Understanding Commaful, the largest multimedia storytelling and fiction site

If you’re a writer, you’ve probably heard about Commaful before. Perhaps you were invited by a friend or ambassador. Maybe you saw a story that was shared on the site. If you were like me, you checked it out and possibly felt a bit confused.

The more I saw it around, the more I got curious. Finally, I decided to dive in. In the last month, I have built a nice, small but loyal following on the Commaful site. Though it took a bit of getting used to, I’m a fan.

To really understand what Commaful is, we need to look at what multimedia fiction is. Stories on Commaful are in a unique format that people have called the multimedia fiction movement.

Multimedia fiction is the future?

I’ve been seeing the terms “multimedia fiction” and “multimedia story” thrown around a bunch. Let’s start with a practical definition of multimedia fiction. The term multimedia fiction refers to fictional writing that involves more than just the written word. This is commonly some form of visual or audio.

By the nature of these types of works, multimedia fiction tends to be short. Longer works in this format tend to be serialized. The most popular type of multimedia fiction is the picture book. Commaful stories are all in this picturebook like format, making it the largest collection of multimedia stories.

A big reason why many believe that multimedia fiction is the future is because of the overall movement of the media industry towards shorter and more visually interesting content. With the rise of what is being called the “Snapchat generation”, multimedia fiction is seen as a way for this new generation to fall in love with fiction. It’s also a way for authors to directly interact with their audiences.

I’m personally not sure if I’d go as far as calling it the future, but I do see strong promise. There are a lot of young people on Commaful and some that I’ve talked to fell in love with reading because of the site and its multimedia stories.

The Commaful Format

The first thing you’ll notice when using Commaful is how different its format is. This was what took me some getting used to, as I am used to reading books and not a picturebook layout. After trying it out, my opinion has changed. I think the format is quietly one of the most genius features about the site itself.

If you haven’t seen the format before, this is what it looks like. You tap on the right to go forward, and on the left to go back.

The Picturebook Format: The option to add visuals opens up a number of new doors and sensory advantages for creators. This means that you have so many ways to get creative that weren’t available to you before as a creator.

The Tapping Mechanism: This mechanism makes it so that as a writer, I have to make every page interesting. Every line interesting. People have low attention spans and get a chance to decide not to continue reading at any point. If my story doesn’t convince somebody to continue, there are plenty of other stories for the reader to enjoy. This style has forced me to cut a lot of fat from my writing. I can’t be verbose. In my novels, I like to take my time. Here, I need to jump into the action and always be thinking about keeping things interesting. It’s tough, but quite an amazing exercise.

The Audience

The site is growing very quickly so this section is changing. I also don’t have real analytics about what the audience is, but in my personal experience, the audience is relatively young. Many of the people who have followed me and commented on my work are between 13–25. That is not a set number as there are a number of readers that are 30+ and even a few 60+, but the biggest group I saw was high school and college age.

I suspect this to change as the website continues to grow. This is also my own personal experience. Perhaps my audience just attracts that demographic. Something to note as a grain of salt.

Cherries On Top

There were other things I liked about Commaful, but they weren’t big enough in my mind to warrant another section. Here they are!

1) Story Trailers: I’ve never seen my writing shared nicely to Instagram as a video before. With a tap of a button, I had a pretty awesome story trailer that I could share to Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. Nice advantage of multimedia fiction.

2) Diversity: Not a huge library of stories yet, but I’ve come across a several LGBTQ and minority focused stories already. That’s more than I can say about many other sites. There are occasional sightings of bestselling authors and also beginning writers. There are readers and writers from all backgrounds, age ranges, sexuality, and experience.

If you’re looking for a great site to publish a novel, Commaful probably isn’t for you. But if you want a unique experience with a new format that appeals to a new generation of readers, I think Commaful is worth a shot. I’ve had a great time growing with the site and look forward to watching it evolve.