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Cheryl Reif

Cheryl lives and writes with her inspirational family, two energetic dogs, and a small mammal menagerie, all of which are fairly tame. She writes about cool science stuff for children and adults, daydreams about stories and characters 87% of the time, and tries not to plot novels while driving. You can also find Cheryl on Twitter @CherylRWrites, Pinterest., and Google. Come say hi!

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Transmedia Storytelling Blog Series

Transmedia StorytellingThis May and June, we’re taking a look at this “new” buzzword in the writing industry, transmedia storytelling–what it is, how it works, and how you can use  transmedia storytelling techniques to reach more readers and provide readers with a deeper, richer story experience. Posts will share plenty of examples, as well as ideas for ways to incorporate a bit of transmedia storytelling into your next writing project. As each post goes live, I’ll share the link here to help you navigate the entire series.

Please check out the articles in this blog series, share your thoughts, and join the conversation on how writers can leverage “transmedia” techniques to broaden our audiences and give our readers an unforgettable story experience!

Contents: Transmedia Storytelling Blog Series

Book Review: Transmedia 2.0

Transmedia 2.0 book coverWe live in world where, increasingly, the devices we use to enjoy media no longer define the media type. We switch between books in hard copy and digital formats; watch videos on tablets as well as TVs; access email and social media on our smart phones while standing in line at the grocery store. It’s a word ripe for stories that span across multiple media channels–in other words, a world ripe for transmedia stories.

I’ve been blogging about transmedia storytelling much of this summer: what it is, why it’s effective, and how authors can use transmedia storytelling to reach and engage readers.

Well, if you’re thinking about attempting a transmedia storytelling project of your own, you’ll want to check out Transmedia 2.0: A How-To Guide for the Would-Be Transmedia Storyteller by Nuno Bernando. Bernando, of beActive Media, has been pursuing transmedia storytelling since 2003. This book shares insights from over a decade’s experience creating multiplatform stories, drawing examples from both successful and unsuccessful transmedia ventures.

Who It’s For

At first glance, Transmedia 2.0 seems to be targeted to producers and small production companies rather than individuals. It would take a team to implement all the strategies and ideas Bernando provides. So is this book a valuable resource for the independent author/creator?

My answer is a resounding YES.

Whether you’re considering a project that’s large or small in scope, Bernando’s book provides a clear overview of the principles underlying effective and engaging transmedia content.

“To my mind, true transmedia describes a storytelling process that imploys individual, complementary media that permeates the daily life of the audience and allow for personal interaction and participation. To achieve this sort of active engagement, transmedia incorporates a range of entry points across various platforms; each entry point provides the viewer with a unique perspective of the overall story.”

What It Covers

The book also provides content creators with a smorgasbord of ideas for implementation of effective and engaging transmedia content…and implementation includes far more than a bullet list of devices and social media platforms for use in transmedia tales. Check out the Table of Contents and you’ll see that Bernando covers the nitty gritty of topics such as how to finance transmedia projects, marketing strategies, and monetization of transmedia content as well as the how-to’s of storytelling and world creation.

  1. The Transmedial Approach to Entertainment Branding
  2. Financing Transmedia
  3. Building Your Storyworld
  4. Planning Your Release
  5. Marketing
  6. Monetizing Digital Content
  7. The Future of Transmedia

My Take

I came to Bernando’s book expecting to learn strategies for keeping an audience’s interest and insights into what makes for a great transmedia storytelling experience.

“Even with a relatively straightforward plotline, well-developed, ‘true’ characters are what sustain a project across multiple platforms.” –from “Creating a Brand: the Essentials,” Chapter 1

The book absolutely delivered on those things. It also helped me to think about which media platforms to use in my current project…

“Whatever technologies you choose to employ, they should serve your story and make it more immersive.”–from “Engaging Existing Communities, ” Chapter 5

…and gave me food for thought in countless other areas as well.

I may not have a team of programmers, writers, and producers at my disposal–and I’m guessing that most of you reading this don’t, either!–but Transmedia 2.0 helped me see which of those hats might be worth donning. Ultimately, transmedia storytelling is about telling a bigger story than would be possible using a single media platform. As an independent author/creator, I love the array of possibilities this book provided me–but even more, I value the fact that I feel better able to prioritize which of those possibilities to pursue. My copy of the book is highlighted and dog-eared with use. If you’re serious about trying a litte transmedia storytelling of your own, I’m sure yours will be, too!

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book, which I used for my review. If you decide to purchase your own copy based on this review, I’ll receive warm fuzzies and happy points, but no other compensation. If you read it, I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Ergonomic Tools to Prevent Writing-Related Pain

Based on the number of you who Tweeted, linked, and emailed me about my last post, I can tell that writing-related pain is a common complaint! Although you should always consult your doctor with concerns about writing-related pain (notice the standard disclaimer gobbledegook–I’m not a doc, so please don’t take this as medical advice, etc!), I thought I’d share some of the tools that I’ve found helpful. Please add your suggestions in the comments and I’ll add them to the list!

 

 

ergonomic-tools

Cheryl-Tested Ergonomic Tools

A few of my favorites include:

  • Microsoft’s ergonomic mouse and split keyboard—truth is, the ergonomic mouse isn’t fantabulous. If I was still having active hand and wrist pain, it might not do the trick for me; but it’s far superior to a normal mouse, and, when purchased with the split keyboard, the price is right. The keyboard is my favorite split keyboard EVER, with a bit of a slant and a padded wrist rest that make it far more comfortable than its competitors. (Plus it looks cool, all shiny and curvy…but that’s another tale!)
  • Lifeform chair—pricey, but oh so much nicer than any others I’ve tried. In the right parts of the country, these show up on Craigslist occasionally for half price.
  • Wacom Bamboo tablet—recommended by my illustrator friend Anna-Maria, this tablet is not just for artists. It’s great for any work that requires cutting and pasting, dragging and dropping, and other movements that would otherwise require extended mousework, and it allows you to customize the functionality of buttons and taps. Although the model I purchased is no longer available, any tablet-style input for your computer will allow you to switch up your hand position and muscles used, helping to avoid repetitive use pain and injury. Wacom now offers the Bamboo Pad, specifically designed for computer navigation, as well as an array of pricier models (the Intuos Pen Tablet looks closest to the Bamboo Tablet I use) designed for artists, illustrators, graphic artists, and more.
  • Logitech comfort lapdesk—if you work on your laptop on the sofa (like I do), this lap desk provides great support plus insulation from the computer’s heat. It doesn’t raise the computer screen quite high enough for proper neck alignment, but if it did, you couldn’t reach the keyboard. I think this is the best solution!
  • Rock “N” Stop Footrest—although you wouldn’t think it, adding a footrest is a surprisingly easy way to ease many cases of back pain. I like this one because it rocks, perfectly suiting my ADD-ish need to fidget without being too obvious.
  • My hand therapist swears by the Evoluent vertical mouse, but it left me indifferent at best. Ultimately, the solution to my hand and wrist woes proved to be a combination of dictation software and switching up between a computer mouse and the Wacom Bamboo tablet.
  • Dragon Dictation is astonishingly good at voice recognition and, with a little training, will let you compose hands-free. I find it most useful when I’m transcribing text previously written longhand–I haven’t yet learned to enter the state of creative flow while dictating–but it’s saved me hours of typing. You do have to do a good job proofing, of course, since it’s likely to use the wrong homonym (“you’re” in place of “yore” just doesn’t work). If you go this route, spring for the pricier Dragon Professional, which is far more powerful than the “Home” version.

When You’re in Pain

When you’re in active pain, though, chances are that none of the above tools will make you feel better. In the meantime, ice can help reduce pain and inflammation for some types of injuries. This article on SaveYourself.ca – Sensible Advice for Aches, Pains, and Injuries provides a great overview of when and how to use ice to treat pain. It also explains how to create an “ice cup”–a must-have tool if you’re icing. I’ve also found that creams containing Arnica, a natural antiinflammatory compound, are helpful. Penetrex, which has a nice smell, is my personal favorite.

Do you have any ergonomic tools or home remedies to recommend? Please share in the comments–I’ll add them to the list above!

Hurting Hands, Neck, or Shoulders? Ten Tips for Pain-Free Writing

It’s the best feeling: being in the flow, seeing the scene unfold in my mind as my hands hurry to record the vision. Words pour onto the page until…

WHAM

Pain jerks me out of the zone with all the subtlety of a midnight fire alarm. Hand cramps—wrist ache—stiff shoulders—cricked neck…do any of these sound familiar?

I used to think that writing was all about my brain coming up with ideas, sculpting words into prose. Lately, I’ve had to admit that my brain can’t do its creating thing very well without my body’s cooperation. And when my body hurts, it refuses to cooperate!

Fortunately, there are some easy adjustments you can make that will decrease the physical strain of writing—so you can get back to creating.

Ergonomics-Graphic2Ergonomic Tips for Pain-Free Writing

1. Pay attention to your body.

If your body starts sending out pain signals when you write, don’t ignore them. Trust me: pain is a warning sign that something isn’t working. If you ignore those signs, they’ll probably worsen until you do pay attention. Ask yourself: Is there a single activity that makes your hands, wrists, forearms, shoulders, etc., hurt? What position are you in when it hurts? Can you adjust at all? Keep reading to find areas where you might be able to improve your body position. Continue reading…

Why Transmedia Storytelling Engages Readers: Reason #3

Lately, I’ve been a transmedia storytelling evangelist here on the blog. Which is kind of funny, come to think of it, since I’m not selling transmedia anything. There are quite a few companies and consultants out there who will help you create a transmedia campaign… which does sound mighty fun, but it’s not what I’m doing right now :).

It’s just that the more I learn about transmedia storytelling, the more I’m excited by its possibilities! And human nature is to share the things that excite us with others, right? Right.

Over the past weeks, I’ve told you how transmedia storytelling…

  • Tells stories in new ways—because you can reveal information through multiple “pipelines”
  • Reaches young readers through the media where they’re spending the most time
  • Creates “easy-to-share” content, tapping into the social aspect of how today’s youth interact online

Student Online

Today I want to look at one more reason that transmedia storytelling is relevant to today’s young people:

  • Transmedia entertainment’s interactive and immersive nature capitalizes on today’s growing participatory culture (check out this interview to learn more about participatory culture; or this one). Transmedia storytelling invites your audience into the story. It encourages readers to make the story their own.

If that sounds a little confusing, don’t worry. It confused me at first, too. I mean, what does that even mean:

MAKE THE STORY THEIR OWN?

It turns out scholars—from anthropologists to sociologists to media professors—are publishing geeky articles and technical books about all of this. An entire team at the New Media Literacies project is studying how our culture’s relationship to media is shifting. The Digital Youth Project spent 3 years and more than 3 million dollars to learn what kids are doing online, why, and how.

So it’s no wonder if the topic is a bit confusing for those of us just starting to think about transmedia storytelling.

Don’t worry, though. Much of the power of transmedia storytelling boils down to this idea of participatory culture. That is,

Kids and teens today don’t just want to watch/read/listen to a story. They want to become part of it…and transmedia storytelling encourages participation.

Participatory Culture

“Audiences, empowered by…new technologies, occupying a space at the intersection between old and new media, are demanding the right to participate within the culture.” –Henry Jenkins, Convergence Culture, 2006

Audience participation isn’t a new idea. The best stories, transmedia or otherwise, invite readers to respond in some way, right?

Readers of Shannon Hale’s Princess Academy books spend long afternoons pretending to be princesses-in-training. Frozen fans choreograph elaborate dances to the movie’s soundtrack and transform into Princess Elsa, belting out the words to “Let it Go!”

So what’s new about inviting audience participation?

Two things.

First, today’s culture is shifting away from passive entertainment to participatory culture. That is, people want to respond to stories, participate in it in some way—whether that means voting via text message or trying to solve the crime along with a favorite TV show character or creating media-inspired art.

Second, with the rise of computers, the internet, and social media, it’s easier than ever for fans to respond to their favorite stories in some way—and easier than ever to share their responses with the rest of the world.

Take Minecraft…

This computer game is more like an online version of playing with Legos than the average shoot/slash/explore game. If you do a YouTube search, you’ll discover about 49 million—yep, MILLION—videos where kids and teens and kids-at-heart share Minecraft-inspired creations. They show off the amazing buildings and machinery they’ve built in the game; they write Minecraft-inspired songs; they create complex animations for fellow fans to enjoy.

Recently, my two teenage boys (my study subjects of choice) roped me into watching a particularly hilarious Minecraft music video …

THE WITCH ENCOUNTER, by slamacow

This video led to another…

and another, until we’d whiled away a couple of hours watching and laughing and talking Minecraft. And I don’t even play Minecraft!

The same passion that drives hundreds of thousands to post YouTube tributes to Minecraft has also sparked a growing collection of fan fiction, fan art, fan music, and fan videos for favorite books, TV shows, and movies.

  • My Little Pony has its own subculture of musicians and artists creating pony-themed novels, stories,  videos, and more. (And I’m talking about Big Kids loving this series, not just little girls. Ever heard of Bronies?)
  • The Harry Potter books have their own wikis, a kid-managed and written online newspaper (The Daily Prophet, of course), and fan sites.

Fan-created content isn’t limited to the bestsellers, either. On FanFiction.net, you’ll find more than 500 different categories of fan fiction in the fan-written books section alone, where each category is the book that serves as inspiration for the stories. What are the top twelve inspirations for writers of fan fic novels, you ask? Currently:

  1. Harry Potter (29,193)
  2. Twilight (11,842)
  3. Percy Jackson and the Olympians (6,557)
  4. Hunger Games (2,681)
  5. Lord of the Rings (2,265)
  6. Maximum Ride (1,937)
  7. Warriors (945)
  8. Mortal Instruments (863)
  9. Kane Chronicles (787)
  10. Chronicles of Narnia (748)
  11. Inheritance Cycle (586)
  12. Artemis Fowl (512)

Did you realize how much fan-created content is out there? I mean, I knew that my kids and their friends spend hours reading fan fiction…but I wasn’t prepared for the sheer volume of fan-created written and visual art that exists on the web!

Transmedia storytelling: I think it’s worth exploring because the way audiences consume and respond to stories is changing. Radically changing. And although all these changes can be a bit overwhelming, they’re also exciting–don’t you think? Please share your thoughts, ideas, inspirations, doubts, worries, or WHATEVER in the comments! I’d love to hear from you.

:) Cheryl

To all the great dads out there: Happy Father’s Day!

Happy Father's Day!