Reviews, Views and Adventures in Content Creation

Monday, February 13, 2012

Outside the (Storytelling) Box

Are you stuck in one dimension?

On a recent visit to a Barnes and Noble bookstore (to actually buy something, rather than target titles to download!) I came across a display for a new young adult novel that signals a developing option in storytelling.

"Chopsticks," by Jessica Anthony, is a mystery about the disappearance of Glory, a teen piano prodigy, and her relationship with Frank, an artistic boy next door.  According to the official description, "nothing is what it seems, and Glory's reality is not reality at all."  Through words, pictures and photographs, the reader has to determine the line between what is real, what is imagined - and and what is madness.

The display at Barnes and Noble drew my attention, however, because it suggests far more than a straightforward literary experience: "A Book.  An App.  A Website. A Love Story. Read It. View It. Experience It."  Storytelling, in this case, expands beyond the page and engages the reader through other platforms.

A cursory view of the description for the $6.99 iPad/iPhone app suggests that it offers additional features to help readers solve the mystery at hand, and delve deeper into the lives of the central characters.   For example, readers can explore hidden clues in Glory's scrapbook, drill down into the CD mix she shares with Frank, or watch their IM conversations "live." In some cases, there's even video.

I haven't read the book, or bought the app - but the concept of storytelling across platforms is intriguing - for the right premise.   Differentiating true storytelling with a promotional gimmick, however, will be the challenge.

Both traditional and online content creators involved in creative storytelling seem to remain focused on building linear, platform-specific product, providing only supplementary and fan-related content across other platforms.  Few, it seems, are looking for ways to enhance or expand the story experience across these platforms.

What do you think?  I'd also like to hear about vloggers or other online content creators who are experimenting with multi-platform storytelling.  Let me know - I'd love to share your experience.

1 comment:

  1. I love the idea of non-linear story-telling and have long thought the web would be a vehicle for popularizing that. (Imagine at the end of a chapter/webpage that instead of turning the page to what the author thought should be next, you had a menu of options to click. No two readers would have the same experience.)

    For better or for worse, the only experiments I've ever seen of such technique did come off as more gimmick than substance. I'm sure there have to be better ones out there, but I think the bottom line is that as readers, deep down in our psyche, we want linear. We want things to resolve at a standard pace.

    Life is non-linear and non-structured enough. Who needs that in a book? Or maybe I'm just getting old...