so hard! This is a tricky question to answer, but I think I’d be a Warrior. Out of the three characters in the game, they are the ones evolving the most right now. I don’t want to give any surprises away, but the creative evolution that is happening with them resonates with me, because I’m also in that process. I’d want to be one of them because they are on such a new and exciting journey. It’s new territory to delve into. They’re the most interesting to me right now because they’re very connected to nature and to animals. They also have really cool gauntlets, and I love animals so I would totally be a cat Warrior!
Q: If you could live anywhere in the Classcraft Universe, where would it be?
Stephanie: I think I would want to live on Elda Island, which is the Healer’s island because it’s the safest island. Karaz Island is the Mage’s Island and that has a volcano and lava. Morian Island, which is the Warrior’s island has this corrupted part. So I think out of the islands, Elda is definitely the safest! And the Healers are a pretty peaceful and community-minded group. They would welcome me because they are very accepting. I feel like they would be really great neighbors!
Q: Can you give us any hints about what to expect in Ep. 5 without spoiling anything?
Stephanie: Hmmm … I will say that the story will focus around the very odd-looking part of Morian Island that is corrupted, and that’s all!
Q: Do you have any advice for aspiring storytellers?
Stephanie: Just keep going and allow yourself to write badly. Because literally everyone writes badly at times and it’s very easy to get intimidated by what you read in a book, but what you don’t see is all of the hard work that went into it.
Try not to compare yourself to your favorite authors. It’s not about being as good as them, it’s about your own journey and progress, and that takes time. You can always put stuff on paper and make it better, but if you never write that stuff down to begin with how can you improve it? Don’t let anyone tell you that you’re not a good writer, because I believe we all start out as bad writers.
Q: Is there an issue teachers face that resonates with you?
Stephanie: I think it’s the challenge teachers face in creating a meaningful experience in school because it’s a way for them to find common ground with their students – despite any differences they might have (culturally, generationally). When that happens and students are engaged, it has such a tremendous impact on everything. Students start to trust their teachers and peers and feel like they belong in school. It impacts their self-esteem and confidence. So I think one of the greatest issues is figuring out how to reach today’s generation of kids in a way that speaks to them and also models behavior for them and gives them skills to thrive.
“Don’t compare yourself to your favorite authors. It’s not about being as good as them, it’s about your own journey and progress, and that takes time.“