4 Things I Learned From Writing on an Emerging Mobile Story Platform

Episode

Today’s guest post is by Los Angeles–based writer Kathryn Stanley (@kathrynstanley_).


About six months ago, Pocket Gems, a mobile game developer, launched a new platform called Episode. It allows writers to script a story and then turn it into an animated interactive mobile story. It combines parts of TV shows, comics, and novels, and provides the unique ability for readers to have some control of how the story goes.

I started writing on the platform almost as soon as it launched and have written three stories to date. My most successful story, Finding Mr. Wright, has built a significant audience in a short time. So far it has an audience of 163,000 readers, who have collectively read over 1,222,000 chapters of my story.

Writing for Episode has been an immensely rewarding experience. The Episode team is highly collaborative and supportive, with an emphasis on producing the strongest work possible and a mindset that invites and encourages taking creative risks. They’re pushing the envelope on what it means to tell stories in the digital age.

There’s no denying we’re becoming a mobile society. Episode interests me as an author because it approaches storytelling from a completely mobile perspective, giving readers a new medium with which to engage and connect over stories.

Here’s the most valuable advice that I could give an aspiring Episode writer below:

1. Plot out your stories.

A great TV writer once said that you don’t have a season until you know how it ends. Rather than jumping into your first chapter without much of a plan, determine where the story is going and then decide how to best work toward that ending by writing an outline before you even get on the portal. Much like television, Episode’s stories tend to be released in 10-to-20 chapter “seasons,” with many stories having more than one season.

Developing your story premise from a pitch to a season involves plotting out the major moments of conflict, turning points, cliffhangers, and resolutions. In doing so, you’ll be able to develop subplots that’ll play into the larger picture in the end. You’ll also be able to identify areas in which your pacing seems to fall off, as a large part of retaining your readers is making sure that there is a strong, unrelenting sense of narrative urgency from chapter to chapter.

2. Write toward the fantastical and dramatic, but create relatable characters.

One of the really exciting things about Episode is that the content lends itself to creating truly imaginative, exciting stories. Stories on the platform include witches, magic, aliens, giants, and more. In other words, there really are no boundaries to the story worlds that you can create.

However, take the time to figure out who your characters are before you start writing, and make them believable. Plot aside, creating characters who are going through things that your readers can relate to will keep them reading. Allow your characters to have flaws and make mistakes—and then deal with those mistakes in realistic ways. Give some kind of redeeming quality to your villainous characters; nobody’s all bad or all good.

3. Add frequent, meaningful choices.

One thing that really sets Episode apart from other storytelling platforms is that it’s so interactive. Episode’s scripting language lets authors add choices to their stories, where readers can choose different paths in the plot.

The more meaningful choices that you can incorporate into your stories, the more readers feel invested in the outcome. They like to feel like they are determining where their story goes.

However, branching can get complicated when you try to create too many major choices that split the story off in too many ways. For that reason, it’s important to figure out manageable approaches to creating different story paths.

4. Answer your fan mail.

Another thing that makes Episode so unique is that it provides the opportunity for readers to get in touch with the writers. All fan mail that you choose to respond to is displayed publicly on the app.

Many readers have asked me for tips on writing, have had questions about the story or the characters, have shared their own insights about how they experienced the story, or have simply wanted to offer a compliment. It really means a lot when you respond (even if you’re just answering a question about your favorite kind of pie), and it’s been a wonderful platform to encourage and spread positivity, kindness, and tolerance.


Want to experience Episode for yourself? Visit their site and download the app. Or, visit their Writer’s Portal to explore the story-building interface. You should also read the writer’s FAQ and terms of service before diving in.

Posted in Digital Media, Guest Post.
Kathryn Stanley

Kathryn Stanley

Kathryn Stanley is the writer of Finding Mr. Wright, In a Perfect World and Sister Swap on the Episode platform. Having grown up in Baltimore, she now lives in Los Angeles and works in the entertainment industry. She holds a BA in psychology with a minor in creative writing.

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23 Comments on "4 Things I Learned From Writing on an Emerging Mobile Story Platform"

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Every Day Poems
What fun. 🙂 Yesterday, I assisted my daughter in doing a Field Research project for Sociology. We chose the library as our watching-place. Conclusion in the children’s/YA room? Of the over 30 people in the room, only one mom was reading a book to a child (sort of; she appeared to be holding it up in front of the girl’s face so the child could peer at it). And one mom was taking out books for her two girls. The rest of the mothers were sitting silently by, alone. Or they were chatting with their friends. The kids were playing… Read more »
Laura J. Davis

One of the things I noticed about it was that you lose all rights to your story. So for writers who are thinking of making their stories into books, I would err on the side of caution. If it’s just for fun – go for it, otherwise you are putting all your time and effort into something that you will never have the rights to.

Jane Friedman
Writers do retain rights to their material. Episode’s terms of service are a bit sticky to read/navigate, but their FAQ offers an accurate summary: “Who owns my story? In a nutshell, you do! We can’t sell the rights to your story to a movie or TV studio, make it into a book, or hire some new writer to write your story for you without your permission. You should review the Terms of Service, however, as we are licensed to promote your story and use it in advertising, among other things. We also own all the animations and art used in… Read more »
Kenny Johnston

Hi Laura, I work at Episode / Pocket Gems. In terms of ownership, pretty much everyone who writes on the platform keeps the rights to their stories. The exceptions are when we pay certain writers to sell their work to us.

We’re building a payment model that ensures writers who create successful stories connect with a large audience and are well-paid. We want Episode to be a career-launching opportunity for aspiring authors and bring a brand new audience of millions to established writers.

Marcy Mason McKay

I’d never heard of Episode, Kathryn, so I LOVED everything about your post. It sounds like it’s been a rewarding experience for you, both personally and professionally. Maybe the rest of publishing will learn from some of Episode’s successes

Kathryn Stanley

Hi Marcy! As a post-college grad excited to be writing for a living and an aspiring screenwriter, my experience with Episode has certainly been invaluable across multiple facets of my life. I’m glad to hear you enjoyed the post – thank you for your comment!

Marcy Mason McKay

You are a BUSY woman, Kathryn. Good for you and best wishes. Thanks for responding to me.

m.e. welman
As part of an interview process I did with Pocket Gems (I did not ultimately get the position of Writer Scout), I was asked to speak to television and screen writers, have them look at Episode’s writers’ portal and gather their feedback. Most every writer I spoke to (there was one exception) had the same reaction: I have to code? Think brackets and underscores and directional words like ‘gain’ and turning music up and down. And if you’re really tricky, pixelation. Most writers just flip on their computer and let the software do the rest. The payment offered for this… Read more »
Kenny Johnston
Hi M.E., Appreciate the feedback. In terms of the coding, we’ve built a scripting language that is modeled off of industry-standard screenwriting software. It absolutely does not require any ability to code. That said, we have gotten similar responses from some writers when they first look at the Writers Portal. We have found every writer, to a person, has been able to get the hang of Episode in pretty short order. They can ask for help in the forums as well as use the tutorials we offer. And then, when we ask what they think, they regularly tell us they… Read more »
m.e. welman

Hey Kenny, glad to hear that about the portal and all the best.

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[…] Story-telling is evolving with our technology. Kathryn Stanley talks about her experience with a new interactive app called Episode in her post 4 things I learned from using Episode. […]

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[…] Jane Friedman’s Blog:  4 Things I Learned From Writing on an Emerging Mobile Story Platform […]

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[…] 4 Lessons From Writing on an Emerging Mobile Platform […]

Kate Tilton

Oh my gosh…this is exactly what I have been looking for.
There are games like this in the romance genre that are very fun because they put the reader in the story and let the reader have choices that effect the overall outcome. I have been waiting to see a similar platform but for stories of all genres.
I am very excited for this. 🙂

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[…] About six months ago, Pocket Gems, a mobile game developer, launched a new platform called Episode. It allows writers to script a story and then turn it into an animated interactive mobile story. It combines parts of TV shows, comics, and novels, and provides the unique ability for readers to have some control of how the story goes.I started writing on the platform almost as soon as it launched and have written three stories to date. My most successful story, Finding Mr. Wright, has built a significant audience in a short time. So far it has an audience of… Read more »
trackback
[…] About six months ago, Pocket Gems, a mobile game developer, launched a new platform called Episode. It allows writers to script a story and then turn it into an animated interactive mobile story. It combines parts of TV shows, comics, and novels, and provides the unique ability for readers to have some control of how the story goes. I started writing on the platform almost as soon as it launched and have written three stories to date. My most successful story, Finding Mr. Wright, has built a significant audience in a short time. So far it has an audience… Read more »
trackback

[…] Animate Your Stories  […]

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[…] tested out the platform and obtained incredible results. One of her stories has an audience of 163,000 readers who collectively read more than 1,222,000 chapters of her […]

ruaathebeautyqueen

This maybe out of topic but, I published my story wanting to share it I went to the forums. I wanted to reply to a post and I logged in. I couldnt reply, after searching for why I couldnt. There was three reasons.
Not logged in, but I was. Another reason was the post blocked new replies. But! It is a new post and alot of people posted today and some even now! last reason was I didnt have the “premission” How to have the permission? Can anyone help me!

Hannah Rose

Hello! Fellow Episode author and Forums user here.

All I can do is explain the last one. I think that it’s because your account hadn’t gotten approved by the Episode Team yet, so you weren’t allowed to post anything. I could be wrong, though.

Sally fjr

Question for you
The app makes money off tickets and gems do the authors see any profits of it?

kim

is it free to write stories in episode?

Jane Friedman

Yes

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