A Creator's Guide: A Short Update

It's been just a bit over a year since the launch of A Creator's Guide to Transmedia Storytelling. Naturally time and technology have moved on, so I thought I'd take a minute to think about what's happened since then, and whether I have anything new to say.

As it turns out, I do.

Tumblr is Amazing and Facebook is Terrible

I didn't give a lot of time to specific platforms in the Guide, preferring mostly to talk about general rules for how to use a social tool. They're always changing; better to know how to critically examine a platform and decide how to use it for yourself.

But the social media landscape has changed in some very particular ways, and I'd like to address that a bit.

First: Tumblr is amazing. I wasn't very familiar with it yet when I wrote the Guide -- you could argue I'm still not -- but the way that fan communities develop and propagate on Tumblr is absolutely phenomenal. Tumblr is where people go to love things. And you want people to love you, right?

To a creator, I would say: Make yourself as Tumblr-friendly as possible. Make an account. Post art in various stages of completion. Share fan art and fanfic and inside jokes. Engage with the community -- not necessarily inside of your fictional world, but as the creator of your fictional world. You can put characters and in-story elements on Tumblr, but it takes a light touch and isn't the best use of the platform; it's fundamentally not in tune with how people interact with Tumblr.

On the other hand: Facebook has become a less and less useful tool to a creator. At this point I'd say it's close to worthless. Various policies have long made Facebook an iffy proposition... but in recent months it's become clear that even if someone likes or friends you, they may never see the bulk of what you post unless you pony up some steep cash. If your audience isn't likely to see what you put on Facebook, you're just wasting time, energy, and money by having a presence there at all. Don't bother.

Social Media is Not for Plot

There was a time when I felt that advancing plot through live action on social media was a good idea. I no longer believe this. The reason: volume.

As social media platforms has been more and more widely adopted, the average number of people any given person has friended of followed has climbed ever higher. That means the stream of updates going by is faster and faster. Which means it's very easy for any one update to be lost in the shuffle. And that means your fantastic, tight, tense action sequence may vanish into the ether, never viewed by man, woman, or child.

You don't want that. Better to stick to social media for what it does best... extras. Social media is still brilliant for characterization and for interaction. Use it to add depth and complexity to your characters. Use it as a place to let your audience and characters talk to each other. Use it for your non-load-bearing story elements; the decoration, not the stuff that holds the roof up.

The exception to this is if you know for a fact you already have a very highly engaged and attentive audience, and you've told them exactly when to be paying attention (or you can count on them to update one another later on.) But this is very strictly an advanced and late-stages move, not something you can get away with out of the gate. Be cautious. Be realistic.

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries

I've long been predicting the onset of a transmedia "web series++," as I've been calling it: a web series with light transmedia elements that deepen the experience at a fairly low cost, and requiring a fairly low engagement. That project finally arrived in the guise of a modern-day adapatation of Pride & Prejudice, The Lizzie Bennet Diaries.

I urge all of you to become familiar with the project -- I wish I could've written it up in the Guide. It's one of the landmark new structures of our day, and I expect a lot more along the same general lines, though likely with only varying degrees of success. And it won an Emmy, so that's nice, too.

Going Forward with A Creator's Guide

It's back-to-school season which means I'm seeing a spike in sales of the Guide -- thanks bunches! I really appreciate it! Please do reach out and let me know how you're using it; I'm absolutely tickled at the variety of schools and courses who have found it a useful resource.

I'm also starting to get back-to-school invitations to Skype into classes to speak. I did a lot of that last year and was flattered to be asked, but it played havoc on my schedule. And this year, on top of client work, I'm juggling production of Lucy Smokeheart while trying to break into genre print publishing... so my schedule is a little intense.

So... go ahead and ask if you'd like me to pop into your class on Skype? But please don't be mad if I say no. I don't love you any less, I promise.

I've also been asked if I'm planning on writing a new edition or companion to the Guide. The answer is no. I think I've said about all I have to say in the Guide. I could probably produce a companion volume with worksheets and what-have-you. But honestly I think it would encourage a formulaic result for people who use it, it would inhibit creativity in the space, and I'd only be doing it for the money and not because I thought it would be a contribution to the art.

I do not want to be That Girl. There may one day be a new edition of the Guide... but as this post shows, I don't have a lot of new stuff to say. So for now, we're cool.

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