CHAPTER 5 Lost’s Transmedia Lessons: Five Takeaway Techniques

There is no definitive paradigm for how a television show might use transmedia storytelling and no two shows will use it in exactly the same way. Nevertheless, in this thesis, I have offered some techniques for transmedia producers to craft multiplatform stories. If we combine my proposed model from Chapter 3 with the lessons learned from Lost in Chapter 4, we might come up with five takeaway tools for transmedia producers to apply to television.

1.) Construct a fully furnished world and then gradually reveal the space/mythology of that world. Gradually revealing a world’s hyperdiegesis and borrowing the spatial configuration of video games creates an environment that encourages exploration. This environment propels hard-core fans to seek out more information, draw connections, and gain a better understanding of the fictional world. At the same time, casual fans can imagine a vast expanse while focusing on the characters and main events of the show.

2.) Develop a hierarchy of narrative gaps or mysteries that allow different viewers to engage with a show in a variety of ways. The hierarchy of mystery increases the likelihood that any given fan will find some question or mystery that interests them. And by inserting plenty of implied and hidden mysteries, there will always be potential for transmedia extensions to contribute valuable information to the overall storyline without affecting “the mother ship.” Thus, it is important to include a wide range of endlessly deferred, lingering, implied, and hidden mysteries so that transmedia producers will always have options when creating the narrative pay-off to transmedia extensions.

3.) Transmedia extensions can explicitly answer implied and hidden mysteries or provide enough clues for hard-core fans to make informed theories about lingering or endlessly deferred mysteries. The key is to identify what type of mystery a particular transmedia extension will address and adjust the narrative pay-off accordingly. The Lost Experience definitively answered endlessly deferred mysteries (upsetting casual fans), while the answers from The Missing Pieces mobisodes were not definitive enough for a series promising to “fill in narrative gaps” (upsetting hard-core fans). Thus, answers to implied and hidden mysteries should be definitely answered in transmedia extensions, while answers to endlessly deferred and lingering mysteries should be more open-ended, sparking fan speculation and anticipation. Of course, transmedia storytelling can also function as an outlet for any mystery that is not going to be addressed in the show (like Libby’s story, for example). Because Lost has a near infinite amount of mysteries, transmedia storytelling seems to be a perfect tool for providing narrative closure to all remaining questions.

4.) Each transmedia extension should aim to be a satisfying individual experience in addition to offering narrative insights. The process of discovery matters as much as the narrative revelation. As the Lost Experience illustrated, the journey in hunting down narrative information and bonding with a social community is often more rewarding than the end result. For ‘new episode extensions’, the process of discovery may involve experiencing how a new medium presents the story in an interesting way, while alternate reality extensions are best at facilitating a community of interest. Either way, a transmedia extension should balance the narrative-pay off with the fun of discovering it. As Damon Lindelof told the Fuselage, “the road is long, friends, but hopefully, when at last you reach your destination, you’ll look back and remember having enjoyed the journey even more than where you ended up.” Lindelof is talking about Lost as a whole, but the same principle applies to a transmedia extension. Each transmedia extension should not be another thing for fans to do or a gimmicky way to present new information, but an engaging individual experience all its own.

5.) Reward the efforts of hard-core fans by adding suspense in how a narrative revelation will be addressed and then validate the revelation. As Find 815 showed, hard-core fans can theorize about how a narrative pay-off relates to the show and then take pleasure in seeing how the show validates their findings. Because of television’s nowness, learned information can be confirmed quickly, giving a sense that the show is reacting to hard-core fans’ off-screen activities. Validating transmedia extensions in subtle and interesting ways can lead to new modes of engagement in that hard-core fans can admire how transmedia creators are able to create a story on multiple levels. As Jonathan Gray and Jason Mittell note, “A good story can be a well-told tale, but it can also be a puzzle and a challenge, an object to be marveled at (directing focus to the well-told tale’s actual telling), a familiar space, a complex network to be mapped, and a site to stimulate both discussion and the proliferation of textuality.”[1] The validation effect calls attention to the formal construction of transmedia narratives, adding a new pleasure in seeing how a story can be dispersed and expanded across other media, only to be molded back together to form a unified whole. In this sense, it would not be unreasonable to think of transmedia storytelling as a kind of game, where players search for narrative information and then anticipate how that information will be relevant in the core television text. Transmedia storytelling certainly offers new opportunities for mastering a diegetic world, but it can also provide a pleasure in observing how the transmedia story is constructed, how it sparks fan discussion, how it alters expectations for future episodes, and how it rewards consumers with an insider look into the process of piecing a complex tale together.

[1] Gray, Jonathan and Mittell, Jason. “Speculation on Spoilers: Lost Fandom, Narrative Consumption and Rethinking Textuality.” Particip@tions.

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