Users, meet Story. Story, meet Users.

Disclaimer: some of my posts are down-to-earth stuff from a developers point of view. Others, like this one, are more of the rambling-philosophically-late-at-night kind of stuff. In those cases, this acts more like a notebook to jot down thoughts I’d otherwise forget. If someone else also finds something of use, that’s brilliant.

There are two levels to it. On one level the stories are made up. But they’re made up for a reason, and the reason has to do with a different kind of truth. It has to do with emotional and spiritual truths. It is a way of trying to use a lie, which is the story, to approach some deeper, more spiritual sense of truth. I don’t mean truth with a capital T; I just mean small kinds of truth.
-Tim O’Brien

When creating a transmedia property, no matter what kind – be it drama, be it a documentary, be it a music property or just about anything else – producers (me included) tend to think of their target group. What will they like? What will excite them? What will turn them on, engage them and make them jump into the story? We perhaps even conduct research into the target groups to glean more information on what they really really think, what they’d like and which solution they’d prefer over all other solutions.

Then we tweak our stories, our worlds, our properties, so that they fit, thus creating a transmedia property in the same way as people in the industry have been doing traditional media for decades.

What strikes me as a transmedia truth of sorts, is that we are not only talking of the Users meeting the Story. In a transmedia setting, it’s as much, or more, about the Story meeting the Users.

Now, this can be very stressful for a newly–launched, young and insecure Story. As I think we all know from school, Stories don’t reach their full size until well into the third season. Until then, they easily fall prey to larger Stories or succumb to over-hyping, low ratings or the No-Hit Syndrome that has been plaguing many of the latest herds of Story-younglings.

Attenboroughisms aside, and again as in so many of my posts relating back to what I’m working on myself, I feel many transmedia projects forget this. The Story needs to be influenced by the Users, and the Users must feel that they have influenced the Story on a fundamental level, for there to be genuine trust and commitment.

Re: the quote at the beginning – I believe that we can use the lies (or the creative stuff) that all good stories are made up of to approach our audience, our users. I believe that in a transmedia setting, the small truths Tim O’Brien talks about are all the more apparent, allowing an audience to see or sense the truths embedded in the content and engaging them more. That’s also how I view the need for a Story to be able to change after meeting the Users. The truths at the core should stay the same, but the story, the lies, around – they can change.

Some good posts that made me think of these things – Andrea Phillip’s post on ARGs and dancing with audiences, and Robert Prattens slides on Transmedia audience angagement and content strategy. Good reads!

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