This is an excerpt from Tyler Weaver’s Comics for Film, Games, and Animation. In Comics for Film, Games, and Animation, Tyler Weaver teaches you how to integrate comic storytelling into your own transmedia work by exploring their past, present, and future.
The Future of Storytelling
We have a limitless supply of technology at our fingertips. With each technological innovation comes a transitional period, which we’re experiencing at this writing, a transition from mass, homogenized media with one-way communication to a democratized, independent, engagement media economy. But, no matter the technology we have, great storytelling must reign supreme. It doesn’t matter if you create something that utilizes all forms of media. Format can never trump story.
We live in a hyper-connected world. In every single person carrying a Blackberry or iPhone, a Kindle or iPad, you have a person just looking to be immersed in a story. It’s our job to give them what they don’t even know they want—and by doing so, usher in a new age of storytelling.
The thing of it is, we’ve already seen an age like this. History has a funny way of being a cyclical phenomenon with newer, shinier toys.
You Must Remember This . . .
— A story is a narrative construction in which ideas and themes are communicated in entertaining, persuasive, or educational ways.
— We tell stories to entertain, to persuade, to educate, and to understand.
— All great stories are about telling truths are fostering understanding of themes.
— The five elements of story are Character, Conflict, Risk, Place, and Theme.
— Plot should flow organically from all of these.
— Format can never trump story.
Shattering the Black Box
In his seminal book on transmedia and the collision of old and new media, Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide, Henry Jenkins, former Director of the Comparative Media Studies Program at MIT, talks of the “Black Box Fallacy.” He describes the argument of those in favor of “The Black Box” as: “All media content is going to flow through a single black box into our living rooms . . . figure out which black box will reign supreme, then everyone can make reasonable investments for the future.”1
We have XBoxes. Playstations. Television. Comic Books. Graphic Novels. Feature Films. Short Films. Web serials. Smart phones. Tablets. And yes, some people still read books. (Ahem). The list of media forms at our fingertips is endless—and it’s going to keep growing.
Jenkins also states that “Part of what makes the black box concept a fallacy is that it reduces media change to technological change and strips aside the cultural levels . . .”2
And indeed, we are witnessing not only the technological changes listed above and in numerous other sources, but a significant cultural shift— forwards, with technology and connectivity, and backwards, with a return to a more collective creativity and consumption habits. We are creating stories for a generation, the Millennials (and their eventual progeny), for whom a world without Internet is akin to the days before electricity. It’s a world where people can play out an epic battle for humanity with others all over the world, or download the latest television episode to their phone. Everyone is connected; rather, everyone is hyper-connected. People want their media when they want it, where they want it. To have any sort of relevance and resonance, we have to be both great storytellers with a formidable command of media, and, as Woody Allen said, “fifteen minutes ahead.”
People of my generation are kind of used to this “when you want it where you want it” consumption (or, to appropriate a term I love from Lawrence Lessig’s Remix: Making Art and Commerce Thrive in the Hybrid Economy, “absorption”). We had GI Joe, Transformers, all of that; a cartoon series, a movie, and those awesome action figures. But then again, a cordless home telephone was a remarkable technological innovation where I grew up. It was training wheels for riding the bike of 21st-century media.
But today? That level of fragmentation has exponentially grown. Today’s new generation? Those Internet-babies? They’re conditioned for fragmentation. Twitter. Facebook. A comic. A message board to discuss the comic. The latest video game trailer on IGN. The digital comic of the show they just downloaded that tells the story between the episode they’re watching and the episode they’ll download next. And then tweeting about it. As Frank Rose, author of The Art of Immersion: How The Digital Generation is Remaking Hollywood, Madison Avenue, and the Way We Tell Stories said in an interview with me, they’re truly “the people formerly known as the audience.”3
1. Henry Jenkins, Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide (New York: New York University Press, 2006), pp. 14–15.
2. Ibid., 15.
3. Tyler Weaver, Digging Deep: An Interview with Frank Rose, Mastering Film. Available online at: http://masteringfilm.com/digging-deep-an-interview-with-frank-rose/.
Excerpt from Comics for Film, Games, and Animation: Using Comics to Construct Your Transmedia Storyworld by Tyler Weaver. © 2012 Taylor & Francis Group. All Rights Reserved. Comics for Film, Games, and Animation can be purchased Amazon.com, BN.com, and wherever fine books can be found.