What do Web 2.0 and death both have in common? They are both all-encompassing and also key elements in Lucas J.W. Johnson’s novella and upcoming anthology.
After graduating from UBC’s creative writing program, Johnson created Azrael’s Stop — a transmedia storytelling project that centres on a group of characters in a tavern. The story follows Ceph, a 17-year old bartender, as he learns to move on from the deaths of his loved ones through the friends he makes and the stories they tell.
It started out as a Twitter fiction experiment where a scene description, a dialogue or a line from a character is posted every day. Overtime, they could then be strung together to form a larger story. The story was eventually extended to Facebook, Tumblr and even to a website of its own to allow longer pieces of writing to be published. It is accompanied by an original soundtrack featuring three songs that are performed by a character in the book.
“One of the things that so-called transmedia storytelling tries to do is [to] be in more places,” said Johnson. “[To] be in multiple places so that you’re potentially never without the story or the story is sort of coming to you.”
The initial idea was to have a different media version of parts of the story released monthly. Aside from it being too much work for one person, Johnson encountered further barriers in getting his audience to follow the story across the multiple platforms.
“If you’ve suddenly made part of the story into a video game, there’s going to be a segment of your audience that doesn’t know how to engage with that or doesn’t want to engage with that, and now they’re missing out,” he said.
While both ebooks share the same themes, the sequel consists of 10 stories by different authors and an interactive fiction game.
“One of the big themes of Azrael’s Stop was how people come to the bar and share their stories and that helps everyone [to] either move along or feel ready to pass on,” said Johnson. “I wanted my audience to share their stories too.”
As a narrative and video game designer at his company Silverstring Media Inc., Johnson was not a stranger to collaboration. Although, he admits that the experience was like “giving away your baby to someone else and hoping that they treat them well.”
“As the editor of the anthology, I definitely was able to go in and make sure that everything fits,” he said. “But it was also neat to see where people took the world and [how] people would use a new idea.”
He advices first time writers to look into non-standard publishing ways to find an audience.
“It’s possible that you’ll find a smaller audience than you would otherwise, but it also means that you can do what you want…. By putting your writing out there, you’ll find an audience you wouldn’t find anywhere and that can help you fund bigger projects,” he said.
Azrael’s Stop and Tales of the Stop are both available for purchase on azraelsstop.com.