It’s that time again. Time for Derek Daniels to save the day! Once again, the newest episode will be listed on the front page of DavidJace.com under Short Stories. The previous episodes, in case you missed one, will be in the drop down box.
Give it a read, and remember that you can let me know what you think about it by clicking on the Comment link at the bottom of the story.
Every Boy Scout troop has done it. Most summer camps have done it. Countless English classrooms have done it. “Let’s all tell a story together, one line at a time!” Well, a discussion between myself and another writer recently yielded an expansion idea, based on that, which I would like to share.
First let me tell you the ‘train’ part of it. My wife does some couponing. I don’t mean she clips a couple of coupons out of the Sunday paper to use at the store. I mean she plans deals and exploits sales with multiple types of coupons, stacking one on top of another until the store ends up paying her to take home a basket of goodies! Anyways, enough bragging. She is a member of a couponing site where other members, from all over the country, all do these deals and trade coupons with each other. “I don’t need dog food, but I’ll give you this dog food coupon for that pizza coupon.” Once in awhile, she joins what is called a “train.” Listen up, this is the important part. On a coupon train, several people sign up and the coupons go from one person to another, switching and adding coupons and everyone benefits. They have gotten really creative with the way the trains run and what gets on and off them, so to speak.
So, now that you understand “trains” and “stories,” let’s put them together and talk about this idea. What if several authors signed up (maybe even on a website made for this… hmm… more ideas!) to write a collaborative story. Say, just for the sake of explaining it, that we get 7 authors on this particular train. Perhaps we have not laid down a plot framework, but have limited it to a genre, perhaps Western? (Yee-haw!) and the going rule is that you have to work with whatever text you get. (You can’t trash the main character halfway into the book and start telling the story of the cashier that got a cameo in Chapter 3.) At midnight on Sunday, the first author gets to start. He has 24 hours to write as much of the beginning of this novel as he can before handing it off to the next author. She, at midnight, takes what he wrote and moves forward with it. She has 24 hours to write all that she can before handing it off to the next author, and so on. The last author in the train is the caboose. This author has to get his caboose in gear and finish the novel! He, like the others, has 24 hours to do his work, but his job is to wind up the details, tie up the loose ends, and provide a satisfactory conclusion to the work. Voila, we’ve ridden a wild Story Train and written a novel in only a week! NaNoWriMo would be impressed!
Naturally, this probably wouldn’t result in the next Great American Novel, but it could result in a lot of fun, and an interesting challenge for some writers. Naturally, like my wife’s coupon trains, there could be all kinds of interesting rules and setups and designs of trains like this. There might need to be some artistic license questions to answer, but I’m sure we could find a reasonable method.
What do you think? Writers, would this be a fun challenge for you? Readers, do you think you’d enjoy reading something written by several authors all at once? I’d love to hear your thoughts!
Actually, I’m envious. Despite popular use, jealous doesn’t accurately describe what I’m feeling. Last week, the movie Kick-Ass was released on DVD, and I got it and watched it and enjoyed it. (I wasn’t thrilled with the particular treatment, but I loved the concept and story behind it.) I’m envious of Kick-Ass because it’s such an obviously wonderful plot. As the main character says in the opening scenes: “I always wondered why nobody did it before me…at some point in our lives, we all wanted to be a superhero.” It then goes on to follow the story of a guy who did it. He dressed up, he jumped around, he went out looking for trouble, and found it.
Two years ago, I was even more envious of the movie Hancock with Will Smith. I won’t spoil that one if you haven’t seen it, but what an incredible, brilliant, creative plot/characterization. It starts with a superhero that has amnesia and doesn’t know who he is or where he comes from, and just gets better from there on in.
Since I’m currently working on a project that involves full immersion virtual reality, I’m also a little nervous of stealing from someone I can’t help but be envious of: Piers Anthony. His novel Killobyte is one of my favorites.
I do occasionally feel a little down when thinking of, discovering, or watching what I consider creative brilliance, but mostly I am nervous of stealing the ideas. Shakespeare said there is nothing new under the sun. Considering the recent technological developments of the last century and a half, I’m not convinced he was in a good position to make this judgement. Nevertheless, even something as “recent” as superheros may not necessarily be “new.”
“Gods. Angels. Different cultures call us by different names. Now all of a sudden it’s ‘superhero.’” -Hancock
There is even a book called Our Gods Wear Spandex by Christopher Knowles that discusses this concept of superheroes being a new incarnation of an ancient human concept.
I don’t mind running along side creative brilliance in a similar, imaginative footrace, but I don’t want to steal someone else’s shoes trying to leave my own footprints. In the end, I guess it comes down to this:
Yes, I’m envious, but instead of standing in awe, or matching their footsteps, I’m trying to run my own race and, just maybe, I’ll meet them at the finish line.
Recently (July 24th), over on magicalwords.net (a website I have recently discovered and been loving, by the way), Edmund Schubert posted an article about the value of stylistic rules and advice. More importantly, the value of using those guidelines weighed against the value of breaking them!
This is excellent advice to any writer, whether a beginning novelist, or an 8th-grade, class-ditching, English-is-for-nerds essayist! Rules can be broken, but only if you know the rule to begin with, and then know when to break it!
Also (bonus!), imbedded within the article are some excellent clarifying ideas regarding grammar and punctuation. Among that part of the discussion, a few examples were dropped that invited widespread, rousing rioting in the comments section! Yes, I was part of it, but it was Edmund wielding the “very large dictionary!”