Creating a Transmedia Narrative II: Storytelling

My last post on ‘Creating a Transmedia Narrative‘ ignited a lengthy discussion in one of my LinkedIn groups. It seems that some of my readers thought that I was trying to establish that transmedia narratives follow different narrative norms/ no longer need to be based on traditional conventions of telling a story. This is not what I was trying to say. I merely pointed at parallels found in successful story worlds, narrative universes that withstood the test of time and continue to invite producers and audiences to expand their stories across different media. In order to last for decades or more and be expandable across different media, any narrative needs to have a ‘larger-than-life’ aspect to it, and I used my blog post to break this ‘larger-than-life’ aspect down into its individual, more accessible parts.

In a way, then, my blog post merely pointed at the elements of any great story, be it transmedia or not. I purposely titled it ‘Creating a Transmedia Narrative,’ tough, so as to highlight that transmedia stories in particular have to be larger-than-life if they want to survive. While it is technically possible to take anything transmedia and to build stories around it, be it Hansel and Gretel, Star Wars, or simply, your socks (from the sheep to the knitting to you wearing them for different occasions), the truth of the matter is that not everything will bring value to its audience when taken transmedia. A transmedia narrative really needs to engage and captivate its audiences on many different levels, in many different ways, and through many different stories and characters, creating meaningful experiences for them again, and again, and again. What makes your transmedia narrative outstanding and successful is NOT the fact that it is “transmedia.” It is the narrative itself, the story you have to tell – regardless of which channels you use to do so.

Which brings me to my next point: Which comes first – the medium or the story? Needless to say, both are necessary to tell a story – the content and a vehicle to carry it. And while one can and should definitely make active use of the different media’s characteristics to tell a story as effectively as possible, the story itself should always come first. Given the array of media we now have at our disposal, we really do not have to tailor our story to its vehicle(s) any longer, but can pick and chose which ever vehicles fit best to convey the different parts of a story in the most meaningful way possible (this does not mean that traditional storytelling structures can be disregarded). Once we know what we want to tell people, we can find the best platform to do so, and then begin to tailor the message to the medium. Again, it isn’t the cool transmedia possibilities that make your audience seek out the other platforms in your transmedia project; it is their desire to keep up with your story, and their wish to watch/read/hear it unfold further.