Introduction to the Transmedia Storycube for Authors

Thursday, March 3, 2011 6:14 AM Posted by Kevin Shockey
As I continue to explore the transmedia space, I've repeatedly come across the discussion of the storycube and their importance for thinking transversally. Simply put, any "story" that you have consists of three basic components: the characters, the location, and when the story takes place.

If you think back, you might remember this diagram from an old math class, where you had to plot data on a graph using data points on three axis (x,y,z). That's all a story cube is, a three dimensional graph of the data points in a story.Using each of the three variables as an axis, x = location, y = characters, and z= time. We come up with a simple storycube:

Now, it gets interesting!  Here, we might be introducing a new concept for some authors. Here's where moving tranversally and pivoting become important to understand. So let's say an author has a book. It takes place in a location (or set of locations), using character(s), and takes place over a certain period of time. Using those as points in the graph. We plot them three dimensionally and we end up a collection of data points in the story cube.

It's critical now to understand that this is NOT the complete cube. This is only a plot of the current story points within the cube, because from there we can expand the cube by adding a continuum for each axis. Let's expand this story cube to add the new dimensions of new characters, new locations, and a different time. I've exploded the cube to show the different quadrants that appear, encapsulating eight typical pivot points available to an author:


If we consider the base state of the storycube to be the key narrative arc for your story, then the base state is the current set of characters, locations and time frame; the currently "plotted" data points. Now we can move within this cube along any of the three axes (characters, location, and time).

So from any point in the cube, we can manipulate the story by simply combining changes to any or all of the variables within our story. This gives us eight new ways that we can easily pivot our story. When we move along any axis, we are moving transversally within the cube. The eight possible new pivots to any story come from one of these new states (in our diagram):

TimeLocationCharactersStory Alternatives
NewCurrentCurrentBy only going back in time, an author can pivot into the red block (block 1).
NewCurrentCurrentBy going forward in time, an author can pivot into the magenta block 9.
Changing location 
NewNewCurrentHere the same characters travel to a new location before the current story, pivoting into the cyan block 2. 
NewNewCurrentWhen the travel occurs after the story, pivot into the orange block 10.
Adding new characters and new locations
NewNewNewBy traveling back in time, an author can pivot into the green block 3.
NewNewNewIf the events happen after the story, an author can pivot into the pink block 11
Adding new characters, again
NewCurrentNewBy adding the character before the story, an author can pivot into the blue block 4.
NewCurrentNewBy adding the characters after the story, an author can pivot into the dark green block 12.

Of course, much of these tranversal moves depends on the main narrative arc of the story. It might be possible to even dive down within the same span of time and allow an author to take a piece of the current story and expand it "in place;" it might be possible, but it horribly constrains an author to fill-in a piece of an existing story. However, if desired, that adds three new viable quadrants to explore. All of the main story narrative exist within block 5; it's the main story, so it's already been written. Here are the three remaining picots:

TimeLocationCharactersStory Alternatives
Changing location 
CurrentNewCurrentHere the same characters travel to a new location during the current story, pivoting into block 6. 
Adding new characters and new locations
CurrentNewNewIntroduce new new characters in a new location during the same story, allows a pivot into block 7.
Adding new characters, again
CurrentCurrentNewBy adding new characters to the same location during the same story, an author can pivot into the block 8.

I've been working on a couple of different storycubes, in a follow-on post I'll give some examples from those stories. With this backgrounder, I think it'll make some more sense by giving pivots I'm currently writing.

4 Response to "Introduction to the Transmedia Storycube for Authors"

  1. Kevin Shockey Says:

    This comment has been removed by the author.
  2. Kevin Shockey Says:

    For this analysis, I used as inspiration, "Transmedia Storytelling: Getting Started." It's what Robert Pratten calls a "Narrative Space."

    Sure looks like a cube to me, especially when you consider graphing the values on a axis.

  3. cubicspace Says:

    cubes are good;)

  4. jylem Says:

    very interesting
    but i think it lacks a forth dimension to your not anymore cube: the comunauties and how you engage them to your story
    and a fifth one the finacing of the project

    transmedia is complex

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