The Dead Robots' Society

Writers on Writing


Episode 190 – Creating Storyworlds With Matt Selznick

This week the Robots talk with Matt Selznick about telling stories across larger canvases, utilizing other media and mediums to create larger storyworlds. The way we can tell our stories is getting more and more interesting, so we hope you enjoy.

Matt’s Website

Matt’s Google+ Page

Matt’s Facebook Page

Tiki Wiki Fiki

Runes of Gallidon

Storyworld Conference & Expo

Shared Storyworlds

Marketing Agencies Using Storyworlds / Transmedia: Brain Candy

Starlight Runner

Matt’s previous guest blog – What Every Modern Writer Needs To Know

This week’s promo: The Dark Wife by Sarah Diemer



  1. (My comment became wordy; sorry!)

    Thanks, DRS! Another great episode, as always. I’m into conversational podcasts lately, especially on the topic of writing process, so DRS is one I rarely pass by.

    Writing in the pure form is always going to be with us, in all the various forms of length and style, but I think I’m growing more and more enamored with the story-building/world-building idea, as a core system / core creative skill. If you’re a fan, at all, of comics and graphic novels, or a listener of audio books, I’d wager that you’ve already got a foot in those waters. Those forms are all “writing plus”, in the sense that it’s writing as well as other media elements (either visual artists or audio artists (yes, even just cut/paste audio editing)) wrapped up into a final work.

    The natural next extension of that, should you want to expand the writing into new applications, begins the topic of story-building/world-building.

    And it’s difficult. At the core of writing is the solitary, almost selfish, world of slogging out word count. The writer is in control from beginning to (bitter?) end, and the fewer distractions, the better. Suddenly there’s this concept of open collaboration; we’re all working on a story concept as a group. I think that’s where the feeling comes in that it’s distractive and a time-suck, as it clashes with the very simple concept that writers write.

    Further, the question of litigation that was touched upon in discussion. Litigation will always happen, so the only piece of that you have control over is defining things up front. Plan the scope of work, define roles, define licensing. Then and if it comes to question, there are definitions to refer to for settling disagreements.

    However, it seems the first major hurdle is coming to grips with the concept that it is a collaborative project, with a root owner who will be shepherding a body of work, rather than “me and the word count, please, no distractions” model. Once that can be understood and accepted, then begins the concept of what we’re doing; the business of story-building.

    That is both exciting and horrifying. Exciting in the sense that the project can be composed of many complimentary skills, but horrifying in that, there’s no simple path to get from here to there; it’s certainly more complex than butt-in-chair.

    From creator to creator, and from project to project, this is going to be something entirely different, because every instance of world built is a recipe of a different mix of ingredients. One could be story as serial podcast, with voice actors and transition bumpers. Another may be three core writers with a graphic designer for visual pieces like logos and sleeve patches, an ink/paint artist for per-chapter cover art pieces, plus a band for ambient music tapestry, throw in an audio producer, oh and we’ll need someone to do a series of two-minute video components.

    It puts me in the mind of marrying new storytelling with old storytelling. It’s almost a new facet of technology with theatre arts, in the classic sense of bringing multiple talents together in one creative space to create an event that’s greater than the sum of parts.

    My personal experience there goes back to 1994 when I was in college. I had a friend who was (still is) a songwriter. He had a few pieces of guitar work and lyrics that worked well as acoustic performances. I took the lyics of those songs and wove together a script based on his body of work to create a new story that he hadn’t conceived. We produced and performed the play with classmates from the theatre department, all of which had skills that I didn’t. So, who owned that production? We all as individuals felt it was ours equally, and still feel that way, looking back on the experience. That was an arguable trans-media collaborative piece, and it was far more amazing than the songs alone or my text of the play alone. We had a turnout of about 200, with nary a dry eye in the house, if memory serves. I attribute that entire event to collaborative story-building above all other ingredients.

    So, ultimately, I’m not suggesting that this style of creating a story isn’t and shouldn’t be seen as “what writing ought to become”, but, a very interesting extension of what writing can lead to, and of how it can mingle other skills and talents into a pool, creating very interesting scenarios.

    If that can branch out into what amounts to a scaffolding of a constructed world, which allows for component skills to plug in, as available, that’s really something special.

    So, the root creator would be creating the world, with open in-roads. Then, should a graphic designer happen by, there would be an engagement path to draw out the characters in pen/ink. Should a musician happen by, there would be an engagement path to create sound effects, music, ambient bits to plug in. Should a social-media enthusiast come along with an idea of creating ‘living’ character accounts, that exist in the here-and-now present timeline of the story, so that fans can interact with the storyline instantly, there would be an engagement path for that. A whole series of short stories that defines some particular corner aspect of this story world that has gone unaddressed; sure, there’s an engagement path for an incoming author to plug in and contribute.

    That’s a compelling legacy to think about.

  2. You nailed it, Daniel, in your second to last paragraph, and in your example of the theater production. Sounds like you grok.

    And I appreciate that you used the word “legacy” to wrap up — much as I did in my guest blog post for this site. There are only so many stories we can individually tell, in so many ways. By opening a storyworld to others — what Scott Walker calls a “shared story world” and I call a storyworld franchise — we have a chance to create something that potentially lives beyond our own vision and, ideally, even beyond ourselves.


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