Transmedia Teen Books
Novels are an ancient type of storytelling and books are still very popular, even among young people. Yet you can see that the reading culture is changing. Is a book alone enough to tell a story? And what other opportunies are there? I have been looking at various innovative projects in which the books story is only part of a larger story world. I have not included examples of cross-media (such as Harry Potter, where the books have been translated directly into games and movies).
Marcel van Driel writes youth thrillers that are linked to online games. His young audience is immersed into the story in different ways.
Subroza.nl is about Roza and her half brother Lindel. When their father dies it appears that they have inherited a computer program that is worth millions. Roza and Lindel need to solve a series of puzzles to find the program that is hidden somewhere on the internet. And they have only three days to do this. The title already reveals there is a website with this book. On this website you can follow the instructions yourself to solve the riddles.
Superhelden.nl is an addictive online game. The protagonist of the book, Iris, plays it 24/7. She does not know that the best players are abducted to a deserted island and they are trained to be secret agents: Superheroes. The creator of the game seems up to no good. What has he planned for them? Readers of the book can also discover the island on www.superhelden.nl
The books and games were a big success among the young audience. The books were sold out in no time and Marcel van Driel wrote a sequel for both titles. The concept is very innovative, but there are still a lot of things that need to be improved. The game that was developed for Superhelden.nl is not that great. The graphics are bad and it’s kind of boring. We expect a lot more from a game nowadays. It’s also a pity that many of the puzzles found on Superhelden.nl are the same as on Subroza.nl. I can still see the potential though. Kids love these kind of projects, especially when they don’t like reading that much.http://www.subroza.nl/message/ http://www.superhelden.nl http://www.marcenvandriel.nl
Cathy’s bookSean Stewart en Jordan Weisman, 2008
With Cathy’s book, you get the feeling it is is something you weren’t supposed to see. It is a diary with all kinds of doodles and drawings. Inside the diary is a folder with newspaper articles, pictures, postcards and much more. The cover says: ‘If you find this, please call (650) 266-8233.’ If you dial the number you hear a (very badly audible) voice, it’s clear that Cathy is in trouble. An exciting beginning of a less exciting story, that was tough to read.
It is difficult to determine when you need to take a look at the evidence. The sites are static, there’s no interactivity and the voicemails don’t provide any new information. I personally feel that it adds little to the user experience, it feels more like an interruption than an enhancement. Yet the book has garnered positive responses and two follow-up stories.http://cathysbook.com/
Root: an interactive storyRandom House Children’s Books, 2011
Root is an interactive story by Guardian Teen Books. Molly and Danny are young computer geniuses. Danny puts himself at risk by hacking a million dollar company and stealing highly sensitive information. He turns to Molly for help, but it’s too late. Danny has disappeared. Molly tries to discover what happened to her friend and that drags her down into the dangerous world of cybercrime.
Every day a new chapter was posted online and the content was influenced by the readers. Acenet is an online platform that also plays a major role in the story. Here readers could contribute to the story by submitting their own characters. These characters could turn up later in the story and save the day. Readers could also vote on polls and make online quizzes and challenges.
As the story progressed hyperlinks were added to the text. This I found very disturbing, because it distracted me from the main story. I would have preferred that the interactive options were shows at the end of every chapter. I did like the ambience of the story, it was very thrilling. And I believe the theme of the book is very suitable for online expansions.http://www.guardian.co.uk/childrens-books-site/series/root-an-interactive-story
Conspiracy 365Gabrielle Lord, 2010
Conspiracy 365 was originally a book series. It’s about Callum who gets a strange warning message after his fathers death. He decides to investigate the case and ends up in the most stressful situations. Each part of the series covers one month, from January to December.
This year a new Australian transmedia TV series aired, it is based on the book series. Each month there is a one hour episode on TV and the viewers can continue the search online. There is additional content to unlock, such as photos, videos, puzzles and voice messages. It looks pretty cool, unfortunately the episodes are not available in other countries.
The book series itself was not a transmedia project, but the TV series is. But the online extension would have also worked with the books. Especially because readers had to wait until next month for the next volume to be published, just like the viewers. This period is ideal for extending the story and the characters online.http://www.conspiracy365.com/ http://www.conspiracy365.tv
For some people reading has to be relaxing, so not everyone wants to make an effort when reading a book. It’s a new way of reading and it takes some time getting used to it. Youth will appreciate this new way of storytelling . Their short attention span will be constantly stimulated by using different channels. The emergence of e-books can also be important, because you can easily switch between the story and a website or an app. It can be a very interesting development, provided you do it the right way. Make sure it really adds something to your story.
My question to you is if you agree with me on these cases and do you know more transmedia books that are worth a look? Let me know.