Behind the Shadows – Crossing Continents With Transmedia

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The first time someone mentioned the term Transmedia to me I was already collaborating with four project teams. We were working to produce a comic anthology centered on my urban fantasy novel Fallen Heroes. I was also co-writing the first episode of an audio drama spin off. The name I gave to this transmedia project was Unseen Shadows, which referred to the trilogy I was working on, of which Fallen Heroes was the first.

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My goal in using transmedia was to create stories in other mediums that could be enjoyed as stand alone adventures. However, when those stories were combined with the novel they would expand the world established within its pages. This meant that a single line of prose within the novel could be transformed into a 22 page comic or a supporting character could take the lead in a five part audio drama.

“I thought so,” said Napoleon, walking to the jeep, and without looking back, he climbed in. Vincent was already there, starting the engine.

Kelsey started crawling towards the jeep.  “Please,” he pleaded.  “Don’t leave me like this, you must help me.”

After a few moments, a revolver flew back over the jeep, landing next to Bob.  The next he knew, he was bursting into a fit of coughing, his lungs full of a combination of carbon monoxide, gravel and sand.  The tears came easily as he watched  the jeep pull away from him, leaving him alone with the revolver. 

The above few lines of prose from the novel spawned a spin off comic one shot centered around the character Bob Kelsey who was was a minor character in the novel.

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An Unseen Shadows project begins when someone, usually a writer, reads the novel and wants to become involved. I start by asking them what character they want to work on rather than choose one for them. This has led to some interesting choices, including both main and very minor characters being given the transmedia treatment.

The next stage is for the writer to give me a brief overview of their idea. Once I’m on board they will work up a full pitch, including any suggestions I may have made, before moving onto the scripting stage. At the same time the artist begins work on the main character sketches.

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Steph Connisbee from the upcoming graphic novel ‘The Chimera Factor’

In my goal to create stand-alone routes into the novel I am involved in every stage of the process. I approve each story pitch, comic or audio script, character design and every line of dialogue spoken by a voice actor.

There are currently around forty writers, artists, letterers, colourists, graphic designers and voice actors working within the Unseen Shadows team. Their talent and experience are as diverse as their backgrounds and locale. Members can be found in the UK, Ireland, Portugal, Scotland, South Africa and the US.

Overseeing a team spread across the world is definitely a challenge. I quickly found that email, cloud storage and social media tools such as Facebook, Twitter and Skype were the greatest weapons in my communication arsenal.

All the past and future Unseen Shadows projects are stored using cloud storage. The projects are divided into folders with each one containing scripts, artwork, sound files and more, with access provided for relevant team members. This helps avoid any time zone issues as folders can be accessed 24/7.

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I created an Unseen Shadows Facebook group where team members could share developments, discuss ideas, welcome new members and anything else they wanted to use it for. I also use the group to feedback on the progress of future novels or anything else of importance.

One of the main issues a writer working in collaborative fiction must face is the time demands. Projects have to be managed, timescales set and monitored. In some cases I have been the main reason that progress on a project has stalled. This can be because a team is waiting for me to read a script, approve a character or respond to an urgent email before they can continue.

A significant amount of my own writing time is spent overseeing the transmedia and collaborative elements of Unseen Shadows and that can be hard. However knowing the huge amount of work the team members are putting into their projects and seeing the end results spurs me on to manage my time better, which can only be a good thing for my writing in the long run.

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Kathryn Monroe in ‘The Heart Which Makes Us’

Working within these different mediums has meant that to effectively manage the teams I had to develop, at least, a basic understanding of the terminology within each medium be it comics, audio or more recently film. It also pays to know some of the advantages and disadvantages of working within in each one. I have been lucky to find a lot of people along the way willing to offer me help and advice on that front.

The positives with working on collaborative fiction are many but overall it is the feeling of never being alone. In the dark days when the fear of a blank screen comes calling, a piece of art, a new script or question is not far behind. The light never goes off in the world of Unseen Shadows and knowing there is always someone at work is a great motivator.

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A look at ‘Napoleon’ Stone and the Army of Set’ A choose your own adventure story which is currently in development.

These extremely talented people work on these projects not for the money, as all profits go back into the development of new projects, but because they love the source material. They constantly challenge me with their ideas, questions and suggestions for new ways to expand this world they have had a hand in developing.

I have found over the years that these new stories and characters have influenced me in unexpected ways. I have already referenced several of the events and characters created in the comics and audio drama in the second novel. An example of this is the character Victoria Sullivan, who was created for the audio drama and as such was never in the novel. I loved Fiona Paul’s portrayal of Victoria so much in the audio drama that not only is character in ‘Forgotten Warriors’ the sequel to ‘Fallen Heroes’ but she is also in a six page comic (Fight or Flight) and an upcoming graphic novel (The Chimera Factor).

Victoria Sullivan in Fight or Flight

Working with the teams has taught me how to express to a writer why a particular line of dialogue does not work or to an artist why a character sketch does not feel right. This has helped me with my own self editing when I write.

The last two years has been a great training ground for learning when to step in and when to step back and trust these talented people with my world. The collaboration aspects of the various projects have given me a deeper understanding of my own characters as I watch them written, drawn and spoken by others.

10 tips for collaborative fiction

  • Your story may be at the heart of everything but in the realm of collaborative fiction you need the creative lifeblood of your team to keep that heart beating. Respect them and their opinions.
  • Ensure your team has a clear idea of what you expect of them before they join the project. I have a statement of intent document, which every member of the team receives, which must be read and its terms agreed to before they can join the project.
  • Never dismiss ideas out of hand.
  • Used wisely, social media can be a great aid to team communication. Used poorly it can a massive time drain.
  • No one knows your world better than you but always be prepared to back up your decisions with reasons that don’t start with ‘It’s my book so…’
  • Never be scared to get your hands dirty in another medium yourself. (I had never seen an audio script before Unseen Shadows much less co-written one.)
  • Try to gain an understanding of the terminology used within the mediums you will be working in.
  • Collaborative fiction can be a huge time commitment. Keep that in mind when deciding which projects to undertake.
  • Keep yourself included in every stage of the project.
  • Communication is the key. Keep your teams up to date and ensure they do the same. So many problems can be avoided with regular communication.

Barry Nugent, Author of Fallen Heroes and founder of Unseen Shadows.

Article first published on the Writing Platform

LONDON SUPER COMIC CON SPECIAL OFFER DEALS!

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LONDON SUPER COMIC CON SPECIAL OFFER!!!

Buy Tales of the Forgotten, Tales of the Fallen and the Fallen Heroes Special Edition novel at the Special Convention Price of £20!

To celebrate our newest comic anthology Tales of the Forgotten, which will be available for the first time at the London Super Comic Con, we have come up with a great special offer. Visitors to our table (C42) during the convention will be able to pick up Tales of the Forgotten (RRP: £8.00), Tales of the Fallen (RRP: £11.99) and the Fallen Heroes Special Edition novel (RRP: £9.99) together for a convention only price of £20.00!

The special edition of the novel contains interviews, deleted scenes, an alternate first chapter as well as previews of upcoming projects.

The normal RRP for this bundle would normaly be £29.98 so that’s saving of £9.98!!!

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Other offers will be available at the table (C42) during the weekend so please ask.

See you in the shadows!

Tales of the Forgotten – Available Now On Kindle and Kindle Fire

As we are just around the corner for Christmas it seemed like the perfect time to announce the release of Tales of the Forgotten on Kindle.

You can pick up your copy now for £3.60 from the Amazon Kindle shop. If you have a Kindle Fire have no fear as this copy will be in full colour.

 

Synopsis

When truth must be stolen from the mouths of the wicked, it falls beyond the reach of mere heroes.

Liars, loners, losers – trapped on the outskirts of a war fought in silence and shadow. Drawn into darkness, they flee it, they study it, they make it their home.

They are the Forgotten – a flickering circle of torchlight in an expanding world of Unseen Shadows.

Tales of the Forgotten is the second anthology to be released from the ever-expanding Unseen Shadows universe. The comic collects four standalone stories featuring characters taken from the pages of the bestselling novel Fallen Heroes and the audio drama Empire of Blood.

‘I strongly recommend you get this book’ –Sci-Fi Pulse

Featuring new stories following Ben ‘The Hand’ Ashodi; master thief with a motor mouth, Kathryn Monroe; investigator and genius analyst, then finally Bob Kelsey…dragged into the world of the occult, this cowardly journalist has let himself in for much more than he bargained for.

  • Scripts: Cy Dethan, Richmond Clements, Corey Brotherson
  • Pencils: Alex Moore, Cormac Hughes, Jorge Oliveira, Valia Kapadai
  • Colours: Alex Moore, Vicky Stonebridge, Jorge Oliveira
  • Letters: Paul Mclaren, Nic Wilkinson
  • Covers: Peter Mason, Antony Mcgary-Thickitt
  • 92 pages

Buy ‘Tales of the Forgotten’ and Pick up a Free Digital Copy of ‘Fallen Heroes’

That’s right people  from now until the end of December as part of a special deal for Christmas anyone buying a copy of Tales of the Forgotten from the Unseen Shadows shop on Comicsy will receive a free digital copy of the Fallen Heroes novel.

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TALES OF THE FORGOTTEN OUT NOW

Transmedia Company Releases Second Comic Anthology based on characters from bestselling novel ‘Fallen Heroes’ with special free digital gift! 

Tales of the Forgotten is the second anthology to be released from the ever-expanding Unseen Shadows universe. The comic collects four standalone stories featuring characters taken from the pages of the bestselling novel Fallen Heroes and the audio drama Empire of Blood.

Read the 25 Page Preview

‘I strongly recommend you get this book’ –Sci-Fi Pulse

Featuring new stories following Ben ‘The Hand’ Ashodi; master thief with a motor mouth, Kathryn Monroe; investigator and genius analyst, then finally Bob Kelsey…dragged into the world of the occult, this cowardly journalist has let himself in for much more than he bargained for.

‘highly recommended’ – 3millionyears

The creative team behind the anthology are some of today’s brightest and best indie comic creators and include Richmond Clements, Cy Dethan, Valia Kapadai Corey Brotherson, Nic Wilkinson, Alex Moore, Cormac Hughes, Vicky Stonebridge, Jorge Oliveria and Paul Mclaren.

The anthology was launched at Thought Bubble Festival 2012 and is now available on Comicsy, Big Cartel and Amazon.

Buy Tales of the Forgotten today and receive a digital copy of Fallen Heroes for free!

From now until the end of December as part of a special deal for Christmas anyone buying a copy of Tales of the Forgotten from the Unseen Shadows shop on Comicsy will receive a free digital copy of the Fallen Heroes novel.

“…draws on many popular culture references & influences, and is easily compared to ‘Sin City’, ‘The Da Vinci Code’, ‘Heroes’ or ‘Buffy’ – there really is something for everyone and I would thoroughly recommend it to anyone that enjoys reading or watching Sci-Fi/Fantasy.” – Waterstones

Review copies of the anthology are now available. If you would like to request one please contact Sara Westrop at sara.westrop@unseenshadows.com

About Unseen Shadows

Unseen Shadows Ltd is dedicated to expanding the world and characters created in Fallen Heroes through various transmedia elements. Currently in development are several more comic titles, a five part audio drama, a comic adaption of the Fallen Heroes novel,  a live action web series and more.

“These are not just nice little side stories with no impact on the events surrounding them,” Barry Nugent, the found of Unseen Shadows explains. “The spin-offs expand and enhance the characters lives and relationships within the novels. It was important to me that the spin offs can be read, watched and listened to independently of each other and the novels but you will get more insights into the characters by experiencing everything the Unseen Shadows universe has to offer.”

£8.50 to £8.00 Special Thought Bubble Con Price Drop For Tales of the Forgotten

In honour of the launch weekend for our second anthology Tales of the Forgotten at the Thought Bubble Festival we’ve decided to drop the price from our original convention price £8.50 (RRP 9.99) to £8.00. If you you pick up the first anthology Tales of the Fallen and get both for a bargain £15.00.

Don’t forget as well the Unseen Shadows: Year One panel (Sunday 12:10 – 1pm in the Alea Cinema Room) and the special Unseen Shadows Year One digital collection DVD (£10.00) see you all there at table 17 in the New Dock Hall.