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

Why Transmedia Storytelling Engages Readers: Reason #1

Last month, we kicked off a series of posts on 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. You can view a complete list of back posts here.

This past week, I had one of those spontaneous moments of laughter and shared experience with my kids that I couldn’t plan if I tried. My boys–both teens–are well on their way to becoming adults. As such, they have their own friends, their own schedules, and their own likes and dislikes. Their lives no longer perfectly parallel mine the way they did when they were little–when every activity required parental permission,  a chaperon, and (most likely) a chauffeur. So you’ll understand when I tell you that this unplanned event was the highlight of my day! We were discussing a silly game recently posted online, a marketing gambit for the movie A Million Ways to Die in the West. (Go on, check it out…you know you want to! And you can probably beat my high score of…zero!…sheep successfully delivered to Old Stump. I did have four surviving party members, though.)

A Million Ways to Die in the West game

This game reminded my kids of an educational game they’d played in elementary school, the “Oregon Trail”. The goals of both games are similar: get your wagon train safely across the country via the Oregon Trail. Accomplishing this task is near-impossible for both games as well. The new version, though, is sort of a mash-up with Frogger, and Donkey Kong, and is immensely more entertaining (although probably less educational….) It had my kids in stitches! They staged a head-to-head contest, each playing the game on a different computer, to see who could reach the game’s end with the most surviving sheep (and party members!)

The “Trail to Old Stump” game is an example of transmedia advertising–the movie makers used a video game platform to entice a different audience segment to learn more about the movie, and this audience segment might not have checked it out otherwise. It’s not transmedia storytelling, though, because it doesn’t add to (or even retell) the story told by the movie. It’s just a bit of fun to attract more viewers.

However, the incident provides an excellent illustration three reasons why transmedia storytelling is such a powerful way to engage your audience. ESPECIALLY if you write for young people. We’re going to look at the first of these three reasons today…

#1: Transmedia Storytelling Reaches Young People Where They Are: ONLINE

If you have teens in your house, you’ve probably seen the same progression I have. Although we started out with the best of intentions to monitor and limit our kids’ time online, it’s become more and more difficult with each passing year–and not just because my boys are older and more independent. Over the past decade, more and more of kids’ activities have gained an online component. That’s where they go for entertainment. That’s where they collaborate with classmates (simultaneous editing on a Google doc, anyone?). They have to check class notes and assignments online; they have to have internet access in order to complete homework; and when they finish assignments, those get turned in online as well.

95% of Teens (ages 12-17) Are Online –Pew Research Internet Project, Teens Fact Sheet

Communication with friends also happens online, whether through email, Facebook, Facebook chat, Google hangouts, or other instant messenger client. “Get-togethers” often involve logging onto a multiplayer computer game with friends, where they can chat while battling for a star system, building a model on Minecraft,

…or teaming up to defeat a zone boss in the latest MMORPG (massively multiplayer online roleplaying game–such as Eve Online, WildStar, or the old standby, World of Warcraft.)

“The Internet has become THE youth medium of choice.” –“Born to Be Wired: The Role of New Media for a Digital Generation

According to a study conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation, today’s young people spend more than 7 1/2 hours consuming media–streaming music, checking social media, Web surfing, playing video games, etc. Add in the growing tendency to multitask? Researchers found that during that 7 1/2 hours, they packed in an average of 11 hours of media content.

[Tweet "Expand storytelling to include web comics, video, & other online media to reach teens where they are--ONLINE. "]

Have you seen the same trend toward increased time online in your home? Please share your thoughts in the comments!

Media Options for Transmedia Storytelling

TRANSMEDIA2 Last week, we kicked off a series of posts on 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. (If you missed last week’s post, you can check it out here.)

Multiple Media Options

Transmedia storytelling uses multiple media platforms or channels to communicate a message or story. To get specific, that means transmedia storytelling can include pretty much any communication method you and your target audience can access. Social media? Check. Web content? Sure thing! Posters? Stickers? Fictitious ads or announcements? You bet! The table below lists some of the possibilities, but your options are limited pretty much only by your imagination.

Print Materials Digital Content Direct Communications Social Media
  • Books & magazines
  • Flyers
  • Posters
  • Postcards
  • Stickers
  • Comic books
  • E-books
  • Website content
  • Fan fiction
  • Podcasts
  • Video
  • Video games
  • Text messages
  • Chat or instant messages
  • FAX
  • Email
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Instagram
  • Tumblr
  • Fan fiction and other forums

Are you getting the picture? Transmedia can deliver messages to your audience in lots of different ways!

Of course, no single transmedia project will include ALL those communication platforms. Often transmedia stories will be told primarily in one format (film, video, comic book, etc), with additional content available in another format for those who want to dig deeper.

Transmedia Storytelling Examples

Sherlock

Take BBC’s Sherlock TV series, which I mentioned briefly last week. The primary storyline is told in the TV episodes. If you want to dive more deeply into the Sherlock universe, though, Dr. John Watson’s blog adds details that you can’t get just from watching the show.  

The “blog” contains other media elements as well–photos, a slideshow of Watson’s wedding photos, commentary from other characters (including a “hacked” blog entry from Moriarty), and the occasional video content, such as this news spot reporting on Sherlock’s return from death:

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries

Another great transmedia story, The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, is told primarily through vlog (video log) posts, with additional content that unspools via Twitter, Instagram, and Lookbook. (The Lizzie Bennet Diaries is a modernized retelling of Pride and Prejudice, in all its glory. If you’ve never heard of it, watch a bit. Now. You’ll get your giggles for the day!)

There are lots of other great transmedia storytelling examples out there, which use lots of different types of media to expand their story worlds. We’ll look at more in the coming weeks.

What transmedia elements appeal to you, as a storyteller or a story consumer? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

 

Idea Logging Strategies

Idea-Log-GraphicLast week, I wrote about the transformative power of keeping an idea log. Well, this week, I think it’s worth talking about point #4 on my “How to Keep an Idea Log” list: namely, KEEP IT CONVENIENT.

I know, it sounds obvious, but do you know how many writers I know who have ten untouched “writing journals” lying around their house? Or maybe, like me, you collect apps on your phone. (Don’t even ask me about iPad-only apps!) Collecting notebooks, journals, and even nifty writing apps for tables and smart phones is a fine vice for writers and creatives, but not if you drown in having too many choices.

[Tweet "It's better to have ONE notebook and use it than to have a HUNDRED, and use none."]

Okay, you say, then what works?

The answer is… ***Drumroll, please***

It depends.

It depends on you, what you like, what you don’t like, where you go, what you do, and what sort of environment your idea log needs to survive. In just a sec, I’ll give you some questions to help you identify what type of notebook–virtual or otherwise–you might actually use. 

But first, let me tell you what doesn’t work. You know all those lovely journals, sitting on bookshelves and collecting dust, instead of getting filled with ideas? Those don’t work for you. So feel free to keep them around for their aesthetic appeal, but whatever you do, don’t pick one up and try to make it into your New-Improved-Really-Going-to-Do-It-This-Time idea log. Just don’t. Okay? Okay.

phone

Choose the Ideal Idea Log

Here are a few questions to help you navigate the table of tools below:

  1. HOW do you do your best thinking? For example…
    • While walking, hiking, or pacing?
    • While writing longhand?
    • At the computer?
    • While talking aloud, to yourself or with a friend?
  2. WHERE do you need to record ideas? For example…
    • In the car?
    • While running errands?
    • At the gym?
  3. WHAT METHOD of writing gives you the best flow? For example…
    • Writing with pen and paper?
    • Typing at your computer?
    • Dictating?
    • Or does it matter if you’re just recording inspirations?
  4. HOW do you like to SORT or ACCESS your ideas later? For example…
    • By searching electronically?
    • Chronologically?
    • Visually scanning entries, which you’ve sorted by topic?
Below, I’ve listed some examples of high-quality notebooks, notebook systems, computer programs, iPhone apps, and iPad apps with which I’ve had experience. I’ve ONLY included products that I’ve found are reliable and relatively flexible. For example, although I love the program Index Cards for the iPhone, I don’t think it translates very well between mobile devices and my desktop machine, so I haven’t included it below.
TOOL

VISUAL

AUDITORY

KINESTHETIC (USE WHILE MOVING?)

HIGH-TECH

PORTABLE

FLEXIBLE STRUCTURE/ SEARCHABLE

Notebooks
Arc customizable notebook system

X

X

X

X

Moleskine-style notebooks 

X

X

X

Computer Programs
Scrivener

X

X

X

Word processing programs

X

X

X

Dragon dictation (with other program)

X

X

X

Dragon dictation (with Bluetooth microphone)

X

X

X

X

Smart Phone and iPad Apps
Simplenote

X

X

X

Evernote

X

X

X

X

Recording apps (or digital recorder)

X

X

X

X

Paper 53 storyboarding app  X  X

X

 X

Do you have any “idea capture systems” to add to the list? Please share in the comments!