Transmedia Writers Have More Fun

In case you didn’t know, I’m moving to a new house — so, in the middle of packing up one house and cramming the stuff into a new one, I’m both a) busy and b) possibly without consistent Internet access. Which means it’s time for some guest bloggers to step up to the plate.

Next up is one of the queens of transmedia, an empress of the ARG: Andrea Phillips, whose awesome blog — Deus Ex Machinatio — is worth your clicky-clicky.

Pssst. Over here, kid. Yeah, you. You looking for the Wendigator? Too bad for you, he’s off getting his “personal effects attended to” or some shit like that. But lucky for you, he gave me the keys to the kingdom.

So I’m here to bring you into the 21st century, where we have robots that vacuum your house and little machines that can pop out a fresh loaf of bread on demand and magical fabrics that never wrinkle–

–what do you mean we had all of that stuff in the 20th century? Shut up. No, you shut up.

Ahem. Moving on. Mr. Wendignation over here talks a lot about paper publishing. Booooorrrrring. I’m here to tell you that if you’re writing dead text in the year 2010, you are missing out, amigo. Allow me to introduce you to the rich buffet of carnal delights known only to we writers who work in transmedia.

First up, you may be asking: Yo, WTF is transmedia? I’ve answered that question at tiresome length before, but for our purposes, let’s say it’s telling a story to an audience by embedding it in the communications channels they’re already using. It’s a pretty crap-ass wonky definition, but it gives us something to go from. Stop looking at me like that.

It’s like this: If you’re writing for transmedia, you’re using Twitter as a vehicle for narrative. Or YouTube videos, or blog posts, or Facebook, or the real world, or even — when you get really good at it — all of those things at the same time

Transmedia writers have all the fun. All of it.

You know what’s never, ever happened to me as a transmedia writer? Rejection! Nope, I’ve never, ever received a transmedia rejection letter. That’s because there is no gatekeeper for the internet. You wanna tell a story on Twitter, set yourself up an account and let that bad boy rip. Write up a script, grab a video camera, and get that fucker shot and up on YouTube your own self.

It’s the Wild, Wild West out there, complete with the steampunk mecharachnids. Anything goes! The only thing keeping you from crazy, even unprecedented kinds of innovation and experimentation is how much time and effort you’re willing to sink into your hobby and/or career.

Sure, you might not get an audience of thousands for your work, especially not right away. But there’s no guarantee your pwecious wee widdle novel is ever going to see the glowing faces and eager hands of a paying reader, either. Not to be harsh, but… the odds are not exactly stacked in favor of that in the first place, sweet cheeks.

As for non-paying readers, well… Raise your hand if you’ve spent a year or two (or five) on a novel, and then sent it around to your super-enthusiastic friends and family members, and afterward it was Never Spoken Of Again, like you’d demonstrated your infection with some kind of skin disease and nobody wanted to make you feel bad. It’s sure as hell happened to me.

…Oh, is it just me, then?

Look, if you’re working in transmedia, you’re generally working in shorter bites, so you don’t have the same sense of laboring long months in isolation with nobody but you to love your work. You can spend a quick day, or even a week, working on a piece of story, and then you can plop it out in the big wild internet and see what happens.

There’s no guesswork. You set up some Google alerts, you watch forums and chat rooms and Tweets, and you see exactly what the audience’s first reaction is. If the reception isn’t great, then you know right away. You can adjust the future flow of the story to have less of that and more of this instead. You can get better faster.

When the reception is great, on the other hand… It’s… unimaginable. It’s like a choir of angels caressing you with their feathers in a soft, fluffy cloud while little kittens with wings bring you delicious sweetmeats and rainbow-tailed meteors streak by overhead. And plus you are simultaneously high on ecstasy and also cocaine.

OMG, you guys, this one time I murdered a character and our audience was so heartbroken over it that they folded hundreds of origami cranes and delivered them to our office. There was this one time they said they were so scared they couldn’t sleep. When they said they cried for hours. When they laughed so hard their boss came to see what they were doing.

When’s the last time you got such a powerful reaction from your audience?

It’s possible you actually did, but the nature of flat fiction isn’t to share the experience, which means you, the auteur, can’t eavesdrop and see whether you had your mojo on that day. Transmedia is built to be talked about. When you’re in the groove, you hear about it. Sweet, sweet instant feedback, the writer’s ultimate drug.

Now, I’m not saying that you should all abandon ship and leave the Wendigorium a sad, empty shell of a blog. Dude’s got some great things to say about words and characters and all of that technical jazz. But if you’re tired of slaving away on something that might never see a reader to love it, if you think maybe, just maybe, you’d like to try your hands at this whole transmedia thing…

Try it, kid. You’ll like it.