Friday, January 13, 2012

Storyworld Level Design Tasks - Significant Objects

Significant objects are the second type of existents (Ryan, Storyworlds Across Media, 2011). To qualify as a plot-significant object, an object must have a substantial impact on the story’s plot. The One Ring in The Lord of the Rings trilogy is an example of a significant object. Without the ring, the plot would be entirely different. The Holy Grail is another significant object and has been used in many grail quest stories. Money, treasure, a submarine, and atomic bombs are among the significant objects that have driven the plots of a wide variety of stories.

A character-significant object has meaning to a character. It may satisfy an emotional, religious, or other need for the character.
Character-significant objects do not need to change the course of the plot, but they do need to be described in enough detail that the reader understands their value or importance to the character. (Rosenfeld, 2008, p. 48)
A significant object has a set of physical characteristics and has value – monetary, symbolic, or as a source of power – to the characters in the story. In many stories, the significant object has an extensive history. The One Ring in The Lord of the Rings, for example, was forged “in the year 1600 of the Second Age to gain power over other rings held by the leaders of Men, Elves and Dwarves” (Wikipedia, 2011) and has a history that spans more than 4500 years of The Lord of the Rings storyworld time. In the movie The Hunt for Red October the significant object is the Soviet Union’s newest and most powerful submarine. In the novel and movie The Da Vinci Code the significant object is both an object and, in an interesting plot twist, a person. In each case, the significant object has a back-story that is directly relevant to the story’s plot and/or one of its characters.

This back-story can provide an opportunity to develop one or more transmedia narrative extensions that delve more deeply in the significant object. These extensions can be relatively simple works that are the equivalent of an article in an encyclopedia or as complex as a narrative with the significant object at the center of a previous or subsequent story. The history of the One Ring in The Lord of the Rings has it come into the possession of several characters, only to be lost again. Each of those situations could be expanded into a separate story with the One Ring at the center of it.

Similarly, the submarine in Hunt for Red October could be the significant object at the center of a sequel in which it is used, perhaps, to penetrate Soviet territory on an ultra-secret, highly dangerous mission.

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