Storyworlds

The storyworld or story universe are terms that relate specifically to franchise texts and transmedia texts. By understanding Henry Jenkins’ theory on what transmedia storytelling should do, one can identify where the storyworld would come into play.

“In the ideal form of transmedia storytelling, each medium does what it does best-so that a story might be introduced in a film, expanded through television, novels, and comics, and its world might be explored and experienced through game play. Each franchise entry needs to be self-contained enough to enable autonomous consumption. That is, you don’t need to have seen the film to enjoy the game and vice-versa.” (Jenkins, Henry, Transmedia Storytelling, MIT Technology Review, <http://www.technologyreview.com/biomedicine/13052/page3/>, p.3)

So, if each medium introduces the overall story arc at different entry-points, or by just showing aspects or bits of the story, what unifies each of those media artifacts. Well, the story arc, for one, defines the main plot that each film, game, show, comic etc. is apart of. But we can go even further than plot. There are characters and settings that are part of it as well. There is background and backstory. All of these elements are part of what one would call the story universe or storyworld.
As Mike Jones has phrased it: “the Story-World represents the Rules; the governing principles and parameters by which occupants of the Story-World (characters and events) will adhere.” (http://blogs.aftrs.edu.au/screenculture/?p=690) For instance, in Batman, there are clear rules regarding Batman’s political position within the construct of Gotham City, between the police and the criminals. He never really trusts the police and the police never really trust him. But, their common goal is to remove crime from Gotham City. He is a vigilante. He also does not have superpowers, but instead has gadgets. There are reasons that Batman does what he does, as is explained in his backstory. He possesses the moral quality of not allowing any one of his (arch)enemies to die, if he can, but rather putting them in jail.
Whilst some media works of Batman defy some of these rules, and rules can change according to spin-offs, alternate universes etc. (see Flint Dille’s Transmedia Victoria video for more information on this), the central storyworld possesses a strong set of rules that define the characters, time, setting, and sometimes the plot itself. Most of the stories adhere to the Batman canon. As Geoffrey Long puts it: "To avoid a fragmented sense of the story world, each transmedia extension should follow the rules of their shared universe, and not conflict with any other extensions." (Long, G. A. 2000, Transmedia Storytelling: Business Aesthetics and Production at the Jim Henson Company, Kenyon College)

The story architecture of a work with multiple media is very different to that of one that has a single-format design. In his article Why you should expand your film into a “storyworld” (http://www.filmmakermagazine.com/issues/summer2009/culture_hacker.php), Lance Weiler acknowledges the shifting technology and “emerging storytelling channels”, and more specifically the “emerging participatory culture... [which] will forever change the relationship between creator and audience”. It still about the story, the characters, the meaning, the narrative, and the interactions between the audience and the text, but there is more opportunity for diversity and new forms of expression. When writing a transmedia text, Weiler argues, create a “storyworld bible” (Flint Dille also mentions the importance of a story bible in the Transmedia Victoria video). By developing every aspect of the storyworld, the rules that are within it, the characters, their motivations, their backstories, the background to the setting, the relationships that exist between characters, maps and conceptual art, and more, the storyworld or story universe gets established more and more. But, as Flint Dille purports, it is vital to understand that “your storyworld bible is not holy”, meaning, it should be able to be played with, by you and others, and developed further, expanded, and defied (say, in alternate realities, like with DC Multiverse).