Monday, August 16, 2010

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!

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