Fresh, Big-Picture thinking has been in good supply at the Immersive Writing Lab workshop held last week. The program, developed by Portal Entertainment’s Julian McCrea, engaged a program of exploring multi-platform development and storyworld writing. The workshop brought together some very heavy hitters to explore in depth and rigour the craft of building dynamic storyworlds as a central cretaive IP from whcih all manner of stories and experiences may emerge.
Taking the project a step further the IWL has launched the most forward-thinking writing competition ive yet scene. The task is not to write a Script, Episode, Fetaure or Treatment - but rather to design a Storyworld. No easy task to be sure, but a challenge well worth laying down. There are two very appealing prizes on offer
1) The winning writer will have their storyworld developed with Portal Development, with an initial 6k development fund.
2) The top 5 will have their storyworlds read and reviewed by Sarah Clay, BBC Multiplatform Exec Producer Read the full rules below.
You have 3 months to build your storyworld for the competition and you can read more details on Circalit
In helping kick off the competition Julian asked me to pen a few posts about generating storyworld dynamics and the best point of departure is the Logline.
Description is not enough. Writing a story-world full of imaginative, interesting or clever things will not lead to transmedia narrative utopia. For a Story-world to work it must boil and bubble with its own internal combustion, not sit and stew as purple prose.
A Story-world is a world under pressure, a world where dynamic oppositional forces - both personal and public - exert great weight on characters and events. And if you put your world under enough pressure it will explode…. and that’s what you want it to do! .
Creating a dynamic pressurised story-world begins with the simplest of sentences - the Logline. Too often such Loglines are enslaved to the petty needs of marketing tag-lines or empty descriptions. But if we want our Logline to actually be a tool, something tangible and useful that will vibrantly and actively guide the writing process, then we need to take a more deliberate structural approach to writing them.
The Logline is more than a short summary and will tell us much more than a description of Time and Place. A logline should encompass the story-world’s opposing forces and its natural dramatics. It will align the reader in the centre of great pressures and, very often, seemingly insurmountable problems.
A structure for a such a logline might go something like this:
‘X’ is a (what kind of) world
where/of/which (unique element of the world)
with/where (another unique element)
and/but (an opposite and opposing element)
with/and (another opposite and opposing element)
(characters) within this world must (do something; struggle, fight, resist, understand, learn, survive…)
More than just where, when and who, this structured logline sets up the dynamics that will force characters into action and invests your story-world with natural dramatics that will incite great and endless cross-platform stories to flow.
For example, lets take something obvious like Star Wars and extract a structured logline for it..
Star Wars is an inter-galactic fantasy world of both magic and technology, where a huge empire controls the galaxy and small bands of rebels, smugglers and misfits must either succumb the empire or struggle against its oppression.
In 38 words we have all the pressure we need for great stories burst forth. The Logline sets a social hierarchy of control and power (the Empire and the Rebels). It marks a particular and unique quality to the world (Technology and Magic). It’s aligned us with the underdog in a David and Goliath mythology (the Rebels and misfits). And it’s exerted a central moral, ethical and emotional dilemma for the characters we are aligned with (succumb or struggle).
A logline that can embody these major, macro-level, pressures is more than a pitch line or a marketing blurb. Print it out and stick it out on the wall in your office in big black letters. If its focused and succinct it will be the touchstone for every script, idea, event, action or plot that may manifest on any given platform for your story-world.
Most importantly, such a logline points directly to the next step in story-world design, the Rules. The Story-world Rules stem directly from the natural dramatics in the logline. The rules are a way to pressurise the world.
Part 2 of this post will expand on how to develop Rules for your world so stay tuned.
In developing your Storyworld you may also find the Celtx Project Series Development Bible template very useful. You can download it here. (right+click, save-as) Whilst it’s focus is on episodic web and broadcast series, the principles of sustainable Storyworld design are absolutly consistent.