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Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Tickticktick: Story Maps & Time

Hello T, B-T readership,

I'm back in Norwich. The Ashford Matalan was transcendent, but all things must pass.

The Wigmores, you'll be pleased to hear, have strengthened although Wigmore B refuses to acknowledge me, on any platform, since my return. Her last tweet was on the last day of 2010 and she's kept a dedicated silent counsel since. My day now largely consists of running round after her with a plastic bag as she casually grinds partially masticated toast into the carpet. She's worked out how to use the remote control and we watch a never-ending blanket of television, it doesn't matter what as long as the coverage is constant and her Twitter feed. At night, I've hooked her and the TV up to headphones so that she doesn't disturb Marion. She stands there all night like a terrible be-cardiganed Guantanamo inmate, enraptured by PriceDropTV.

In actuality, she only pissed on one magazine and it was an i-D from 2007
so in many ways it was a Christmas blessing. 

 As for myself, I'm very aware that today is the world at large's official First Day Back at work and I've been trying to behave accordingly. 2011 is the year that my main storyline gets rolled out, everything clicks into gear, my media star bursts forth and lo! it's all Guardian interviews and consultancy paycheques.

Transmedia & Temporality AKA ticktickticktickticktick

The beauty of writing a novel or a screenplay or a play is how gloriously hidden you are. Things can be destroyed, you can write terrible sentences, and mistakes can be made anonymously and scrubbed out before either James Woods gets a look at it. Transmedia is a mix of obsessive party-planning -webs of mind maps that telegraph the road ahead - and improvisational responses to a gamey, shifting audience.

I just read a hugely helpful but utterly terrifying post 'How To Improve Engagement With Your Webisodes'  by Robert Pratten in which the idea of a temporal narrative feed is explored with a look at the advantages and the pitfalls to a slow-release episodic approach to storytelling are detailed in a series of diagrams containing angry yellow blocks of narrative truth (all illustrations from original article which is a good deal more cogent than I am):

Overload the audience with content and they get confused, angry, elderly.

Piss about too much and get the dreaded zzzzz - a loss of readership and a lot of screaming into the void.

Viewers and readers demand smooth, organic transition between media and a constant subtle feed of content. It's like running a circus show 24/7, where every act is choreographed, rehearsed and the acrobats are jostling with the elephants. Get it right and it's breathtaking, joyful but get it wrong and it's all faintly embarrassing, everyone covered in a thin layer of glittery shit.  For all the boxes and the planning, you've got to be responsive to change, the voice  and constant scrutiny of the audience.

Pratten advises a careful interweaving of media properties with 'Advance screenings' and peeks for the faithful who can then request the story strands and the media that they're most interested in ahead of schedule. I guess the ideal early adopter Transmedia consumer is well used to curation and the ability to conflate or exand their viewing/reading experience based on their needs. It's DVD boxset/iplayer mentality - where temporal agency is taken away from the distributor (like say a TV company/cinema who schedule their shows/film for prime-time viewing) and divvied up between the creator (who controls the direct feed of story) and the viewer, who portions out their consumption according to their needs. In this way, visual narrative becomes like a novel than ever: portable (because of  the growing proliferation of affordable tablets and smart phones) and immersive. A reader of novels has always been granted movement and the right to dictate the rate of consumption. Increasingly, every time of reader demands this experience

With that in mind, here's a sneak peek at coming attractions for the faitthful. All three of you.
A portion of my mind map and the single most productive element I wrote all day.

I'm so afraid of failure. So stymied by the thought of a thousand eyes looking for plot holes or, worse still, a gaping maw where a viewership should be. 

My belly is on fire.
Nobody says a word.
Price Drop TV mocks me with its insistent purple triangles and yellow blocks. Everything's a storymap.

The fact that the first comment under the video is: "I've got to admit I'm wanking over this right now"
seems like the headiest of inaccessible praise. If South London Asian teenage boys aren't wildly ejaculating over my output by August 2011, I know I will have failed. It's probably all a question of branding.


Breakfast: Toast or Porridge?


MGolberg said...

In the spirit of ‘I Can’t Believe You Made Me Watch That Right Before Bed (TM)’, the phrase ‘orphaned episodes that are never watched’ makes me almost unbearably sad.

In all seriousness, despite the joys of being hidden (witness my empty profile – goggle at my masked picture – gasp at the enigma!), I am terrified I am writing an orphaned novel that will never be read. True, if I fail, my shame lies hidden in my bottom drawer / hard drive / calcifying soul, and no one need ever know. The problem is, writing on a computer makes drafting and redrafting, chopping and changing, cutting and pasting so easy that the book itself can stop feeling like a solid thing. It’s all done in secrecy and solitude until some unspecified day in the future when it will be perfect and can be released into the world. It will never be perfect. Does that mean it will never be finished? Will I be writing this book forever?

I know how much work and drafting goes into what you do, but the forward momentum that is intrinsic to it really drives creation. There is something liberating in not being able to go back and change things. The process is part of the product, and the malleability of it is inspiring – and terrifying, obviously, because if it goes wrong, those orphans are left shivering out there in the open, accusing YOU. I’m not sure I could do it. I need to get it straight in my own head what I’m trying to do (and that usually takes a few drafts) before anyone else starts generously donating their opinions on what I ought to be doing. I wish I could – I wish I were that brave.

Enough rambling. Now is the time to wrap myself in a riddle wrapped in an enigma wrapped in a slanket, and Do Some Goddamned Work. Mmm... fleecy...