I’m a big fan of @Jeff_Gomez, as you’ve probably noticed. He really opened my eyes to the powers of transmedia at The Pixel Lab in Cardiff last summer (and he also helped create the Magic The Gathering card game, which I thoroughly enjoyed playing back in the day 🙂 .*
I’ve enjoyed listening to his visions and his presentations (a great and touching video from the TEDxTransmedia conference can be found here, and a review of his Cinekid presentation last week here) and firmly believe that more and more properties and stories will go the way of transmedia, for the better of all story-interested members of mankind.
One aspect that I’m struggling with at the moment is when a development project strays from the path of fiction, or never originated as fiction to start with. As with the examples Jeff talks about in the links above, well executed transmedia projects in the vein of Avatar or Pirates of the Caribbean have a rich story world to build on, to create stories in, just as it should be. At the same time, this is almost a prerequisite for creating these types of transmedia projects; you need that fictional world, well built and stable, to be able to tell your fictional stories that complement each other and build the world onwards.
The challenge, as I see it, is to figure out what happens when you base these in the real world, omitting or at least limiting the fictional elements. Is it still transmedia? Or are we then reverting back to cross media (if that indeed can be considered reverting?). If it is still transmedia, is it possible to base it in the real world and still create a good transmedia narrative?
My opinion is that this is more than possible. What you need to do is to create the narrative superstructure in as great a detail as when you create your fictional world. Just because what you’re creating is based on the real world, doesn’t mean you can take it for granted that everyone perceives this world the same way as you do – not even your collaborators on the project. When writing this narrative superstructure, the mythology of your project, you need to explain the essence of, say, London, as represented in your project (if London is a part of your story of course) in as great a detail as the essence of Pandora is explained in the Avatar mythology. You also need to be able to explain this essence, via the descriptions and the mythology, to each and everyone involved in the development and the production. I believe this is the only way to avoid mishaps in the production (such as people not realizing what you want to get out of the narrative, what feelings you want to convey, how you want people to interact etc). One hour spent on the mythology will save you five hours in execution; production and editing.
This will also assist you a lot when bringing new people into the development and/or production team. Finally, I agree with Jeff on one point he has been making; if you feel the need to make some material to explain your project, a graphic novel is a great way to go. And if you base it in the real world, so what? Who wouldn’t want to be in a graphic novel??
* see Jeff’s comment below; the honor of creating MtG goes to Garfield and WotC.