The development of a specific plot line across several media platforms to enhance the reader experience. These platforms can include a combination of two or more of the following medias: the use of print, illustration, photographs, computer graphics, physical objects, hypertexts, comics, video clips, audio clips, video games, and more.


What Transmedia Storytelling IS: What Transmedia Storytelling is NOT:
  • The use of media through a written novel to enhance the plot line or different aspects
    • i. e. The book Skeleton Creek uses the written journal of the boy Ryan along with the web videos or his friend Sarah to tell the mystery that is the story.
  • Using one medium to introduce a story an then create other aspects of the same story using media
    • i. e. The Lost Experience, an online adventure that viewers could use to uncover Easter eggs and extra back-story revolving around the main TV series Lost [1]
  • The prequel or sequel that can be completely isolated from the original work in another media platform.
    • i. e. The many Star Wars novels that deal with an entirely separate story arc but exist in the same universe and thus achieve prequel status. For example the Thrawn trilogy by Timothy Zahn
  • The use of technology to create a spinoff of the original story in another platform or same platform.
    • i. e. The book Extras is a spin-off of Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies series. Although, it mentions the main character of Uglies and is set in Tally’s world, it follows the story of another character.

NOTE: All of these ‘specifications’ are still being argued over as new works are defended or challenged. The main concern is the link to the field of literature and the appropriate and credible connections to the original storyline.


The term ‘transmedia storytelling’ was coined, as above mentioned, by Henry Jenkins in 2000; however, the first mention of the word ‘transmedia’ is attributed to Dr. Marsha Kinder who wrote about ‘transmedia intertexuality’ or the concept of characters appearing among multiple platforms (what would normally be called a franchise). [2] The idea of stories using different mediums has been described with a variety of terms such as ‘multimedia storytelling’, ‘cross-platform narrative’, or ‘cross-media’. Multimedia storytelling was used as far back as the 1960’s but mainly referring to the use of pictures with words solely[3]. In the 90’s the term gained popularity in the journalism industry as newspapers went online while still retaining a print form [4]. The main argument of which term to use stems from what field the term gains its connotation. For example, ‘cross-media’ and ‘cross-platform’ is avoided because it is popularly used in advertising to refer to a work, like a TV show, that can be accessed on different viewing platforms like TV, DVD, or on your phone. “Cross-Platform” also initiates an idea of merchandise, amusement rides, or other experiences to further the popularity of the story. Along with that ‘Multimedia storytelling’ declined in use of literature because of its dominate use in the journalism field. Transmedia storytelling rose to fill this gap, steadily gaining usage in the early 2000’s. It was mainly being used to refer to the concept of movie producers expanding the franchise through video games and novels like The Matrix[5] or Star Trek but since has been argued over and tweaked to cover new experimentation with literature that goes beyond printed word. The term is still being used widely and differently by each individual and field. While it is still dominantly used by the media industry, it has gained a place in the literature world. Since the term’s meaning is simply ‘across media’ there is still much disagreement on how and when the term can or cannot be applied.

Voices in Transmedia Storytelling

According to Henry Jenkins, the man who coined the phrase “Transmedia Storytelling,” “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… Reading across the media sustains a depth of experience that motivates more consumption.[6] Trying to classify transmedia storytelling all depends on WHO you are talking to. According to Andrea Phillip in her book she addresses these many voices.[7]

Popular Disagreements on what should or shouldn’t be classified under ‘transmedia storytelling’

  • The idea of the integration of technology into Transmedia Storytelling is a hot topic. Scholars debate whether specific media still falls in the category whether it stands alone or requires the presence of another media. For example, the Halo world’s video game also has several series of novels. required to stand alone or whether it must be experienced together to understand the story.
  • Some of the newest games have several, intertwining plots to compliment the equally intense gaming. Can ARG, or Alternate Reality Gaming, experiences can be classified as transmedia[8]. Going along with the ARG arguments, there is a question of interactivity with the audience
  • The question of whether the “story” started splintered across platforms or whether it expanded after the fact
  • Hypertext is considered another hot topic on the scene of Transmedia Storytelling. George P. Landow, the current webmaster and editor-in-chief of The Victorian Web[9], defines hypertext as “blocks of words or pictures linked electronically words or pictures linked by multiple paths, chains, and trails in an open-ended, perpetually unfinished textuality. [10] Words such as link, node, network, web, and path integrate this idea into our technological and textual experiences. Debate arises around:
  • The role of advertising in story telling plays a large part in the debate about what is “transmedia” or not. Like we mentioned before, the enhancement of the plot line needs to draw a line.
  • Graphic novels of popular novels or films – are these credible retellings of the story? What about other universes that stem from the original platform. Many of the popular movies of today have a graphic novel counterpart. Many argue that this is just another cheap franchise to “ride the wave” of popularity from the movie or book. There have been no solid decisions about this aspect of Transmedia Storytelling.

  1. Jump up
  2. Jump up Kinder, Marsha. Playing with Power in Movies, Television, and Video Games: From Muppet Babies to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Berkeley: U of California, 1993. Print.
  3. Jump up
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  6. Jump up Jenkins, Henry. “Transmedia Storytelling: Moving characters from books to films to video games can make them stronger and more compelling.” Web.
  7. Jump up Philips, Andrea. A Creator’s Guide to Transmedia Storytelling: How to Captivate and Engage Audiences across Multiple Platforms. McGraw-Hill 2012. Print.
  8. Jump up Gerber, Hannah R. “Exploring Transmedia Young Adult Literature as Alternate Reality Gaming” VOYA (2014): 48-49. Print.
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  10. Jump up Landow, George P. Hypertext. The John Hopkins University Press. 1992. Print.