Writing the Multi-Platform Novel: The Lexie Project

The Lexie Project webLiving in the age of social media and the internet, storytelling has been given new form. We tell stories in 140 character tweets, eight-minute YouTube serials, and blog installments. We get information from a hundred different angles, permeating our culture and affecting how we digest story. So, how can we use these new technologies in our fiction?

Have you ever dreamed of writing a multi-platform novel? If so, I have a treat for you!

Today is the debut of young adult author Heather Demetrios’ multi-platform novel The Lexie Project. Read the first installment today on Wattpad by searching The Lexie Project. Heather’s previous YA novels include I’ll Meet You There, Exquisite Captiveand Something Real (which The Lexie Project is the sequel to). Lexie is a groundbreaking and ambitious project spanning Wattpad, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, and more! It’s a year-long experiment in non-traditional novel writing that engages the reader on multiple platforms and encourages readers to influence the story! How cool is that?!

Heather has graciously agreed to talk to us about The Lexie Project and I’m super excited to share her inspiration, process, and writing tips with all of you!

Interview with Heather Demetrios:

Hi Heather! Imagine I’m new to your work. Can you give my readers the 101 on The Lexie Project?

The Lexie Project is a companion to my debut novel from 2014 Something Real, which is about a girl who’s on a reality TV show with her family and is dying to get off it. Something Real explores the gray area of the rights of minors on these shows and what it’s like to have your life on display, edited to fit the story a show’s producers want to tell. Here’s a girl who doesn’t want to be famous, a girl who’s been very hurt by her family having a show. Adolescence is hard enough!

It’s not necessary to have read Something Real before diving into The Lexie Project, but, of course, it’s fun to do so! Lexie is a secondary character in Something Real and, unlike her sister (the protagonist of Something Real), Lexie loved being on a reality TV show. Now she’s in LA, trying to be a legit actress. I’ve long been interested in fame – today, it seems like everyone gets their 15 minutes. I’ve always been a bit disturbed by reality TV and Something Real explores how it might affect kids who are on these shows. The Lexie Project is the aftermath: what happens when you’re not on the show anymore? What happens when you still want to play the fame game, but the rules are different? And what kinds of boxes do reality TV put young women in—and what happens when those young women realize what’s happening to them?

The Lexie Project is a multi-platform project: Wattpad, Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr, videos, and more! What inspired you to move away from traditional publishing and explore this new storytelling avenue?

Author Heather Demetrios and her character Lexie.

Author Heather Demetrios and her character Lexie.

I wanted to do The Lexie Project a different way, one that reflects the real time structure of reality TV. Eventually, I see it going into print, but it would be a very different way of entering into story. I wanted to be the wizard behind the curtain on this one and have it be a more immersive experience. I’m “co-writing” the story, which Lexie and I are calling a novelized memoir. Lexie is a nineteen-year-old girl in 2015: as such, she lives her life through social media. I wanted the story to incorporate that. My brother, who’s a senior in high school, is the one who told me about Wattpad. I wanted to see what would happen if readers could access a story told in serialized form. I’ve never written fan fiction, but I know there are loads of readers that love experiencing stories online. I wanted to tap into that and reach readers in a new way.

Personally, I (Ingrid) am a character based writer. I let character dictate the story for me. What is it that made you want to tell Lexie’s story? How has she inspired and/or led you through the writing process?

When I was working on Something Real, Lexie was a character that took time to figure out. At first, she was just a stereotype of the bitchy, ditzy, fame hungry sister to play opposite my protagonist. But as I went through the drafts, I began to see the walls Lexie had built up, the ways she coped with the stress of living her entire life on TV. She loves the fame, but won’t let herself see the downside to it. There’s real compassion and depth under her glitzed-out exterior and I wanted to explore what would happen to Lexie when she went to LA to go for the acting career she’s always wanted. I love the challenge of telling the story in this real-time way because I can’t force Lexie into a plot. I have to take it one step at a time and see where she wants to go. I also loved the idea of incorporating social media because it’s ended up working as a kind of storyboarding for me. Lexie will tweet something or write a post on her tumblr that sparks an idea. It’s the wild west of storytelling. I’m flying by the seat of my pants and loving it!

Heather Demetrios Quote 1

We read traditional books linearly, and that’s dictated by the pages. When you have a story in multi-platform arena the storytelling changes. Information is no longer shared in a linear fashion. It’s possible a reader might learn a plot twist before they ever read the set up. Like a spider web, there are so many paths a reader can move through this story. How do you envision your readers interacting with this non-linear story?

One thing I wanted to incorporate is crowd sourcing. When I look at the YA fandom, I see readers who are eager to participate in the creation of story: whether it be through fan art, fan fiction, or blog posts, readers are longing to have their say. I decided to let them have it before the story is written, to have a chance to influence it by way of giving “advice” to Lexie or simply commenting on the various social media outlets. It is definitely a web and that will have its pros and cons. I’m a traditional book girl myself, so this is all new for me, too.

I think about it in terms of something like A Game of Thrones. A lot of people see the show, then read the books, and because George R.R. Martin hasn’t finished it yet, you see readers trying to predict what’s going to happen. And HBO has announced that they’re going to finish the series before its writer does: I’m curious to see how HBO will influence George both now and after the series is finished. The main way I envision readers following the story is that they will read each week’s chapter as they follow along with social media (or just read the chapters, too, that’s fine). Sometimes they’ll see a foreshadowing in the social media for the following week, but there won’t be any spoilers. They’ll also get stuff that’s missing in the narrative – nothing plot-related, but just every day Lexie stuff that would have weighed down the narrative in terms of pacing. So, let’s say Lex has an audition and in the narrative we don’t see it because it’s not a pivotal thing. But maybe she’ll write a blog post or give us a picture that will show us more about that experience. Ultimately, you could just read the story on Wattpad and that would be enough. Not all readers are going to want to jump all over the place. The Wattpad will read just like a novel, with the same tone of Something Real. This is what, I hope, will eventually be published in a traditional way. The story is going to take exactly one year to read/write. Of course, readers who don’t jump in on week one will catch up at their own pace.

Heather Demetrios Quote 2

In your interview on BUSTLE you said “The story is loosely plotted – Lexie’s at the helm and the readers will help her steer.”  How do you see readers becoming involved in this story? How will they change the direction of the story? Can they? Are you open to that happening?

The crowd-sourcing is the area where I have the least control (and I’m a total control freak). But that’s what’s so exciting! Readers will definitely have a chance to influence the story, but, of course, it can’t be crazy random stuff like Lexie meets Brad Pitt and he leaves Angie for her. I will take what the readers have to say in consideration, but I’m very much one of those writers who believes my characters are in charge. As Anne Lamott says, I’m the “designated typist.”

There are two other sources of story influence: the actresses that I’m collaborating with are likely going to bring up things that become part of the story. I hired an actress in LA to play Lex’s YouTube star roomie Noelle Non Merci and she’ll be doing videos. We’ve already talked a lot about that character and she’s already influenced who Noelle will be. I also have an actress playing Lexie – she will be the face of Lexie’s Instagram etc. and may have a few cameos in Noelle’s videos. So, maybe Lexie will send me a picture that inspires me some way. It’s all very exciting. I come from a theatre background (acting, then directing) and I missed collaborating with other artists.

Is the story already written, or will you be writing it as you go? As the author, how did you prepare and plan for this project? Did you outline? Do you have content that is not yet created? Do you know the ending?

Nope! All that will be written are the first three chapters I post today, June 8th. So, this is an insane schedule because I’ll be posting roughly every 5 days – very quick turnarounds. That on top of the many books I’m writing under contract for my three publishers. I’ve got beta readers lined up to make sure my chapters are up to snuff – I’m very meticulous, so this will be me having to pray to the gods that it’s coming out right. The whole point of this is to have it be in real time with crowd-sourcing, etc. so this is just how it has to be.

something realBut, I should remind you that this is a companion novel to Something Real, so I created Lexie a few years ago – her whole backstory and her relationships with her family and her persona are already in place. My prep has been mostly focused on setting up all the social media. I had to switch gears a few weeks before the launch so that I could give readers a story worthy of them and up to my usual standards. The story has to come. One thing I will say: I totally reserve the right to go back and make the writing better. wouldn’t change any plot points, but I always want to make sure this is as good as possible. Plus, readers will be coming on board at all different times. The goal is that the story would go into print as is except for copyedits and polishing. I’m not a big outliner, which is kind of good in a way because I’m really flying by the seat of my pants here (on purpose!). I do know her general arc. Where she will end up, some of the challenges she will meet. I know a lot of the secondary characters. But! Because of the way I’m doing this, that could certainly change. It’s a beautiful experiment in writer-reader collaboration.

Even though I interact on social media every day, this type of storytelling is new to me and I’m unsure how to begin “reading” this story. Do you have any tips on where to start? Is there an introduction somewhere? Should I follow tweets daily? Read chapters somewhere? Is there a “schedule” for the project (i.e. we get a new installment of a TV show ever week) or is it open ended?

I’m new to this, too! I recommend starting on Wattpad, so that you can enter into the story in a more normalized way. There is an introduction already up, which is written by Chloe, Lexie’s sister and the protagonist from Something Real (who also appears in this book, along with crowd-favorite Patrick Sheldon). Of course, I would suggest reading Something Real before all of this, but, as I said before, it’s not necessary. Following Lex on Twitter is another good thing . I think you get a real sense of her personality on there. And her blog/website is fun, too – that’s like reading a character’s diary. If you’re totally down with all of it, there’s her Instagram, her roomie’s YouTubeVideos, and her Pinterest. My philosophy on this whole this is go big or go home.

How to Read the Lexie Project

My blog is full of aspiring authors want to get published! What are three tips you’d give an aspiring writer?

First, in the interest of full disclosure: I am a total fascist when it comes to writing. I’m not a hobbyist and don’t give advice to dabblers other than to say that if you decide you want to be a writer, then you better really give it your all and if you don’t want to give it your all, then there’s nothing I can possibly advise you on. Just because I know how to use over the counter medicine or occasionally read articles on health doesn’t make me a doctor. If I said I was a doctor, that would be both false and very insulting to doctors. Extend that metaphor to writing and you probably have a good idea of where I stand. Like, I said: fascist. But! If you are someone that is interested in becoming a writer or you already consider yourself one or you’re not sure about any of that and want to know more (because sometimes you don’t know and you won’t know until you try, right?) my 3 tips are:

Heather Demetrios Quote 3

  1. Write every day. You eat every day, no? I really hope you do. I hope you eat 3 times a day. So write every day if you want to be a writer and if you don’t have the desire to write every day, then that probably means you’re not a writer yet. Of course, some writers develop a process in which they only write on certain days and other days they do non-writing writing, which is to say, they take long walks and think about plot, etc. That’s okay, too. (That being said, life stuff does get in the way: family stuff, sickness, work, etc. Be careful, though: it’s very easy to use those things as a crutch, as an excuse. If you need crutches and excuses, then maybe you don’t really want to do this. That’s okay! But just know it’s not easy and it hurts and then you find gold and it’s so worth it. Also, I’ll never forget reading Stephen King’s On Writing and how he talked about being a full time high school teacher and having a family and all that and how the only place he could write was sitting on top of his washing machine, trying to get Carrie finished – I think it was Carrie. So, there you go.).
  2. birdbybirdRead Bird By Bird by Anne Lamott. This is the Bible of writing for me. Also, she’s not a fascist, so you’ll probably like her more. She keeps it real and she’s brilliant and the book itself is beautiful.
  3. Write what you want to write. Don’t write to trends. Don’t write what you think other people would like. The best stories are the ones that everything in you is dying to tell, the ones that keep you up at night and won’t leave you alone. The ones that make your heart beat faster. That always comes across on the page.

9) If you were a superhero, what would be your superpower? And (perhaps more importantly) what color would your hair be?

My power would have to be the ability to change my appearance and, at the blink of an eye, look like a totally different person. I’ve always wanted to be a spy and I think if I could do that, the CIA would totally hire me. Which means my hair could absolutely be pink.

The Lexie Project comes out TODAY on Wattpad! Start reading this exciting multi-platform fiction experience with these links:

Synopsis of the Lexie Project:

Lexie Baker is ready for her close up and nobody’s gonna get in her freaking way.

I'm reading the lexie projectNearly a year after graduating high school and taking a hiatus from her family’s reality TV show, “Baker’s Dozen,” Lexie is in Los Angeles, on a mission to take Hollywood by storm. From red carpet premiers to helping her YouTube star roommate film weird videos, Lex fits right in with the droves of girls just as hungry as she is for some screen time. When Jax Wilson, a young, hot producer, offers to launch The Lexie Project, a reality show that will chronicle Lex’s adventures trying to make it as an actress in LA, she jumps at the chance. It isn’t an Oscar-winning role, but it’s a start.

Then she meets Liam, a film student who brings books to parties and is one of her twin brother’s closest friends. When it becomes clear that her brother, Benny, has a serious drinking problem that’s causing his life to spiral out of control, Lexie relies on Liam to help protect her brother from the media…and himself. But spending time with Liam soon makes Lexie question if the life of a starlet is really what she wants. And if it is, how far will she go to get it?

The City of Angels soon becomes Hell on Earth and Lexie realizes that everyone—even Liam—has something they’re hiding. Soon, Lexie decides she needs to find a new role to play–not the one she was cast in at birth.

This companion novel to Something Real features several major characters from the novel. Perfect for fans of Hank Green’s The Lizzie Diaries, Lexie’s novelized memoir is a multimedia, multiplatform storytelling experience told in real time that reaches readers through social media. Weekly chapter installments on Wattpad are free and daily updates on Lexie’s social media accounts will give readers the chance to interact directly with Lexie and have opportunities to influence the course of the story.

About Heather Demetrios:

Heather DemetriosWhen she’s not traipsing around the world or spending time in imaginary places, Heather Demetrios lives with her husband in New York City. Originally from Los Angeles, she now calls the East Coast home. Heather has an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts and is a recipient of the PEN New England Susan P. Bloom Discovery Award for her debut novel, Something Real. Her other novels include Exquisite Captive, the first in the Dark Caravan Cycle fantasy series, I’ll Meet You There and the mutli-media serial novel, The Lexie Project. She is the founder of Live Your What, an organization dedicated to fostering passion in people of all ages and creating writing opportunities for underserved youth. Find out more about Heather and her books at www.heatherdemetrios.com, or come hang out with her on Twitter (@HDemetrios) and any number of social media sites.

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