Story Train

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!

200 Word Challenge, Easy & Expert

A few weeks ago, I posted the 200-Word Challenge. However, as my sharp-eyed students and Donna Hole pointed out, I’m clearly not ready for that level of challenge! So this week, I would like to introduce the Easy and Expert levels of the 200-Word Challenge.

The Easy Level: Write a 200 word passage, without repeating a single noun, verb, adjective, or adverb. You may re-use articles, conjunctions, and even prepositions. The passage has to be cohesive, but may be about anything you like. It may be a descriptive vignette, or a short character profile, or even flash fiction.

The Expert Level: Again, write a 200 word passage, of any nature, but without repeating a single word. No repeating articles, prepositions, adverbs, verbs, nouns, adjectives, adverbs, not even gerunds nor predicate nominatives! If you succeed on this one, I definitely want you to post it, because I at least know that it is theoretically possible…

The standard challenge is linked at the top of the page, so feel free to revisit that as well, if you like. I’d love to see your various efforts posted here. Good luck!

200 Word Challenge

My students are swearing to me that it can’t be done. Care to prove them wrong? Post your efforts in the comments below!

The 200-Word Challenge: Write 200 words, without repeating a single one, save for articles, conjunctions, and helping verbs.

Thus, you can have “We have seen that statue before. I have known this woman.” but you cannot have “I have a grape. You have an apple.”

Topic unlimited, but it must be cohesive. You cannot jump from topic to topic every 20 words.

Below is my own attempt. Written using Dr. Wicked’s Write or Die lab as a handy word-counter and cattle-prod, I managed to almost succeed. I believe that the only word outside of the rules that I did not manage to eliminate at the start was ‘of.’ However, with a little help from my brilliant wife, I found the keys and succeeded! Also, a very cool little legend has spawned from the challenge! (It ended up at 209 words, instead of 215.)

Sure enough, once I showed my effort to my students, they found four more words I had doubled! Proof that editing is a good thing, right? I said I would give them credit for finding those errors, so:
Henry found “that”
Maria found “any”
Chris found “at”
Andrew found “could”

Accolades to my students for being good editors!

The slumbering dragon snorted hot flame and we saw the cavern around us. The towering mounds adorned with glittering gold and roughly cut jewels sparkled amid the flickering light, the beast’s sleeping breath. Lord Charles Overcault sheathed his sword and clambered atop the nearest treasure pile for a better view. Sir Calreth O’dell moved around the edge, blade held ready. They were truly best friends; no two warriors could be closer even if born brothers. Suddenly, a sparkle caught their eyes. Above the heaped emeralds and scattered rubies, a single gem sat in the moon’s lone ray that entered the cave through a hole at the top. It was the Princess’s Heart, stolen from the vaults under Aramathus and thought lost these many past ages. The legend said the artifact would carve jealousy, greed, and doubt upon any man’s soul. The curse echoed the stone’s origin. Supposedly, an ancient king’s daughter, who loved a commoner, denied her father’s wish to marry. Instead, she and the unapproved lover eloped. The parents, upon capturing them, killed the boy and encased the girl within a lump of coal. The filthy charcoal instantly became perfectly clear and beautiful as the royal child had been, though now harder than the rock.