Tag Archives: Writing

Transmedia … advice

I have no business writing this post. I don’t. I need to be busting my ass on a project brief. But something really bothers me about a number (not all!) of transmedia blog sites.

For example, check out this short post by Peter Von Stackleburg: Computer Graphics & Designing Emotion in Transmedia Stories.

…It’s great advice. Honest. Light and color in visual imagery have powerful effects on emotion, and on narrative expectation. It’s great advice for people creating 3D comics, or 3D animation, or creating single frame artwork in a 3D computer graphic style. It’s great advice for anyone working with images, really.

But this has nothing to do with transmedia specifically. Transmedia is about multiple platforms. A deeper discussion, one true to its title, would ask questions about how to graphically link all platforms that include visual imagery. How does one “design emotion” over several platforms? Transmedia lets a creator gun or throttle all kinds of emotional responses in complex and interconnected ways. If you have a story about a young couple, told over Twitter, Facebook, and a personal blog run by one partner, you could build suspense like this:

Together

Together (Photo credit: Thorsten Becker)

Bob’s been updating Facebook with his locations all day. He has his phone set to auto-upload any pictures he takes (he’s said before that he does it to screw any thief who might steal his phone and take incriminating pictures of him or herself). He’s off at a conference somewhere, the place isn’t that important. What is important is that he stops checking in, and when Jane sends him a good night tweet, he doesn’t respond. Jane tweets later to see if any of their mutual friends is with Bob, as she tried calling him, but the phone rings out. Her friends tweet back jokes and assurances, but then they all go to bed.

And then she gets a Facebook notification about a new picture upload from him. She goes to check — it’s dark, grainy, mostly indistinct. But there’s a streetlight in the background, and someone laid out on the ground not far from there. In less than an hour, Jane posts the picture on her blog, explaining she’s been in touch with police, and asking for people to get the word out and help.

That is an example — rough, sure — but it’s an example of how to use emotion across platforms. I hesitate to use the term design. I’m not sure how to design an emotion. I am pretty knowledgeable in evoking them.

And on a final note, I plan to write about Mr. Von Stackleburg’s posts that I do think are insightful; I realise it’s a bit unfair to just call him out like this, and I don’t want to give the impression that his blog overall is lacking, because it’s not. Also — if he’s reading this, I completely intended to comment directly in the blog with questions, but I couldn’t log in to the site, and I couldn’t find a way to register to comment! :(


Words that stopped me

So, in vague connection with my doctoral work, I stumbled upon game writing. Blogs, mainly, talking about games, being a gamer, the big things at the moment like the unacceptable ending to Mass Effect 3 and the enormous disappointment of the rape-as-tougherning-up strategem in the Tomb Raider reboot.

I have to think about these things critically, now. I’m mining them for direction, for hints, intuition. There are answers out there that will help me sharpen up my final project. And I need to wade through this stuff, good and bad.

Now, before I started reading up on these things, I never knew the name Tim Rogers. He’s a video game developer (and founder and director of action button entertainment — not a member of You Am I) who writes the occasional entry for Kotaku. He rambles — and when I say “rambles,” it’s not in the pejorative. He ties every aside with a gossamer thread like spider silk; subtle, invisible, but strong as a mofo. As I read through his articles, I found myself sharing many of his viewpoints. But what got me completely was the heart in his written thoughts.

And this line in particular stopped me dead (see whole article here).

“Labeling anyone for any reason, in any capacity, is a misdemeanor of the heart.”

I — I just — this should be required learning for everyone. Honestly.


Engines of drama

I’m thinking of posting more fiction in here, vignettes, episodes, the like. I haven’t read or written much fiction since graduating from Columbia in 2001. There are a number of reasons for that, but one of the ones I came to grips with happened when I was home with family over March and April. When I was in high school, and angry with the world as high schoolers are, I chose to do things my way by writing things. Usually novel length things that may or may not have turned into anything publishable, which isn’t really the point, anyway.

The point is this: I read fiction to escape. It sounds obvious, yes, but that’s what it was. It was an escape, a way to bide time, a way to be in a place I preferred instead of the onerous real world with its minutiae and obligation.

I reverted to my 16 year old self for the length of April. Honest. Fortunately I was self-aware enough to watch it happen, and take the opportunity to understand it, because this turns out to be the sledge the rest of me rode when I really began writing.

Before Tom Waits married Kathleen Brennan, he was well on his way to becoming a drunken-sot stereotype who sang only one kind of song, regardless of how masterfully he wrote and rendered them. And the way he got there was by being that drunk, by doing some really unpleasant and horrible stuff. And he came to the conclusion that you don’t have to keep doing the awful things to know how they feel.

Well. I didn’t have to keep doing the awful things to know how they felt, or to write the damn things down with any semblance of versimilitude.

The problem with my 16-year-old methodology was that I went on the ride, completely and unreservedly. If I was reading something really devastating, I’d be devastated. No wish or desire to be in the real world at the dinner table having steak and potatoes. Same if I were in the middle of a hellacious scene. And I cracked that wide open while I was home, a world of sensation and hurt and awe that I hadn’t gotten near in decades because I couldn’t aford that kind of disconnection, not when rent and utilities were on the line.

The trick here, see is that these powerful feelings — they’re what make something real. They don’t have to be front and center (in fact, they’re less effective if they are), but they need to be there in the distance, casting a pallor or sepia wash over the scene they inform. A stage play scene is all emotion and the push-pull between two or more characters. A good scene, anyway. A compelling scene.

So what I’ve been learning, over the past few weeks, is how not to squelch that powerful emotionality. Instead I’m trying to find a way to harness it, or surf it, keep it from commanding me and still being able to let it do what it needs to and have it inform the work I create.

It’s friggin’ hard.

But these past weeks have been illuminating. I’ve had characters crop up that I really feel invested in, that I love no matter how rotten they are, and I find myself wanting to know just what they’re going to do next. This bodes well for the latter parts of my degree, but for now I need to be a bit more academic and things are getting a little out of hand.

Well, I can throw my arms up and drown, or I can learn from what’s happening. So off I go. And hence the little bits of fiction here and there. A safe outlet, small doses to relieve the pressure cooker without derailing the missions at hand.


Update from off-shore

That’s a metaphorical off-shore. I’m still here in the antipodes.

For those who know me, you won’t be at all surprised that despite being keenly aware of the work expected of me and the like, I’ve still managed to let school broadside me. I’m just frustrated at myself, really; I’m not completely a grown-up and am probably not capable of it anyway, but I tend to be pretty mature when it really counts.

And this is just soup all over the floor.

It’s a kind of manic, terrified joy, really, like that awful, vertiginous moment before the first drop on a roller coaster. Every nerve fiber is screaming that this is a very bad idea with all the falling and hurtling through space at alarming angles on a loud rickety machine, but this is seriously fun and astonishingly interesting and nothing short of thrilling.

I know I’m not saying anything new. But I hope it helps me somehow to say it.

Anyway, I’m back off to the grindstone or plasma screen or whatever’s the right metaphor now. Keyboard? Mouse? High speed wireless connection?

…Heh. I’ve managed to compare higher education to a loud rickety machine. Heh.


Oh, NaNo (or, forgiving oneself)

Well, I’ve admitted defeat. There was a long holiday weekend that was supposed to be all about the writing, but it turned out to be more about a lot of ocean swimming, going up into the mountain hinterlands, and driving a Jaguar.

Not my Jaguar, sadly, but I count myself lucky to have driven it.

Ordinarily, I’d be tearing myself apart for goofing off all weekend instead of writing. Certainly, if I were writing for deadline, I’d be in a world of pain right now (I was 15k words down on the 20th). In fact, if I had been writing for a freelance deadline I wouldn’t have gone on the trip — because I know myself.

The reason I’m not upset that I lost a long weekend writing is that I spent it living. I hung out with friends, talking and laughing and being obnoxious and silly. I spent some time on my own, in the sun and in the ocean. And I got to watch people, and listen to them, and just see life going on. And I saw some incredibly beautiful places, too.

I got to do a bit of living.

For me, and I suspect for a lot of people, everything is a story. At least, everything has the potential for a story in my fevered little mind. Hearing how other people talk gives me the ear and experience I need to write good dialogue. Seeing new places and doing new things opens up ideas and keeps me from getting in a rut.

Again, I emphasize–had I been under a professional deadline, I wouldn’t have gone.

That said, I’m at peace with losing NaNo this year. The story I was writing was holding together fairly well — it wasn’t a question of not being able to move the story forward, it was simply a matter of not organizing my time properly. I am a little sad I won’t have anything done for November 30, but I’m prepping myself now for Script Frenzy, which is in April.

Before that, I’m thinking of composing something for the BBC World Service‘s 2011 International Radio Playwriting Competition. The deadline’s in March, which is doable for a 60-minute radio play. Now I just have to come up with an idea.


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