Transfatty Media

David MarlettBy David Marlett, Managing Director, enkHouse

I don’t know what I’m talking about.

Now, mind you, I’ll join anyone in the Thunderdome of storytelling innovation and execution across the mediums of words, pictures, sounds and film…with even a tactile element thrown in for good measure. But precisely what is ‘good measure’? How much ‘trans’ is good for the media?

How much is too much?

The reality, of course, is that none of us know. We speculate and ponder. No matter how much our Promethean gene tells us that there are no limits, we know that in good storytelling*, there actually are. But where are those lines?

The question surrounds us. It’s there as we imagine a film or book’s potential in the realm of Transmedia. When we see multidimensional layers, fractal imagery and connectivity points for audience interaction; when video compression and bandwidth are no longer an issue. Holy crap! Put it all in!

Rock painting at the Serra da Capivara National Park

Vitor 1234 (CC Attribution ShareAlike 3.0)

Mankind is still mankind. Whether we are scratching charcoal images on the walls of caves, or building Potemkin villages by the Dnieper River, or illuminating the mind with a holographic Juliet rising, yearning, from a tablet device… it is all the same. It’s all an illusion. In the end, what matters is simply the story being communicated.

In this biz, we are wise to remind ourselves that just because we can, doesn’t mean we should. But perhaps the inverse is true, too: just because we can’t, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t. After all, wait a spell (what, a week, Steve?) and can’t will become can. But going too far robs the audience of the most vital of dishes which they themselves bring to the party: imagination.

And going too far robs the author of what she brings to the table: a story.

Example: Should audiences get to decide a narrative’s ending? It didn’t take off with DVDs, so why do we think it is a good idea with the next generation of media platforms?

I get asked that one question perhaps more than any other curiosity regarding enhanced eBooks, including our own: “Do you give the reader alternate endings, or the power to change how the character acts?” No, says I, arms crossed and proud, as if confident that I am right, “Readers want to feel the angst of the protagonists’ moral need, not be asked to decide for themselves what that need need be.”

But the truth is, as you now know, I don’t know what I’m talking about.

‘Til next week (What the Hell is Convergence Culture?)… write on!

*By the way, in this column my use of the words ‘storytelling’, ‘story’ and such includes the full spectrum of communication, from bleed-lead journalism to nihilistic art to a Somalian performance of Ibsen. If you have something to communicate, you have a story to tell.

David Marlett is the managing director of enkHouse, a transmedia production company based in Dallas and Los Angeles, focused on enhanced eBooks and interactive apps for the publishing, film and other entertainment industries.

Interested in learning more about using transmedia storytelling and cross-media strategies? Join us at StoryWorld, the only major gathering of industry leaders, decision makers, and transmedia specialists, to explore new business models, innovative partnerships, and fresh revenue streams.

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