StoryWorld 2011 in San Francisco: Day 3

DAY 3:

Talk: Story Architecture – Crafting Transmedia Design

Siobhan O’Flynn, Karine Halpern with Scott Walker

  • How to lead audiences across different platforms is still a challenge of transmedia, and it is a crucial question for experience design.
  • Stories are so popular because they communicate experiences and emotions.
  • Design principles for transmedia stories:
    • Non-linear spatial storytelling – whilst keeping the coherent and cohesive.
    • Break the 4th wall: augmented reality. Transmedia offers tremendous opportunities for individuals to enhance their own experience of the story, to play with the content on their own terms.
    • Social (relationships, sustainability, social media marketing): The sustainability of communities surrounding storyworlds becomes increasingly important. It takes a huge amount of commitment and energy to foster and maintain fan communities, and stopping this fostering and maintenance is a seen as a betrayal of the audience by the fans. Producers must be aware of this from the very beginning.
    • Participatory and/or UGC: Both allow the audience to move from passive to active by offering opportunities to ‘touch’ the canon.
  • Transmedia allows for a shift towards spatial design:
    • Non-linear narratives open new narrative spaces for audiences
    • Fans can move between multiple platforms (spaces)
    • Characterss and story archs extend over time and across platforms
    • There are multiple points of entry into the story universe
    • There is increased room for interactivity
  • Producers need to ask themselves what the audience experience is supposed to be –  thrill, threat, excitement, competition, for example – and base their narrative design on this experience type throughout all platforms.
  • Your story and the technology are only two tools in transmedia storytelling. Your audience also becomes a tool in itself, particularly through interactivity and participation. This means that as a producer, you must understand people’s behaviors, their instincts and needs, etc. and use this knowledge to shape the transmedia experience.
  • The 5 “E’s” of experience design:
    • Entice – You have to find a way to invite your audience into your experience, and to lead them across the different platforms involved. Often, teasing them helps to accomplish this.
    • Enter – Once the audience enters your transmedia experience, you must make it clear to them what they have to do and what is expected of them. Direct them through the use of appropriate sign posts; genre, familiar story archs, and characters are very strong cues as well.
    • Engage – Now that your audience is invested in your experience, allow them to engage with it and to derive satisfaction from the engagement.
    • E-motion – Even if your audience is invested in your experience, they can still leave easily. You have to find ways to prevent audiences from leaving and to move them deeper into the experience instead. Once one sub-set of the overall experience is finished, help them to move to the next.
    • Extend – Help your audience to share the experience and to draw in others.
  • Designing a transmedia narrative doesn’t mean there is no ending to the story. There has to be a grand narrative composed of many smaller narratives, and all of them have satisfying endings in themselves.

Activity: Interactive Storytelling

Led by Brian Clark and Jan Libby

The conference attendees joined the #Occupy movements around the world and occupied transmedia (#OccupyTransmedia). Rotating groups created media – photos and videos, mostly – of what the future of transmedia holds, protest posters expressing current grievances regarding transmedia, and a social media onslaught with the hashtag #OccupyTransmedia.

Here’s some of my documentation:

I tried keeping a sad face expressing my transmedia grievances. The room was too fun-filled to let me succeed, though.


#OccupyTransmedia Grievances – Part 1
#OccupyTransmedia Grievances – Part 2 – The money secret? I think s/he means “what can be monetized in each medium.”


#OccupyTransmedia Grievances – Part 3


#OccupyTransmedia Grievances – Part 4


The social media onslaught is in full swing…


This interactive session was definitely a welcome break to the many panels and talks – which were of course brilliant, but also a bit exhausting.


Fireside Chat: Character-Centric Storytelling

Miles Maker, Helen Klein Ross; Moderator: Alison Norrington

  • It is extremely important to have a thorough idea of the storyworld and the characters you are creating in your narrative. Where are your heroes and their companions from? What have they been doing up to the point when we meet them? Where are they going afterwards? Etc.
  • Knowing your character well is extremely important to create a credible storyworld because it creates consistency throughout any story or platform.
  • Vice versa, if you don’t know a character well enough and he/she moves across different platforms and stories, he/she can dilute easily.
  • Sometimes a character becomes bigger than the storyworld itself (eg. Jack Sparrow). This has positive and negative effects. On the one hand, a character that is greater than the storyworld helps the entire world live on by drawing audiences to other narratives within the storyworld, while it can on the other hand create problems one actor is tied to a role too closely. Generally, it is a good thing though, as long as you don’t run out of ideas for the character and the storyworld.
  • It helps to not only write what you have to in order to compose a script, but also to invest time in backstories and background. In a transmedia world, this information can always be made use of, and it is likely that your entire storyworld becomes a lot more credible and realistic.
  • If you take your content from one platform to the next be sure to not disrupt the original storyline.
  • Transmedia offers wonderful possibilities to have good supporting characters live on via different platforms and to evolve from there.
  • Supporting characters are crucial to keep a storyworld alive as well, therefore they must be cast just as carefully as the main characters and portrayed just as deeply.
  • Many fans don’t actually want to create stories themselves, but would like to be offered stories from master storytellers, storyworlds in which they can find a place themselves as well.
  • There is no minimum when it comes to your story bible. Once you have your idea ready and the means to do so, start producing. The story continues to evolve anyway.
  • Hollywood needs more social writers, i.e. writers who create content for social media. Social writers need to have a special skill set and need to be able to take into account audience reactions, current events, and even things like the weather.
  • It’s important that you adapt your writing for the platforms you are using and to style the narrative to the platform.
  • If you want your story to live, you have to allow others to share it and to even participate in its creation. A story evolves constantly from the first time it is conceived of anyway, and you simply cannot control its dissemination and reception.


Panel: Narrative Design

Panelists: Stephen Deinhart, Jeff Gomez, Geoffrey Long; Moderator: Christy Dena

  • Transmedia narrative design manages content flows across different platforms and helps to make a story bigger than just one platform.
  • Licensed products can easily be included in your narrative design as long as there is a connectivity between the story and the licensed prodcuct.
  • Read Marsha Kinder and Bruce Block (The Visual Story) to learn about the continuity of communication and how to design a narrative that propagates across media.
  • Make sure all departments involved (from creative to technology) communicate frequently and share a common vision for the story they create. This will allow for a uniform presentation of the story and an easier suspension of disbelief.
  • Have long term plans that include probable future development and consumption patterns. This will help you to streamline your narrative design as well.
  • Play with the strengths of individual platforms.
  • Be aware that it may be difficult for someone working in one medium to understand how content works in another medium and how it needs to be adapted. Frequent communication can help in this case.
  • When designing your narrative, you are really creating an architecture where the narrative is the structure and the story is an interpretation of that structure.
  • Make sure you purposely design cross-references between your platforms and your content.
  • You should have a narrative superstructure that is essentially a transmedia plan. This superstructure should include an overarching narrative that is one grand story composed of many smaller stories. Even if the superstory has a chronological ending, filling narrative gaps can let the storytelling and the storyworld live on forever.
  • You need to clearly communicate to your stakeholders and to your writers that a transmedia approach will not radically change the story or the script, but that it will enhance it as an investment in the story, in creativity, and in artistic expression. Transmedia is only a tool set to make storytelling even better.


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