#Weeknotes 13 (16 Apr) — Transmedia storytelling [part 2]
The course had us develop our story in 4 stages with an assignment at each stage. These elements in each stage: story, audience, user experience, and technology, interrelate with each other to ultimately form a larger, comprehensive story world and audience interaction. We had a week to complete each assignment along with the relevant course videos and materials. Between my day job and life tasks, I admit I probably didn’t spend an adequate amount of time on my course work. Yes… I can totally use that as an excuse for any disappointment felt.
Assignment 1: What is your story idea?
Q1: Provide a summary of your central story idea
At this stage, we learned different methods to generate story ideas such as the 6-word stories (like these). One great example given to us was “For sale: Baby shoes. Never worn.” I recall hearing this in the past before but the emotions evoked this second time around feel just as vivid. I love that a much larger story can be interpreted through the mere six words. Why was it never worn? Was it a bad gift? or something darker.. miscarriage? Definitely piqued my immediate interest.
We also learned about the hero’s journey which many captivating and engaging (often fictional) stories which we love. Like all the superhero movies. It loosely follows a structure where a hero-to-be lives in a world where something ain’t right, and the hero-to-be gets ‘called upon’ to undertake a challenge that they aren’t quite ready for. They might have a mentor, either they were there all along or appeared along the way, who’d guide the her-to-be in their journey. At some point, the hero-to-be would face their biggest fear or some seemingly impossible challenge and fails…kinda. They’d arrive at the cusp of death or a world ending equivalent scenario and they’re forced to push themselves beyond their limit and cut through their fears and ultimately saves the day. The hero-to-be becomes hero-is-born and they’ve become ‘wiser’. And both themselves and the world they live in would never be the same again (in most cases, for the better).
So I played with the 6-word technique and took inspirations from the hero’s journey and came up with the following story idea:
I’m imagining a world where there are no preventative deaths. I know in the current world where we live, there’s much health inequality amongst those who can afford care and those who cannot. This is highly unjust. Health support should be a right, not a privilege. (This is inspired by my recent research project with NHS England to improve physical health checks for people with severe mental illness. These patients face stark health inequalities and are at high risk of premature mortality, dying on average 20 years earlier than the general population due to preventable physical conditions.)
I envision a world where everyone will have their basic health needs met.
Maybe we can utilise the rapid rise of technology.
How great if we can have a wearable device, perhaps in the form of a bracelet, that you can wear 24/7 which can constantly monitor your health and mood in real-time. That way if there are any abnormalities detected, the local health services would be notified, and you can get support right away before anything gets worse. I want my story to depict such possibilities of a world where people are more cared for.
Perhaps I will start with the world where such a device already exists but is only available at a high cost. Only the privileged can afford such a device. Maybe the story will follow a girl named Sam, whose mother is sick (who has both severe mental and physical conditions) and cannot afford such a device.
With much at stake, Sam successfully secures a job at the company that created this device to “study” it in order to help her mother. With her brilliant engineering skills and the guidance of a family friend who’s a psychiatric nurse, Sam manages to make her own version of the device by getting her hands on (AKA stole) the device from work.
Through various trials and errors, Sam’s device showed potential and in a mere few months, her mother’s health improved thanks to the new enhancements done on the device (which integrates mental health considerations and support).
Unfortunately, she gets caught for stealing the device and gets jailed. The one who ended up saving her turned out to be a colleague that she didn’t initially get on with but eventually became an ally and a dear friend. The friend incorporated the new enhancements and pushed for trialling this enhanced version which eventually led to its public release.
Within a year of production, millions of people’s health outcomes improved and many preventative deaths avoided. Sam was eventually recognised for her achievements and gets released from jail. Acknowledged by her value, Samm then gets hired back to the original company holding a chief position where she used her passion to continuously improve the device and leveraged her influence to make the device more widely accessible and affordable to all.
I don’t think I ever put this much thought into creating a fictional story. But then again, my fear of writing has kept me away from most non-work-related writing/story creation all my life. Leaning on this hero’s journey made me think about the key stages of my story more and how they connect and the roles each character play. Which leads to…
Q2: Who are the characters and what are their motivations in the story?
I’ve always thought since the main character is most important, more thought is needed to develop their character and motivations. Other characters are just there to ‘support’ the protagonist so there’s no need to think about them too deeply. But then when I think about some of my recent favourite shows: Modern family, Brooklyn 99, and all-time favourite manga: One piece, where all the characters have their own story, goes under some transformation throughout the story which makes them just as complex as the ‘key players’.
While characters in each story may have a ‘role’ to play, it doesn’t mean that’s what defines them. We, humans, are complex creatures and we’re constantly changing as we age. And that’s what makes people interesting. You can never learn everything about someone. They likely don’t know themselves.
So it makes sense part of the assignment was to get me to think more deeply about the various characters in my story. So I went to work:
Main character: Sam (inspired by ‘Samaritans’). She’s bright, willful, and determined. Her parents have always taught her to be honest and kind. She feels pain when she sees others suffer. The current inequality in her world puts her in great distress. She looks after her widowed mother who’s severely ill and cannot afford to receive the right health care. This health inequality angers Sam. Little does she realise she has the capacity to change the world for the better. She’s the main heroine of the story. We’ll follow her journey and battle against the divided and profit-driven world.
Side character: Sam’s mother, who has accepted the way of the world and is ready to accept her fate (death). She loves her daughter and only wants what’s best for Sam. She doesn’t want her daughter to be in trouble because of her and she doesn’t want to be a burden. Her character represents the current world’s mentality. Resistance to push against the status quo.
Side character: The colleague friend who believes in the for-profit model. He grew up poor and an orphan so has always relied on himself. Fighting to survive his dream is to make a name for himself and “make it” in the world so he never has to suffer again. He was indifferent to Sams situation initially and was in some part responsible for her arrest. However, through interactions with Sam and her mom, he eventually becomes Sam’s ally and started to believe the world can be better. His character represents the current society and its potential for change.
The mentor: The kind psychiatrist nurse who diagnosed Sam’s mother’s mental condition. She’s been monitoring Sam’s mom and teaching Sam how to take care of her mom. Knowing the family doesn’t have enough means to receive the right support. She would teach Sam about the importance of mental health and its effects on physical health and vice versa. She plays a key role in helping Sam to develop the enhancement to the health device. Her dream is for a world of health equality and a holistic approach to healthcare where all aspects of the human experience are considered when providing health support. She would eventually be hired by the company to work with Sam to innovate the product based on her vision. Her character represents possibilities for an ever-improving world where everyone would be safe, protected and cared for.
The above would the starting point for identifying each of my character’s motivations in my story which I can use to develop them further.
The 6-word equivalent would be: Fight. Believe. And change the world.
Cheesy but I gotta start somewhere right?
Q3: What are the rules that define the larger story world surrounding the immediate narrative in your story?
Because this story is inspired by real issues with health care we have in our current world, I feel it only makes sense to have my story world to be similar. Just with more heightened disparities, inequalities, and conflict to amplify the world situation that is in dire need of change:
The story world is initially divided and full of people looking after themselves and are profit-driven. There’s a clear class divide between those who are rich and privileged and those who aren’t. However, the needs of the people are the same. There’s a high dissatisfaction around the way the less fortunate people are being treated. People who try to riot against this separation are often either captured and condemned. As the population of people suffering increased and the difference between the classes grew, change and revolution become unavoidable. The story of Sam is the pivotal turning point for this change.
Assignment 1 wrap
This is pretty much where I’d normally stop with storytelling. You have a story and you’re done. All that’s left is to spread on platforms and hope it picks up interest. Yup, I’m quite naive at this.
For transmedia storytelling, this is just the beginning. Now that I have a high-level storyline to work with, the real interesting work begins. Assignments 2–4 are really what’s going to turn this story into a transmedia story.
Side note: Initially, I was hoping to have all 4 assignment summaries in this one post. But as I got into it, I felt the urge to share what was going on in my head as I was responding to the assignments. *shrug* Maybe they’ll help to give to provide more context and in a way by reading it this way, you’re on this course learning with me. =)