This post originally appeared on ReadWrite.

Many of us go about our lives constantly surrounded by screens, immersed in various “stories”: movies, TV shows, books, plot-driven video games, news articles, advertising, and more. Whether we realize it or not, we’re creating new behaviors, routines, mindsets, and expectations around the content we consume—which in turn presents new challenges and opportunities for content creators and marketers. In other words, while the fundamentals of good storytelling remain the same, technology is changing how stories could be told in the future—across platforms and beyond. But what does that mean exactly?

From 2012-2013, Latitude, a strategic insights consultancy, has been conducting an ongoing Future of Storytelling initiative to understand what audiences want for the long haul. Below are 8 predictions for the future of storytelling based on what we found. (More information about Latitude’s multi-phase research project is available here):

1. Stories will come out of the screen, into the physical world. We’ve seen plenty of cohesive cross-platform narratives, but where can you go from there? The “real world”—that’s where. Thanks to technological advances like augmented reality and The Internet of Things, projects like Google’s Ingress are beginning to suggest that we should treat the actual world as another platform. We expect to see stories increasingly connected to physical spaces, from MMO games played out across a city to live action events to retail experiences.


Image by Latitude. Larger version here.

2. Characters will become connections. As our own social relationships play out more over digital mediums (like Facebook) and technology enables characters to live beyond the screen, people will be able to interact with these characters organically in places once reserved for only fan interaction. Maybe some crazy AI program will enable this, or maybe it’s just a matter of writers or actors maintaining online identities for their characters. Either way—would you rather talk to your friend about James Bond’s mission, or talk to Bond himself?


Image by Latitude. Larger version here.

3. Audiences will be able to experience stories unfolding from different vantage points. The analog version of this might be the 90’s film Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, which follows the exploits of two minor characters in Hamlet, retelling Shakespeare’s masterpiece from a wildly different point-of-view. In the future, audiences will be able to experience stories through a particular character’s eyes—and perhaps have the ability to switch between characters at will.


Image by Latitude. Larger version here.

4. Stories will be told 24/7. As we develop deeper relationships and greater interactivity with characters, it’s only natural to think of them as having lives of their own—lives that exist in some parallel universe, and go on even when we’re not tuning in. We may receive text messages or alerts when something significant has happened during the course of a character’s day, or we may get “breaking news” alerts pushed to our smartphones when an important battle has been won.


Image by Latitude. Larger version here.

5. The notion of authorship will evolve; in many cases, storytelling will be more of a “bottom-up” process. People have been putting their own content on the web forever, but new business models have been slow to evolve and big studios and production companies are just beginning to take audience participation seriously—such as with Syfy’s hybrid game/TV show, Defiance. Content creators will continue to find elegant ways to incorporate audience ideas and participation into professional-quality content, and they’ll do it in something close to real-time.


Image by Latitude. Larger version here.

6. Stories will make the world a better place (even more than they already do). As stories extend further into the real world, so will their potential to create positive change for both individuals and society, which might mean living a healthier life, supporting important causes, or something else. More narratives will be designed to drive social action in more engaging ways—encouraging audience members to become active collaborators not just in narratives, but in the real world issues behind them.


Image by Latitude. Larger version here.

7. Videos will offer one-click storefronts. The days of scouring the web to figure out where you can buy your favorite TV character’s awesome outfit are over. Thanks to real-time apps, brands are synching up the “Buy now” button with your favorite content—giving an entirely new meaning to contextual relevance. It also begs the question, “Could second screens be more effective at driving commerce than primary screens?”


Image by Latitude. Larger version here.

8. Passive or active narrative experience? It’ll be your choice. There a ton of cool new possibilities for storytelling, but there are also different kinds of audiences with different desires. (To learn more about audience types, download The Future of Storytelling report.) In the future, audiences will be able to choose their desired “tier” of interactivity—from completely passive to wildly active—before engaging with a story. That could mean the difference between merely observing as an onlooker (as with more traditional story experiences) to becoming a minor character to becoming the main character. Of course, this will require that storytellers have a good sense of their audiences so they can determine what’s too much or too little for different groups.


Image by Latitude. Larger version here.

Kim Gaskins is the Director of Content Development for Latitude, a strategic insights consultancy helping the world’s foremost media, technology and advertising companies better understand and engage their audiences.