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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

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.

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

More on the BBC’s Sherlock and Transmedia

sherlockSince I’ve mentioned the BBC’s Sherlock TV series in both this week’s post on transmedia and the week before’s post, I thought I’d direct you to a great resource if you’re interested in learning more. The StoryForward podcast publishes biweekly interviews with writers, producers, actors, and others involved in transmedia projects. One of their first episodes discusses Sherlock and how it was designed to be a transmedia experience from the beginning. From StoryForward:

In this special episode of StoryForward, co-host Steve Peters talks with Joe Lidster, a television writer best known for his work on Torchwood, The Sarah Jane Adventures and most recently, the online story content for the BBC series Sherlock, starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman. They talk about the unique process behind the TV show, which, in true transmedia storytelling fashion, simultaneously spans your television screen, multiple websites and more. –StoryForward.com

Hope you enjoy this great interview!

Sharing Joy on the Writing Road

patrick-ross-casual-2012

One of the things I love about writing is that the writing community is so incredibly generous–both in their willingness to celebrate with others’ successes, and their willingness to share the ups and downs along the way. Patrick Ross, over at The Artist’s Road, is a great example of an author/blogger who has shared his ups and downs, struggles and triumphs, in the years since he publicly committed to an art-committed life more than four years ago.

So it’s with great delight that pass on his recent good news: his memoir, begun September 2010, will be published this fall. From his blog:

The Artist’s Road Memoir will be Published this Fall

MAY 12, 2014 BY PATRICK ROSS

So it’s official. I’ve signed with an enterprising independent publisher and my memoir–four years after I first started working on it–will be published this October. So many readers of The Artist’s Road have traveled with me as I’ve chronicled this pursuit. I’ve shared my highs and my lows, and there were a fair number of the latter. But you’ve always supported me, and so this triumph is in part yours.

The original banner of The Artist's Road blog, taken on the road trip on Wyoming's 1-80 West.

The original banner of The Artist’s Road blog, taken on my 2010 cross-country U.S. road trip on Wyoming’s 1-80 West.

I plan to share more details about the publishing plans–and the book itself–in future posts. What I can say for now is that Committed: A Memoir of the Artist’s Road will be available in print as a soft launch from Black Rose Writing on October 16th, 2014, and in print and ebook formats a few weeks later in stores and online retailers such as Amazon.

For now, I think it’s worth looking at those highs and lows, in the hope that it is helpful to someone moving forward on a long-term creative project.

  • September 2010: complete a five-week cross-country U.S. road trip in which I interviewed creatives of all types. I had drifted away from my own creativity, but the artists I encounter inspire me to return to the path of the art-committed life. I give notice to the board of directors of the nonprofit I run, and agree to serve through the end of the calendar year as they recruit a successor.
  • October 2010: launch The Artist’s Road blog in part to share my story, but also to hold me publicly accountable to my new commitment to creativity.

To read more of Patrick’s inspiring journey from idea to publication–and his growth along the way–visit his blog, artistsroad.wordpress.com. And join in the celebration!

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!