Must connect, must make sense.

Today I read a good post by Pamela Rutledge over at Psychology Today. She talks about the psychological power of storytelling and brings up some points that I find are absolutely crucial for transmedia developers to take into consideration when developing their stories. I’ve touched upon the subject before, in Transmedia – the Story, the Experience and the Needs, since I believe that storytelling in a transmedia setting makes it possible to satisfy a greater number of needs than most forms of traditional storytelling. For example – we’ve all come out of a movie theatre, euphoric, with a deep sense of wanting to know what happened to the characters after the movie ended. Or, in the case of Avatar, LotR and many others, wanting to be a part of the world we have just gotten a glimpse of. Transmedia storytelling can fill this need, at least much better than other methods.

But we need to be wary and know what limits we are working within. As Rutledge writes:

In spite of all the excitement, however, the human brain has been on a slower evolutionary trajectory than the technology. Our brains still respond to content by looking for the story to make sense out of the experience.

And this is so very crucial. The different parts must connect, but must also make sense. Whichever way a user/consumer/viewer chooses to enter a narrative superstructure, they must fit logically into the mythology and the storyworld.

In a post about themes, deriving from Jeff Gomez’s and Starlightrunners way of working with coherent themes in transmedia projects, Lucas J.W. Johnson writes that:

…. there should be a broad theme present to unify the pieces, to actually allow for that dialogue between the stories of the property.

So this is one way of looking at it, although not at all at odds with what Rutledge writes about . As I wrote in a comment to Lucas’ post, the different parts of the terminology are not mutually exclusive in any way. Rather, they build on each other and support each other. With a solid theme to lean on, your stories will unfold HOW they should. WIth a solid world, they will unfold WHERE they should, and with a solid superstructure they will unfold WHEN they should, etc.

Always keep on track with your transmedia narrative. As Rutledge writes:

Humans seek certainty and narrative structure is familiar, predictable, and comforting. Within the context of the story arc we can withstand intense emotions because we know that resolution follows the conflict.

This is not to say that it doesn’t pay to experiment with storytelling principles, especially when we can plan for audience engagement and user interaction in a much deeper way, when planning transmedia. I simply find it is always of the essence to – from time to time – go back to the basics, to mirror what I’m working on against “how it always has been done”. A mix of both, with logical connections and attractive content coupled with clear calls-to-action, that is the future.

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