Monday, September 17, 2012

Participants Wanted for the Transmedia Revolution!

Hello everyone!

For those of you who have been following my posts here for the last few months, you may have noticed I've been talking a lot about how technology has transformed the publishing industry, and how transmedia storytelling has broken down the barriers between a story and it's audience.

But I haven't really gone into the specifics about how this can be put into practice. There's been a lot of talk about transmedia storytelling, but very few good examples of what the medium is truly capable of.  People and publishers have folded their arms, and decided to "wait and see."

And I don't blame them.  

After all the talk about ground breaking-this, cross platform-that, and immersion-everything, not much has really happened, has it?  There's been a lot of smoke, but no one has lit a match.  

That's about to change.  It won't be long before you'll be participating in a story instead of reading it.  How do I know?

I'm going to help make it happen.

Do I have some amazing new browser plug-in?  Some sort of new transmedia authoring platform?  A storytelling social media network, perhaps?

Nope.  (People always seem to get hung up on the technology...)

The technology of the written word changed how stories were delivered, but not how they were created.  It's the same thing with e-books, film, and television...they are all different methods of delivering the same fictional drug.

It's the story that's important.

What's the difference between slapping a button on a coke machine, and visiting a barista at your local starbucks?

Puff the magic dragon by Ahnamal
A can of soda will always taste the same.  A caramel-pumpkin-spice-mocha-latte with a dash of cinnamon and whip, tastes a lot different if you have him add a splash of pickle juice.

There's only one way to have it your way: ask for it.

Here at Modern Mythology, we know that storytelling isn’t passive.

A good storyteller must actively engage their audience.  A story should be tailored to whom it’s being told to, not diluted and homogenized just to make it more appealing to a potential audience of millions.

The goal of a story should be to make people think, feel, and help them blink away their pedestrian view of the world.  A book or movie should draw you in, engage you, make you a part of it--not run you over.

Films shouldn't blind people with cinematic eye candy, and books shouldn't hypnotize them with pages of sex and violence strung together with a meaningless plot.

But they do, and they will continue to do so, because that's the easiest way for Hollywood and publishers to get your money without you noticing.

It doesn't have to be this way.  Really.

(Unless you're into that kind of thing.)
For too long stories have been created solely as products, leaving audiences trapped in the role of detached observers.

The internet and social media have finally made it possible for audiences to interact with content creators—even while they are in the process of creating that content.  Storytellers can hear directly from their audience, as they tell their story...

Excitement, engagement, confusion, anger, and even a lack of interest: these are all vital reactions—and required for a storyteller to perfect their tale.  Up until this point in time, except for a small group of editors, beta-readers, and colleagues, none of this feedback was available to a storyteller.

Well, I guess it's because they never asked for it.
(Errgghhm.  Cough!  Cough!)

Peter Usagi:  Hello.  Anyone out there what to help me tell a story?

You:  Um, what's it about?

Peter Usagi:  Life.  The Universe.  Everything.

You:  Really?  You're joking, right?

Peter Usagi:  Um...yeah.  Sure.

Legends of Eden: A Collaborative Transmedia Novel

Legends of Eden is a new kind of story; one that combines many traditional mediums: prose, the graphic novel, the radio drama, animation, and yes, even film. These seemingly distinct, and incompatible mediums will merge into a unified whole—online, on e-book readers, on smart phones and tablets, on computers, and eventually even the pages of a traditional book.

Legends of Eden is a collaborative transmedia novel, one that will be created from the direct interaction, and participation of its audience.   

You:  Um, you told us what it is, not what it's about...what gives?

Peter Usagi:  Honestly?  I don't really know what it's going to be about.  We haven't written it yet, have we?

You:  You're serious?

Peter Usagi:  What's the point of collaboration, if I've already done all the work?  No, the story I’m writing isn’t finished yet.  And that’s by design.  What better way to engage your audience then to ask for their input while telling the story? Imagine how much more creative a collaborative story can be when it’s created by dozens of people, and not just a single author?

You:  So does this mean the role of the storyteller is simply to hold the reins until the audience can take over?

Peter Usagi:  Well, only if you want to cause a narrative pile-up.  Only one person can drive a car at a time--but that doesn’t mean you can’t ask for directions.

You:  What's that supposed to mean?

Peter Usagi:  As a storyteller—if I’ve managed to do my job—I realize my audience is as engaged and emotionally wrapped up in my characters, as I’ve been after creating them.  It would be foolish of me to stomp my feet and argue with them if they were unhappy with an ending, or if a character’s reaction wasn’t believable.

Lucas, Tolkin, and Roddenberry; they might be frustrated by legions of fans that have encyclopedic knowledge of their fictional worlds.  But they shouldn’t be.  Even the most capable writer needs help, and every well told story needs an attentive audience.

You:  You've got a title, right?  How can you not know anything about the story? 

Peter Usagi:  It's not really a genre piece, unless you want to shove it into slipstream.  It contains elements of hard science fiction, as well as high fantasy.  I'd like to try to do for modern mythology, what Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four did for distopian conspiracy theory.  Over the last decade, I've created dozens of characters, two extremely detailed worlds, and done quite a bit of plotting.

You:  So, you've already written some of it?

Screen Shot of my Scrivener Project (Image by Peter Usagi)

Over 300 pages of handwritten notes (Photo by Peter Usagi)

Peter Usagi:  Quite a bit, actually.  If you lump together what I've already typed up, and the hand written notes I haven't transcribed, I have well over a 150,000 words already written.  Two thirds of that is actual narrative.

You:  Wow.  That's enough for three novels.

Peter Usagi:  I know, and I've only scratched the surface of the story I want to share.  Five years ago, I knew it couldn't be published as a normal book, or even a series.  I've been patiently waiting for the technology that could make this project a reality.  Thanks to recent updates on facebook, google-docs, the advent of Google circles, kick-starter, and the capabilities of HTML 5, the stage for this epic adventure can now be built.

You:  How will I know if I'll like it or not?

Peter Usagi:  How can you tell if you'll like chocolate ice cream if you never try it?  I wasn't joking before about watering down a story.  You can't please everyone.  I'm not going to even try.  But if you are already reading this blog, I'd say there's a very high probability you'll be fascinated by it (or at least mildly interested).

You: So don't be coy; tell me about it. 

Peter Usagi:  I'm not going to bore you with details that don't really matter.  I'm not going to tell you it's going to be like this book, plus this movie, minus that TV show.  I'm not manufacturing something.  I'm trying to help it grow organically.  When someone hands you a seed, and you plant you know what it's going to grow into?  The only thing you can know for sure is that if the seed doesn't get enough water and sunlight, the magic isn't going to happen.

You:  How much is this going to cost me?  And how will I pay?

Peter Usagi:  What?  I'm not doing this to make boatloads of cash.  I hope to be able to make it available to everyone free of charge.

You:  So, let me get this straight...I am going to help tell the story?  Will I get credit for my contributions?

Peter Usagi:  Naturally, if a collaborative story like this is successful, the audience that participates in its creation deserves the credit.  If you come up with characters, plot elements, or background details (or even end up guest writing whole chapters), you will get that credit.  Right on the front page, with a list of your contributions.

You:  Will I get paid?

Peter Usagi:  I realize for some contributions, "thank you’s" and acknowledgments aren’t going to be enough.  I can’t create something like this without a lot of help.  I’ll need artists, voice talent, editors, animators, additional writers, and a whole lot of fans to spread the word.  And I know all that help isn’t always going to be free.

I’ve been working on this project for more than a decade.  I’ve made a lot of contacts, and have a pretty good idea what kind of help I’ll need.  And a lot of it is not going to be cheap.  But I’m a professional, and I’m putting together a professional product.  It would be insulting to ask fellow professionals to work pro bono.  That’s why all major story contributors will be paid for their assistance.

You:  So how are you going to fund this project?  It's going to be free, and you're going to pay major contributors?  How is that supposed to work?

Peter Usagi:  Croud funding websites like kickstarter will incubate each chapter of the project.  If they are successfuly funded, eventualy I hope to create an online platform that will allow other transmedia storytellers to launch their collaborative projects as well.

You:  How many chapters are there?  How long will this project continue?

Peter Usagi:  As long as there is an ingaged and interested audiance. Granted, it will always be a work in progress.  That’s the nature of writing a collaborative story…it keeps growing, changing, and evolving.  The first participants who get in on the ground floor will have the most input, but new fans won’t be disappointed by their ability to influence the progress of the story.

You:  How can I find out more about Legends of Eden?

Peter Usagi:  Head over to the project facebook page, and "like" it.  While you're there, vote on some of the surveys I've set up.

You:  Is there anything I can do to help?

Peter Usagi:  If you know someone who might be interested in the project (either creation, or participation) send them a line, and tell them about it.  A collaborative project will fail without active participation.  Which means it needs an engaged audience.  Mention it on your facebook wall, or tweet about it.  I'm not asking you to advertize or market this idea.  I'm not selling anything.  I'm inviting you to share something you found of interest on the internet

You:  When will I be able to start participating?

Peter Usagi:  The first introductory chapter is slated to go online 12/12/12, which means I'll start actively recruiting participants next month.

You:  Wait!  I've got some more questions!

Peter Usagi:  Type them in the comment box, and I'll give you some answers.  

Have a great week, and thanks for your interest!

-Peter Usagi

[Check out some of the books, albums, and soon movies produced by Mythos Media and our various media partners.]

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