On Friday the 26th of October, I attended Portal Entertainments Immersive Writing Lab at Ravensbourne College in Greenwich...
...Mike Jones, Portal’s “Head of Story”, delivered a talk from Sydney. Despite the tortuous Skype connection and numerous false starts, the value of what he had to say was undiminished. Practical advice on writing ‘transmedia’ experiences is still thin on the ground, and (when we were able to hear him) the room eagerly devoured his tips.
Mike explained that writing for multimedia is difficult because there is no discipline or convention yet, because of the convolution of structures and forms the media bring, and because the writing process often feels messy, incoherent & unsatisfying compared to more conventional writing. However, audience expectations are changing, Mike said. They expect the story to be bigger than the platform, with multiple points of entry. For those familiar with writing and reading stories in digital ways, interaction is increasingly the norm.
Mike has devised some key principles of writing for transmedia:
1: World first, then plot. “Create a vibrant pressure-cooker world, full of natural dramatic oppositional forces,” said Mike.
2: Everything that mattered, still matters. Action, tension, drama, etc. It is all relevant for new platforms.
3: First person, present tense. Test the immersiveness of your story by putting it into present tense.
4. Role-play. Give your audience an active and meaningful role in the story. A good interactive role has motivation, action and reward. Compel your audience to interact, don’t assume they want to.
5. Interactive, online & multiplatform is episodic storytelling. Think about when dramatic questions are asked and when & where (on which platform) are they answered? (I liked Mike’s observation here that “We are creatures of worry” – in stories, we enjoy these anxieties and dilemmas.)
Mike emphasised the need to build on the similar, and discover the different and new – don’t focus or start from the aspects which make your story different from a traditional one....