In the old days, Hollywood wanted to know what the story was about to make a movie. Then Hollywood wanted to know who the characters are so a movie can support sequels. Today, Hollywood wants to know what the world of your story is so they can create a movie, TV series, comic books, web sites, and apps. This new story world building emphasis is called trans media storytelling.
Look at the blockbusters of “Star Wars,” “The Matrix,” “Harry Potter,” and the Marvel Universe. They all take place in a new world where multiple stories can take place. “Star Wars” wasn’t just about a farm boy blowing up an evil villain’s planet-killing weapon. Instead, it was about a galaxy fighting for freedom. That story world can support multiple movies, TV shows, cartoons, comic books, role-playing games, and lots of merchandise.
Steven Spielberg created “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” that was a great story about UFOs. But George Lucas created “Star Wars” that spawned an entire franchise. Which is more profitable? Which continues to provide more stories today and in the future?
So rather than focus on telling a single story, Hollywood wants a whole new story world. “The Hunger Games” was about a world where the United States has been turned into dictatorship and broken up into districts where a brutal game among teenagers occurs every year. That story world is far more limited than the “Star Wars” universe, but still far more adaptable to more stories than “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.”
When you create a story world, you must also create a compelling story. Nobody would have cared about “Star Wars” if the original movie had bombed. So you need to think of your story but within the larger context of a story world as well.
Selling a screenplay is an ambitious dream, but don’t stop there. Keep dreaming about creating a rich story world that will allow multiple stories to be mined from it and provide fans with a constant, never-ending stream of content. Look at how “Star Wars” spawned “The Clone Wars” cartoon series along with “The Mandalorian” TV series.
Because “Star Wars” provides a richer story world, notice how it’s still popular and going strong decades after the original movie appeared? Now notice how much weaker “The Hunger Games” is compared to the Harry Potter series or “Star Wars”?
Hollywood isn’t just looking for the next blockbuster, but the next blockbuster set within a world that they can mine over and over again for multiple stories presented in different formats from movies and TV shows to comic books and smartphone apps. If you can write a story that’s part of a larger story world, you’ll be far better off than just focusing on writing a single story that has nowhere to go when it ends.