The elements that make up a world

Originally, an imaginary world could only be experienced through a story, and in this manner had a clear and direct relationship with a story. In the modern world, however, audience demand has forced stories to extend beyond their simple narratives, becoming part of a much richer and more detailed structure. People are not only interested in the story itself but in the world that has been constructed around it, and even in the variations or expansions that proliferate through other media.

In Mark J.P. Wolf’s Building Imaginary Worlds (2012), the author outlines the three basic foundations and eight factors that make up an imaginary world’s infrastructure.

According to Wolf, the three basic elements that constitute an imaginary world are the space where a concept or event can exist, the time it takes for an event to happen, and a character who describes what the imagined world is like (154, 33). These are three basic and fundamental elements necessary for an imaginary world to exist.

When examined in further detail, we find that these concepts of time, space, and character develop into a timeline, map, and genealogy.

Every one of these basic elements employs its own structural tools: A map formulates the location of the world’s space, which is directly connected to its time; a timeline orders the world’s events into a certain sequence, revealing how those events relate to each other; and a genealogy ties characters together into relevant relationships. Most imaginary worlds display all of these elements.

A Transmedia World

When I first started out, the story always came first. Because you couldn’t make a movie without a good story. When a series was made, you first established the characters. Because you couldn’t have a continuous set of stories without good characters. Now, however, you build the imaginary world first. Because to allow multiple characters to thrive in multiple stories through multiple forms of media, you need a solid imaginary world. (Convergence Culture, 169)

As evidenced by the screenwriter quoted above, Jenkins shows that today’s world move beyond their characters and stories, focusing instead on the design process of the imaginary world. The imaginary world encompasses every aspect of the story. Although plot- and character-centered narratives still exist, all other aspects within the imaginary world now merit further exploration. Put simply, everything within the imaginary world now has the potential to evolve into its own story.

Antoni Roig insists that when a transmedia narrative is adapted to another medium, it still needs to be contextualized within the same imaginary world. transmedia worlds and the contents of imaginary worlds have different underlying meanings, but can be viewed as related to one another. An imaginary world with a solid framework, for example, can lead to other “spinoff” worlds in multiple ways. The economic potential of such a process is virtually limitless, resulting in a business model that can be seen as a driving force of cultural industries in the twenty-first century (Heo Man-uk, 2013, 342). It is through this process that transmedia worlds find themselves proliferating through multiple mediums.

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This article is from the free online course:

Transmedia Storytelling

Sungkyunkwan University (SKKU)