Dramatic worlds are the basis of our multi platform world so where do you start when you just have a narrative/story, a character drawing or an interesting idea or subject? Phil Parker, co-founder of BCre8ive, provides some clues to creating a dramatic world from these small beginnings.
So what is a dramatic world?
In essence it is a collection of narrative elements (artefacts in BCre8ive terms) which will provides the basis for developing a number of different narratives in different formats on different platforms. When Stan Lee first created a Marvel comic he never dreamed they would be big blockbuster films, the basis of games, novels, collectables, and of massive online social media activity. However, now all these possibilities are part of the world in which we create and plan to reach audiences.
Finding characters and their stories.
Starting with a narrative, which has stories or at least one character’s story within in it is obviously one of the easiest places from which to create a dramatic world. In this context it is easy to identify the main character, and in most cases at least one other character. If you have a plot this will involve the character/s in at least one story. A main character may have two or more stories e.g. in many thrillers the main character often has an investigation, and a romance story. Equally, in drama the main character may have a goal or journey to complete or antagonist to defeat, but will also have a relationship to resolve.
If you just have a character as in a cartoon, or someone who you are fascinated by then finding them a story becomes the first task of building your dramatic world. This can easily be achieved by looking at the key story options from asking do they have a goal, a journey, a relationship to resolve, someone or something to avoid or defeat, or a problem they must deal with? Once you have decided on one of these options you have the bass of their first story.
Finding the second character for your dramatic world often arises from the first character’s story. Who is it that the first character is confronting, trying to find, build a relationship with? This is the second character of your piece. Their story reflects what they have to do to make the plot interesting when combined with the first character’s story.
Note: Stories at this level are often very simple – as it is the development for particular formats and platforms, which leads to particular plots and complexity.
The Style and Setting
All stories and characters exist in a particular time and place, which is the setting of your dramatic world. This can be described in words but is best captured in visuals. The reasons for this are that visuals have an immediate impact, and crucially most platforms require visual representation, so providing some visuals in the dramatic world, helps people assess the potential of the world on particular platforms.
This is easy if you start with drawings etc. but if you start with words you need to either find and illustrator, animator, or photographer who can provide you with some visuals or find some visuals that will give people a sense of what you think the world will look like.
It is this look, which determines the style of your dramatic world.
You may add some music or soundscape material to enhance the feel of your world.
There are several website which provide royalty free images for you to use to provide some visuals, when creating your initial dramatic world e.g. free digital photos; dreams time; stock photos for free
Often seen as a contentious area – see my blog on genre – this is for the sake of dramatic worlds, a simple classification of the type of narrative you wish to create with your characters, and is implicit, if not explicit, in the characters, and the setting.
One interesting development over the last decade has been the humanizing of ‘monsters’, in particular, vampires, which has moved many narratives involving them from the horror genre to the romance e.g. Twilight or epic drama e.g. Underworld. though often they are still called horror, just because ‘monsters’ are present.
It is very hard to predict who will ultimately really engage with your world. No-one predicted that women over 35 would be the main users of Facebook games. However, when you create a work there is normally someone or a group of people who you think will want to engage with it. Providing some indication of this audience allows people to see which group of people you think the world will appeal to, and which platforms might be the best options to use, in the first instance.
What makes a good dramatic world?
Interesting characters – something that makes them stand out from existing characters i.e. characters who are already out in front of audiences, in the world where you have set them.
A fresh approach to a genre, often achieved by a strong visual style, and distinctive characters who are not normally associated with the genre.
A very distinctive setting – creating a world most people are not familiar with, or one where the familiarity is offset by a comedic approach, or a fiendish plot, is often key to successful narratives.
Creating a world, which can generate vast amounts of material for new platforms e.g. mobile is also a critical part of developing dramatic worlds, which will work at the low cost, web based end of the production that often then serves as the starting point for the higher cost end productions.
So create your dramatic world and start engaging with audiences everywhere.