Interactive storytelling is the best kind of storytelling

Over the weekend, Pemberley Digital won its second Creative Arts Emmy – this time for Emma Approved. YAY! They won for their interactive storytelling, which basically means that the Academy thinks they used social media pretty darn well to make a great story for fans to engage with. The same people winning the same award twice and inspiring dozens of other literary webseries with the same format? I’d say that Bernie Su and Pemberley Digital are doing something right.


But why is this “book-vlog-Twitter” thing so popular?

The main reason why reading a book or watching a movie can be so frustrating is that you can’t actually yell at fictional characters. You just can’t. Lydia Bennet has terrible taste in men and ruins her entire family’s reputation? Emma Woodhouse, the resident matchmaker, can’t recognize when a guy is flirting with her instead of her friend? Heathcliff suddenly wants to marry the sister-in-law of the girl he’s actually in love with? Anna Karenina refuses to end her affair, even though it’s destroying her family? Nope, nope, nope, none of these people are real.

If these characters had Twitter and shared their problems with the Internet, though, maybe you could TYPE AT THEM IN ALL CAPS. You could tell Lydia to stop flirting with GWicks, and you could threaten GWicks with mean things if he continued to mess with the Bennets. Sure, it probably wouldn’t change the end of the story, but you would feel like you made a difference. Lydia would tell you that her boyfriend is a perfect angel, GWicks would probably send you a gross flirty tweet, and Lizzie would still ignore anything on the internet that had to do with her little sister, but the fact that you had Twitter would make you forget that none of this is real.

Really, the best part of literary webseries is that the line between reality and fiction seems to disappear. Yes, the modern updates are exciting for fans who want to be surprised again by the scandals and secrets, but they’re different from the interactive parts that I’m talking about. Internet characters who respond to the real people who talk to them are far more fun than those who don’t. The funniest moments of the Lizzie Bennet Diaries series happened when people didn’t realize they were following a fictional character on Lookbook or when Maxwell-Glick-as-Ricky-Collins was on Ryan Seacrest’s “Fancy” cover contest (okay, this was after LBD finished, but this was definitely a fictional/real world overlap).

I started out talking about Emma Approved, then ended up talking about Lizzie Bennet Diaries, but I think it’s because they used different types of social media to tell the stories. I think there are certain types of people who use each type of media or website. Some people live on Twitter, others read fashion blogs, and others reblog cat gifs on Tumblr. I love the types of creative people who look at the world and wonder, “How can I tell a story that speaks to ______?”

As humans, we have this huge desire for connection that has driven our shift from letter writing to the telephone to the internet. The very tools we use to build relationships have changed. The next step in our storytelling, therefore, is relationship building. This is where we are, and this is where we’re going.

Thank you, Pemberley Digital, for giving us the chance to be friends with the Bennets, the Darcys, Emma, Victoria, and all the other characters you’ve given voice to. Congratulations on Emmy #2!!! ❤


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