In the last lecture, we studied the traits of transmedia storytelling. Let us then look into the specifics of it, in terms of its content.
We know that there are three main components to any story: setting, character and plot. Since these are the foundation of all stories, they can also be found in transmedia storytelling as well. What sets transmedia apart, however, is that the setting carries more emphasis than it did in analog storytelling. Presenting a story’s setting means that the expression of both the time and spatial setting has become increasingly important. Because the range of expression has broadened with the introduction of heightened effects, aspects that were neglected in the past have become far more important in the present. Everything on the market, from games to TV series based on multimedia, is rooted in an utterly detailed and visual environment.
For instance, a game might be set in a fantasy world. The same is true for films. The setting is so visually definite that no content would ever open with an introduction so vague as “Once upon a time.” This can be attributed to how settings have come to carry much greater significance, something that can be defined as the worldview of transmedia. The most important part of transmedia storytelling is to create a world, or a setting. In what world is transmedia carried out, or the story unraveled? On what star, in what society, in what region and in what era?
One of the most important elements of transmedia storytelling is having a world that shows all of these visual aspects in a definitive way. Second, there must be a core story in the plot, one that should obviously be consistent with the original. There has to be a story and a sub-plot, which is nothing new. But the core story must provide a backbone that can be handled on multiple platforms, which can then be shared. Let’s imagine that there is a tree. Nutrients climb from the roots, and there is the trunk that stands like a pillar. That trunk is the body of the tree, comparable to what we would call the core story.
Where this tree is planted and the nutrients it absorbs are its worldview. When someone allocates a space to plant this tree and all the small details are decided, then the body of the tree becomes the core story. Some nutrients contribute to creating the body, and then subplots branch out one by one. This could begin at the bottom of the body as a very thick branch, or at the top with a very thin one. There are various types of branches, and sometimes a branch will have leaves at the end and be able to grow again as another branch, or bear flowers or fruits. This is similar to the multiplatforming nature of transmedia.
From the core story begins the worldview, in this case the nutrients, which becomes the body of a tree, and subplots continue to branch out and develop. The different branches, leaves, flowers, and fruits are the storytelling features of the second plot. Then what about characters? Characters were and still are important because they are the main driver of the story, meaning that it’s important for them to be significant. What is important to understand, however, is that in the past, one main character remained at the center of the story until the end, whereas in transmedia storytelling, characters move freely between major and minor roles. An actor who was merely an extra in one platform could become the main character in another.
This is slightly different from narratives of the past. Just because each platform requires different characters, the main character in one does not need to be presented prominently in all platforms. Moreover, because consumers participate more, the roles of characters have somewhat diminished. Upon crafting a story, having this pillar is more important than anything else, whether this pillar can branch out or not. When a story is good, seeking out areas for potential expansion would be the basis of creating a core story in transmedia. That is why a solid worldview, or the story’s environment, is required while establishing a structure that can absorb many different elements. We then plant a well-rooted tree that holds the core story of the worldview and transmedia.
Next, we leave it to bear fruits and branch out on its own, giving birth to various forms of multi-platforming content. We have to have a tree with sound roots, which must be planted on a piece of land that can provide a broad spectrum of nutrients. This is how the core story and core worldview of transmedia storytelling function and how transmedia storytelling works.