When it comes to stylistic platform potency, there are certain aspects that determine the best use of each platform in transmedia storytelling. Unlike its economic counterpart, however, stylistic platform potency concerns itself mostly with how a narrative can be told most effectively, and more specifically, how it can be most meaningful to its audience.
“How does this particular medium communicate?”
This is THE fundamental question producers must ask themselves when producing meaningful transmedia narratives. The question of how each medium communicates can be split up into a sub-set of seven questions:
- Does the medium show (work with visuals) or does it tell (in writing or orally) -or both?
- What kind of perspectives and narrators does the medium allow for – 1st, 2nd, 3rd person, omniscient, etc.?
- How much narrative depth does the medium allow for? I.e. are a medium’s portrayals limited to outward actions, or can thoughts, emotions, and motivations be conveyed?
- How much complexity does the medium allow for? Is it limited by time/space constraints? How easy is it for the audience to follow multiple plot twists and layers of meaning? Will it be easier to use this medium if the audience already possesses certain information, which they have attained on another platform in the franchise?
- What kind of audiences does the medium attract – mainstream or mostly dedicated fans? What is this platform’s reach? Is it limited to a certain geographic location (if not technologically, then maybe legally, economically, or politically)?
- Are there any other media that the medium in question can be paired up with directly? For example, can videos or small games be integrated into an online novel, can a graphic novel be sold in tandem with a video game and tell the game’s background story?
- What does the medium evoke in audiences, and what do audiences seek in certain media? For example, big special effects movies usually have an exhilarating effect on audiences, as they visually transport consumers into another world, such as Pandora or Middle Earth, for example. The same goes for theme park attractions. Other media, on the other hand, such as books or graphic novels, can give the audience an idea of what it is like to be a certain character, how he/she feels or experiences the world. Taking into account what a medium evokes in audiences helps fuel a story significantly.
Every medium is unique, even if some media share common traits. If all media were the same we would see a replacement of one medium by another. But we don’t. Cinema still prevails (and makes record numbers) despite the introduction of TV, which in turn never replaced the radio, which again in turn never replaced books. One of the biggest opportunities transmedia offers is that it allows us to make strategic use of each platform’s uniqueness, and to create extremely powerful encompassing narratives.
Once you have established how each medium communicates, you have to ask a second highly important question:
“What do I want to communicate?”
What is your story like? Or, as George Ruiz asked in his talk on Monday, what are your goals? This question can again be determined by a sub-set of questions:
- Does your story draw up an entirely new world, like Star Wars, one that is best communicated through visuals (a la ‘a picture is worth a thousand words?’)? Or is it a highly complex thriller involving several different characters, their background stories, and their motivations, all of which are best explored through books, TV-style episodes, and comics?
- What kind of appeal does your story have? Is it a subject matter that only a small and very particular audience will be interested in, or is your story so universal that it has mainstream appeal?
- What is the goal of the story? Do you intend to educate your consumers on a particular issue, or do you offer them an encompassing entertainment experience that will blow them away? Do you want to motivate them to take certain action?*
- How large are your funds (unfortunately, always a crucial question to ask)? Can you afford to pay distributors (as in the case of movies, for example)? Do you intend to distribute your story internationally (which means that you will need more money and translations), or is domestic – if not regional – good enough? (This already cuts into economic platform potency, which you can read about in more detail here)
Once you have a strong understanding of what you are trying to communicate, you can match up this vision with the different media at your disposal. At the end of this process, you will have a clear plan of how to maximize your transmedia project’s stylistic potency, and you can move on to determining the economic ramifications of your enterprise
* While “I want to make profit with this narrative” is probably one of the most common goals, you should set this thinking aside until you start assessing your project’s economic platform potency/the profitability. Consumers can tell immediately if a story is only made for profit, and they will not respond positively to it. They want to consume a piece of art, not play your cash cow.