The Birmingham Book Festival in the UK is breaking out of its hard-backed covers and entering the transmedia storytelling world.

In a performance organised with Red Lantern Project Management and Adhere Creative, the festival is presenting a physical and digital show along the lines of a choose your own adventure story. The experience is called A Reliable Witness and has been written by authors Mez Packer and Rochi Rampal.

Transmedia storytelling has grown as a format for readers to be more than passive consumers of narrative. The style of writing that includes sending consumers to a place for a specific experience comes from early versions of alternate reality game playing.

One of the first examples of transmedia storytelling is the Dreadnot web game that was produced via a grant from the San Francisco Chronicle in 1996. The game included email addresses for characters to be contacted and phone numbers that participants can call to hear voicemail messages relating to the story.

reliable witness 520x173 Spilling out of the screen: Reliable Witness combines drama, social media and interactivity

A Reliable Witness takes place physically in the Pavillions shopping centre until Oct 13. Those who go to take a look can choose to be a spectator or participate in the event and it is free.

The audience can influence the story, digitally or physically. The drama kicked off with a marriage proposal staged at Arts Fest earlier this month.  The audience at the festival was not made aware that the event was a work of fiction and as it went a bit awry, the proposal was captured in an apparent user-generated video which is now on YouTube.

The story will unfold online through Twitter accounts, Facebook, ringing phones that the audience can choose to pick up and of course in the live performances at the shopping centre. It’s a commitment for ‘readers’ to follow, but an interesting way to create literature that comes to life.

Transmedia stories have been explored by established writers like Stephen King’s marketing for the Dark Score stories which unravelled a story through photos and puzzles online and filmmakers like Stephen Spielberg who worked with a team from Microsoft to create ‘The Beast’ to promote the movie Ai.

Though there will be those who prefer to disappear into the world of a book in the traditional sense, digital and physical storytelling is now an added tool for writers to change the experience they hope to create. It all depends on the level to which consumers would like to join in and of course how they choose their own adventures.

Hat tip: Sarah-Clare Conlon

Image Credit: MuellerMartin