February 7, 2013

transmedia: telling a story across platforms



If you follow my Facebook and Twitter, you will know I've basically become obsessed with The Lizzie Bennet Diaries since my good friend and author Tracie Banister introduced me to the series last month. Aside from the fact that this is a modern retelling of one of my favorite stories, I am also fascinated by the use of transmedia storytelling.

Before I get into the topic, let's establish what this even means.

Transmedia tells a single story across multiple platforms. You can read a more detailed definition at here athinklab.com.

In The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, a viewer can watch the primary show on YouTube as well as spin-offs such as Lydia and Charlotte's diaries and GiGi's demo videos. While these spin-offs add to the experience, what truly makes this transmedia is that elements of the story are also revealed on Facebook, Twitter and in blog posts.

Maybe that means me sharing additional content about my reading and writing enjoyments on Twitter and Facebook could be perceived as transmedia, but that's a thought for another day.

Head writer and co-creater Bernie Su recently addressed how the writers decide what is told through Lizzie's vlog or the transmedia.
The first thing you should know is my belief that “transmedia” should not be required. Transmedia should enhance but not prevent any viewer from enjoying the basic story without diving all the way down the story threads. I may not believe this 5 years from now but I believe it now and I believe it strongly. My writing team knows this and when they come up with cool transmedia threads the first thing I say is “great… as long as it’s not required.”
You can read the full post here, and I suggest you do, but he makes an excellent point. While transmedia makes for a great way to enhance a story, at present, the most important aspect is to tell the full story through the primary source, in this case Lizzie's YouTube diary.

I know I find this format of storytelling vastly appealing. I am the type of person who feels seriously bummed out when a book, movie or TV show ends. But through these additional means, I am able to prolong the enjoyment of the stories being told. This is more than deleted scenes on a DVD or author's website. It is a way to be part of the characters' world.

This makes me think of How I Met Your Mother, which creates websites that correlate with the ones mentioned on the TV program. (Check out a few examples here, here and here.) Do you have to visit that website to understand the story? No. But do you get a kick out of seeing it actually exists if you try to find it? Absolutely. I don't even watch the show, but I'm impressed by this.

And I like Bernie's perspective on how transmedia should be used -- as an accessory, like a fabulous pair of earrings, rather than being something crucial to the enjoyment of the ensemble.

This has me thinking about what many authors are doing successfully. In addition to writing books, some will create fake Twitter accounts for their characters. Many write blog posts or do interviews while channeling their characters. Each of these elements adds something beneficial to the reader, but he or she is not dependent on it to enjoy the story.

So, in theory, as an author, I can write and publish a book that is available to the masses. But I can keep the story alive by adding some social media components, blog posts, videos and more to tell additional parts of the story for those readers who just can't get enough of the book. It is a way to make the reader a more active participant in the story.

This world of transmedia storytelling has certainly given me a lot to consider, but I'm also curious to know what all of you think. Do you enjoy following this as a storytelling device? Is this a viable approach for authors, too?

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11 comments:

  1. I do think that ebooks really open the playing field that way. Embed your books with video clips, song clips. So futuristic! Though the future is clearly now. Great post!

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    1. Thanks, Francine. It really is exciting to think about the possibilities for enhancing the storytelling process for a reader. It feels like really awesome bonus features to allow a reader to interact more.

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    2. Yes! Now if only the distributors wouldn't charge so much when the books get overloaded with megabytes! At this point, including links to offsite content (where readers can also sign up for an author newsletter) would be the way I'd go. It's so important to capture names too for getting out the word about future works.

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  2. So glad I have you to share my LBD obsession with, Laura! :) I really do love the whole idea of transmedia and I'm sure that authors will be using it more and more as a tie-in to their e-books. We live in a digital world now and it just makes sense to utilize all marketing avenues. I only wish I had the capability to do a vlog because I loved the one you did last week!

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    1. Thanks, Tracie. I am forever indebted to you for sharing LBD with me! Maybe down the road you can snag a web cam and try a vlog. As a writer, considering how to tell something in another format (video, social media, etc.) is kind of a fun challenge.

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  3. What a fascinating concept! I've seen many authors create accounts for their characters, but have never followed along much. Maybe I should and maybe I will consider how to incorporate into my own marketing plan. I also love How I Met Your Mother, but had no idea they did this. Thanks for the giggles on that front!

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    1. And they have a bunch of other websites, too. I remember they had a countdown for slapping (can't remember the characters) running, too. It's a fun little add-on for fans obsessed enough to look for the websites!

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  4. How I Met Your Mother is fantastic example--I have visited the sites and it's super fun. I think this post is super interesting--something I had never really heard of. Obvi I will be checking out "LBD."

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    1. I think you'll love it! I hope you do... :)

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  5. I got a kick out of this video. Thanks for the chuckles!

    I like your analogy of transmedia storytelling being an accessory rather than the main outfit. That works for me.

    I imagine it's tough to do well on a small budget, but not impossible. I like that the women in this lizzie bennett video were probably professional actresses. They gave the low-budget, talking-heads look real entertainment value. The script was funny too and very entertaining. "What if he's a gay serial killer?" Hahaha!

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    1. Thanks, Gwen. While there may come a day when transmedia storytelling is possible as a primary function, for now it's one heck of a fabulous pair of shoes!

      This web series is super fun. I highly suggest it.

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