Creative Voice: Chuck Wendig

I can't remember when or why I started following the blogging and tweeting of Chuck Wendig, but I have not regretted it once. His profanity-laced musings (check out his blog, terribleminds), writer's advice (buy his awesome e-books of hilarious writing advice here), and the fiction he writes (buy Shotgun Gravy right now -- seriously -- I reviewed it over here), are all well worth every second spent. He's also the writing partner of Lance Weiler and has worked on some awesome transmedia projects. As a writer spending some time in this space, he was an obvious choice for interview. And he's hilarious to boot.

How did you get into writing? How did you go from there to transmedia storytelling?

The bug lurked inside me at a very early age, so getting into writing was mostly just a question of how much stubbornness I possessed. Turns out, I have a deep and endless well of the stuff. Now, how I got into professional writing -- well, there I started with the pen-and-paper game industry.

Which is, in its own weird way, a form of transmedia storytelling, one where the audience participation is critical to success. As to how I officially entered the transmedia space, well, my writing partner (Lance Weiler) is an early practitioner and I would say pioneer in that realm.

What excites you most about transmedia storytelling?

Honestly, the philosophical lawlessness of it all is fascinating. You can take one story and hit it with a hammer and see where all the pieces fall -- this piece is an app, that piece is a Twitter account, these other pieces are episodic video, etc. It brings together all the storytelling disciplines into some madcap media super-Kung-Fu.

You’ve written gaming material, stories and novels, screenplays, a whackload of great articles, and probably more. How do all of these forms of media inform writing for transmedia?

“Whackload.” Good word!

All of those components are just grist for the transmedia mill. Any form of storytelling or writing has the chance to be a part of a transmedia endeavor.

Is there a form you haven’t written that you would like to?

Comics. I’ve written comic scripts, but only on my time. Never professionally.

You’ve talked before about serving the need of a story above any concerns for platform or, say, distribution (self-pub v trad-pub, anyone?). How do you decide how you’ll present a given story?

My default setting remains in traditional media, and I think that’s probably okay: in my mind, a story has to begin somewhere and is best when it offers a single medium as a “home base” to carry the lion’s share of the story, so I usually start off with thinking of something as a novel, a film, whatever.

Would you ever consider turning something like Atlanta Burns into a transmedia story? If not everything deserves to be transmediafied (it’s a word, shut up), what kinds of things should and shouldn’t?

Not everything demands to be transmediamogrified (it’s another word, you shut up!) – and therein lies one of the dangers of this many-headed hydra-form where you run around hammering square pegs into circle holes.

Does Atlanta Burns need that treatment? I dunno. Any efforts there would be to get further into her head and I don’t know that we need or want that. One supposes that, were the high school to really become a powerful ecosystem, that a transmedia initiative could tell other stories of other students. But really, for me, this is Atlanta’s story. And for now I don’t see how fracturing that narrative is meaningful.

But, for Blackbirds, I do see the value. And am loosely starting to noodle some interesting transmedia elements.

What drives you as a storyteller? What are you interested in, and what do you hope to accomplish?

I don’t really know. I’ve found that stories for me are most powerful when I find myself on the page, and that’s whether I’m reading them or writing them. So I think my storytelling is really just a quest for self.

Which sounds terribly pretentious. So, let’s also add: “Boobs and explosions.”

What would be your advice for an indie transmedia writer/creator?

Think boldly. Take risks. Watch your bottom line, at the same time. Squirm free from your constraints.

Where do you want the transmedia industry to go? What would you like to see happen in this community?

Right now it’s in a formative time where a lot of folks want to “define” transmedia, which seems to me a fruitless effort that wastes creative energy. I understand that in terms of the business, in terms of creating the tribe, some find value in saying, “transmedia needs to be X, Y, and Z.”

But that limits the purview and power of transmedia, at least to me. Transmedia is about kicking down the prison walls, not building new ones. Does my transmedia project have to be on “screens?” Does it require technology? Why? Why can’t it be a limited-edition print book and a series of postcards and clues written on posters around town? Let the story grow beyond false definitions, I say.

Finally: who's your favourite other person doing cool stuff in the field?

That’s a hard question. Can’t just keep it to one. Andrea Phillips? JC Hutchins? Steve Peters?

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Be sure to check out our experimental fiction project Azrael’s Stop, about a boy who must learn to live when everyone he loves has died. Updated daily at azraelsstop.com