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The 5 Year Engagement | EduClaytion

The 5 Year Engagement

English: Emily Blunt at the Toronto Internatio...

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Not only did Kevin Haggerty have some fun interviewing me recently; he also opened my eyes to an upcoming film with a unique marketing plan. The 5 Year Engagement is using transmedia, a new form of storytelling that is changing the way we absorb stories and consume culture.

Okay, full disclosure: The movie stars a certain actress named Emily Blunt who I may or may not have mentioned a couple times*. But I’m not here to blather and blush and blubber and gush. There’s plenty of time to do that later**.

The fictional couple in The 5 Year Engagement (co-starring Jason Segel) even has a wedding blog that is building towards the big event. Some of this stuff is really clever.

I’ve been wondering how this approach impacts marketing and how writers can use this kind of creativity in the 21st century. It just happens that my friend Ellie–whose superskills include cooking and being awesome–has been delving into the world of transmedia like no one I know. I asked her for some thoughts on this emerging area.


Ellie’s thoughts:
I had lots of misconceptions about transmedia when I first learned heard about it (it’s much more than putting a wig, makeup, and heels on your book). Transmedia is not to be confused with multimedia or cross media, it’s not simply combining media. It’s creating an experience. Henry Jenkins, MIT media studies professor says, “coordinated use of storytelling across platforms can make the characters more compelling,” and Stephen Dinehart says, “ ”true” transmedia is designed in preproduction with the intent of immersion.”

Transmedia evokes all your senses, immerses you in the story. Examples:

  • Sight: What if in the middle of your Kindle book a news anchor flashes on the screen and you can watch a clip of exactly what they’re seeing in the book?
  • Touch: What if you could hold the exact photo that the hero found in his girlfriend’s locker?
  • Taste: What if you were given the chocolate bar that the protagonist was given in his darkest moment?
  • Hearing: What if when you were flicking through the e-reader pages and as you read about the hero walking across the dark room you heard footsteps? Sound effects would be an incredible addition to a book–or just as cool, a soundtrack!
  • Speech: Just like in Cathy’s Book what if you could call the main character of the story?

Think how much more enjoyable so many movies would be if you knew the character(s) before you even walked into the theater! The possibilities are endless. It’s an exciting time to be an artist.


That’s only picking the tippity top of Ellie’s fascinating brain. Be sure to check out her new post for more of the cool ways storytelling is being transformed in 2012 and beyond.

If you’re really interested in some of the other ways the literary world is getting creative then check out my post last year called Sucking Readers In.

*The restraining order has been rescinded.

**I’ve set aside April, June, and most of 2013.

23 Responses to “The 5 Year Engagement”

  1. Todd Pack January 26, 2012 at 9:28 am #

    As a consumer, I’ve been burned too many times by transmedia. The websites and tweets arecompelling, but then you see the actual movie, and you’re like, “Meh.”

    I’m looking at you, “Cloverfield.”

    • educlaytion January 26, 2012 at 8:19 pm #

      Good point. I still haven’t been willing to see Cloverfield over the feedback I heard from everyone.

  2. susielindau January 26, 2012 at 9:32 am #

    I love using video on my blogs (although I did briefly get put into the WP spam file for doing so) and am very excited for this new technology. I remember Twin Peaks came out with a soundtrack (which I own) and a book or two to go along with their series. It was a series though which gave a lot of consumers time to get hooked.

    I don’t think I would ever “bone up” on characters before seeing a movie. I have enough trouble just getting there early enough to get a good seat!

    • educlaytion January 26, 2012 at 8:20 pm #

      There are definitely a lot of possibilities for bloggers Susie. Curious to see some more creative ideas.

  3. Leanne Shirtliffe January 26, 2012 at 12:48 pm #

    Hi Ellie!

    This post has made me think of Skeleton Key, a young adult book that came out 5? years ago. It’s suspense, and at the end of every chapter, you watch a video clip online. Students loved it. (Although I will admit that I watched the first video after chapter one, and then read the whole book, and then watched all the videos…hello, linear woman). Of course, this would work much better with an e-reader.

    • EllieAnn January 26, 2012 at 1:31 pm #

      yes! Cool. great example. I envision Kindle and Nook quickly scurrying to provide transmedia options for their authors, like Apple has done. It is a much more immersive experience when you have it all together, instead of having to look up the story on two different devises.

    • educlaytion January 26, 2012 at 8:20 pm #

      I feel like I have the really cool table at my place when Leanne and Ellie are hanging out and chatting here :-)

  4. Amy January 26, 2012 at 2:32 pm #

    This is so timely for me. I’ve been kind of interested in this for a while and have often wondered if books/movies/magazines in the near future wouldn’t be more interactive.
    The “thing” (cause calling it a novel gives me stress hives) I am working on now has a scene in it where two characters are texting each other. Writing the texts in standard dialogue format just looked and felt wrong to me. I would love for it to look like a screen-shot of the protagonist’s phone, so you could see the text coversatio as the character would have seen it. This may be one reason why I think my story would work better as a graphic novel, but that’s a whole ‘nother can of worms . . .

    • educlaytion January 26, 2012 at 8:21 pm #

      You should explore some of these other ideas and see if doesn’t unlock some of the other stuff that gets blocked when writing.

  5. Kevin Haggerty January 26, 2012 at 3:22 pm #

    Thanks for the plug.

    I’m excited about this movie. I admit though, it seems though that they’re not using the “transmedia” to the extent I’d hoped.The Facebook blog is not updated all that often. Just sayin.

  6. HopefulLeigh January 26, 2012 at 3:50 pm #

    I don’t recall hearing the term transmedia before. This is an interesting concept. It reminds me of the book The Rose Labrynth, which includes all the papers that the hero and heroine find along the trail of the mystery. It gives the reader a chance to put the pieces together and see if they can solve one aspect of the mystery first.

    • educlaytion January 26, 2012 at 8:22 pm #

      Don’t know that one, but I love the interactive ideas.

  7. Mark Kaplowitz January 26, 2012 at 7:10 pm #

    The most important sense to exploit would be smell. Nothing awakes like smell.

    • educlaytion January 26, 2012 at 8:23 pm #

      Hey Schlabadoo, Remember Scratch & Sniff Stickers? ;-)

  8. laurenrantnrave January 26, 2012 at 11:53 pm #

    That was a great interview with Kevin! I am completely out of the discussion thread but it had to be said! :) Do I get points for rhyming?

  9. Marianne January 27, 2012 at 11:57 am #

    This is an excellent idea. I would read a lot of books taking place in the Bahamas. I wonder if it would change the type of books people read.

  10. randomlychad January 27, 2012 at 1:53 pm #

    If the meme weren’t played out, I’d say that transmedia certainly masters the possibilities of storytelling.

    It is indeed an exciting time to be an artist.

    Also, it was me who search-bombed you, Clay. You’re welcome!

  11. The Good Greatsby January 30, 2012 at 9:10 pm #

    I like Emily Blunt but I’m willing to step aside as long as you concede Kate Beckinsale. Maybe we could come to a gentleman’s agreement.

    • educlaytion February 1, 2012 at 11:00 am #

      I needed some time to think about this offer. What kind of man would I be if I simply conceded Kate? I’m just not sure about this.

  12. Piper Bayard February 1, 2012 at 10:12 pm #

    Love seeing two of my favorites in the same place. The idea of trans media is a bit mind-blowing to a girl who used to listen to Mystery House Theater on the radio at night. I’m counting on Ellie to ease me into the idea. Still not sure I want sound effects with my books, though. I’m ok with using my imagination.


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