Social-Fiction (So-fi) — A New Genre of Storytelling


Firstly, some definitions ...

Social: As in social media, and in the adjective sense of relating to or designed for activities in which people meet each other for pleasure.

Fiction:  A story with imaginary events and people.

I believe there is a new type of storytelling.

Just in case my fictional writing fails to leave an indelible mark upon the literary world, I thought I should claim the title as “the-one-who-named-it.”

Social-fiction is driven by the social interaction between fans and fictional characters who communicate with fans via social media.

Although the characters are fictitious, their interaction with the audience is real and the plot develops through that interaction. Real people and scenes may find their way into the story as it unfolds.

So-fi, as a genre, is used alongside any other genre, be it romance, action, mystery or science fiction. It has no limits.

My first fiction book, #JailbreakEarth — Mass Escape Plan, combines sci-fi, satire and a little mystery while using so-fi to build and develop the plot. I have written the book to appeal to an online, techie audience who I hope will find it funny and enjoy the ability to interact with the hero via social media. Time will tell if this first so-fi story is successful. Regardless, I thoroughly enjoyed the writing and self-publishing experience. The process is quite different to writing how-to type books.

So-fi beyond Books

No doubt this method of storytelling will grow. A live TV show, using the so-fi method, could utilize the power of social media to directly interact with an audience in real-time. Like an improv on steroids! The characters (actors) need to adapt to the real-time responses of their audience. “Should Zoey kiss Josh or should she just walk away and go back to Zac, who loves her?” Let the fans decide. It would be fun to watch.

On a commercial front, it tells you if a book, play or movie is worth creating. Can you engage fans with a snippet of the story?

Using crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter or Indiegogo, it’s possible to generate both funding and a fan base by storytelling so-fi style.

Storytelling the Hacker Way

In 2009, as part of the $5 billion public offering of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg included a letter to investors. In that letter, he described “The Hacker Way” and defined “hacking” as “building something quickly or testing the boundaries of what can be done.”

He goes on to say:

“The Hacker Way is an approach to building that involves continuous improvement and iteration. Hackers believe that something can always be better, and that nothing is ever complete.” 
— Mark Zuckerberg

I believe The Hacker Way contains some real gems for storytellers. You no longer have to convince an agent or publisher to “buy your story.” You can put it to the test. You no longer need to write a 500-page novel; just release the first few chapters and see if anyone falls in love with your characters.

The Hacker Way contains two mantras storytellers can use.

Mantra #1: Done is better than perfect.

Just write, sing, act, direct — however you tell your story, tell it your way, in your style and don’t worry about it being perfect. Just tell it and get it out!

Example: Andy Weir, after being rejected by literary agents, decided to give his book away for free via his website one chapter at a time as he wrote it. He honed the story based on feedback from fans. At the request of fans, he made it available on Amazon for $0.99 and within 3 months, the Kindle edition rose to the top of Amazon’s list of best-selling science-fiction. He was then offered a publishing deal, and debuted at twelfth position on the New York Times bestseller list. Next came a movie deal which was directed by Ridley Scott and the lead played by Matt Damon. The book is called The Martian and is funny as hell.

So remember: Done is better than perfect.

The second Facebook mantra is: Code wins arguments. Rather than discuss and argue if a new feature will be accepted, used and liked by followers, at Facebook, they write the code and release it to a small group first to see what happens. As storytellers, we can modify this mantra for our purpose to this:

Mantra #2: Fans win arguments.

You’ll never know if people love your characters and plot until you share it. Applying Mantra #1 will help you find fans and in the end, it’s their opinion and their feedback that matters more than anything.

Example: INXS was a very successful Australian band in the late eighties. In 1987, they recorded an album that was rejected by their record label president, who insisted the band make another album; he even offered them a million dollars to do so. But the band persisted and the album Kick was eventually released and went on to become a six-time platinum selling album with over four Top 10 singles in the USA.

Fans win arguments.

A Storyteller’s Dream

Today, the corporate executives of the publishing world no longer make arbitrary decisions as to what will or won’t be popular. Today, they aren’t deciding on the next big thing — they’re looking for it.

Today, a storyteller can bypass the old system entirely.

Take your message straight to your fans with a YouTube channel, a Facebook page, a crowdfunding project and blog.

If it doesn’t work, adjust it. Listen to the feedback.

Sooner or later, you’ll strike a chord with an audience and your so-fi story may become the next bestseller.

It’s pure unhindered creation. It’s fun. It’s challenging. It’s rewarding. And if you keep at it, sooner or later some part of your fictional world — your dream — becomes true.

I wish you the best of luck.

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