Here is my much overdue congratulations message to Sensei who gave his MA presentation last week. It sounded like it went well. Now you have to up date the blog, Sensei... (yes, yes, I know it's not really a blog, but it certainly looks like one!)
Vlado has very kindly set up a URL for the fiction blog which Marcus named for us: Exit Page Left (which I love.)
It's at firstname.lastname@example.org, although I've been unable at this stage to get onto it and it keeps defaulting back to the Netfirms home page. What am I doing wrong? Not sure what I was doing wrong, but I got there eventually, thanks Vlado.
Also, an email from Panacylum telling me about a group fiction blog they are setting up and the format they have decided on:
Someone generates a room or a scene which is generic enough to encompass many different types of characters. People then branch off from there. The "back story" is only the bare-bones necessary to give the initial place some sort of uniform shape. Anyway, we haven't done anything with it yet, just bounced the idea around. Feel free to borrow it for your own project if you like -- everything is ultimately derivative and we'd like to improve our own concepts as well. Cross pollination is what its all about.
It's an interesting approach, I think, and probably less structured than I was initially thinking, which may well be a good thing. I've had a couple of attempts at writing a backstory and they've all been fairly dicky (but I'm still hoping someone else will proffer a brilliant suggestion...anyone?). With the approach suggested above there is less need for a backstory.
The other possible approach is to use an existing novel that everyone has read, and then the characters are "inhabited" by the participants and new storylines emerge. (This format comes via a link sent by George about a writers' game called
Ivanhoe that employs this technique (at least, this is my understanding of what happens.) This, of course, would depend on everyone having read the book, but I guess it could even be a really simple fable or children's story. Dunno. Or there's plan A- backstory, creation of characters, take it from there.
MA / writing exercise
Writing Exercise: Week Three
Pre-determined start to each sentence
Sentence: If you clout us, we'll speak to The Parents. (from Atonement by Ian McEwan)
If you had been there just half an hour longer, you would've seen Mike (one of the two Mikes,that is) emerge from the water, his ear dripping salty red drops, the fleshy lobe dangling. You would've seen his slightly worried, but slightly sheepish face and heard him say, jokingly "So, tell me, how bad does it look?" "Clout me out till I'm sprawled out on the sand, spin me round so I'm looking the other way, poke my eyes out- anything so I don't have to see this" is what you would've said- I know you and your blood fear but I said, as any of us there would've "Just a scratch mate. Just a scratch."
Us blokey types don't like to make a show or carry on just because some lunatic's gone and ripped himself apart. We'll shake our heads afterwards though, and say to each other "Silly bugger- kept on swimming even though he knew he was looking like shark-bait." Speak to any of us later that evening when the shock of it all has been numbed by a cooling ale- or 20- ha ha- and we'll tell our own tales of near or actual self-damage: the lacerations, the bones poking through, the partial de-glovings.
To the outsider it will seem that we are harsh and mocking. The joke would be on them, of course, as inevitably, individual interviews would reveal our fear at the time; our shit-stirring words are mere Disney bandaids to the thoughts that flick about just below, a dorsal fin occasionally tipping the surface. Parents every last one of us, any sign of bodily injury makes us long for a time when a dismissive attitude, such as the one we now dole out to our offspring and mates, reassured us that we too were in absolutely no danger of dying.
Petite, what do you think of Franzen’s comment in “How to be Alone” that “reading and writing are ultimately about loneliness”? I can see what he means, but I don’t like the loser-ish overtones of it.
Well, I agree that writing is about putting your singular vision into the world. But I think writing (and reading) are connective too.
Because you’re sharing your viewpoint with a readership? Or because of that realization you sometimes have when reading that others think and feel like you?
Yes, both. Actually, I think one is the consequence of the other. Like Holden Caulfield. I think some people relate to him more profoundly than they would a flesh and blood person.
And I was going to say “and that’s why reading and writing aren’t lonely and loserish” but I’ve shot myself in the foot, haven’t I?
Here’s a terrible confession: sometimes I’ll meet someone and think “If you were a character in a book I’d probably feel sorry for you. But as a real person, you’re very annoying and I want you to go away.”
That’s not so terrible. I sometimes meet people and think “Oh, you’re so prosaic. You’d make a terrible character.”
What does this say about writing and reality, do you think? Are characters supposed to mirror reality or is narrative some kind of unreal parallel universe?
I don’t know. This is what scares me about reading sometimes. It’s that blurring.
I’ll sometimes think “This reminds me of something someone said to me recently” and then I’ll realise that it was actually said by a character in a book.
I’ve often had that blurred reality experience with films. Images I think come from my own memory turn out to be remembered from films.
I think partly this happens because real memories are so much more fragmentary than film.
I’ve heard that our dreams have become more cinematic over the years- that they have pans and jumpcuts and close-ups. I wonder if it’s possible to have a trailer at the start of a dream for an upcoming dream?
Sometimes I think my dreams are kind of like Jennifer Anniston vehicles.
Well, at least they might do ok at the box office. Mine are more like abandoned student works by David Lynch.
It looks like a few people are interested in this group fictional blog, which is good (the more the better, really.) George has suggested in the comments that the backstory come first, to give people something to go by when they create their characters. I had thought about this approach initially but was concerned that this would result in too many people coming up with the same type of characters. I kind of liked that if you had the character first they would then have to fit into the story, no matter how bizzare and out-of-context they might seem. However, I'm happy, of course, to go with what other most people are most comfortable with.
Lisa has pointed out that each person will bring some backstory of their own when they develop their character and I think this is true. The backstory needs to be pretty open-ended to give the characters flexibility. Either that, I suppose, or the characters could dispute the veracity of the backstory (as in "That's not how I remember it happening...")
The other thing I was wondering is do we need a time limit so it has a certain amount of momentum and doesn't just dwindle out as people get bored?
The other thought I had was that at various points participants could be called upon to throw in a twist or a plot point (not as their character, but as some sort of all-seeing narrator) just to keep it lively. However, I haven't really thought this through.
Vlado has suggested setting something up in Moveable Type rather than Blogger. I'm happy to go with this but Vlado, I was wondering how you'd feel about setting this up for us?
Thanks to everyone for their interest and suggestions. Please feel free to add more (you can email me if you don't want to leave a comment.)
I thought a bit more over the weekend about the Group Fiction blog idea which I raised last week.
Here's what I was thinking.
step one: participant are emailed a "character profile" form which they use to outline a fictional character they would like to use in the blog. These profiles would (maybe?) be accessible on the site so other participants could try and predict how the other characters might behave or react.
step two: someone writes a "backstory", using the character profiles as a starting point (any volunteers?). This would be a sort of "story so far" to explain why these people are writing a blog and how they know each other (work? family? friends? over the internet only? etc). My feeling is that the backstory would need to include some kind of a mystery or a puzzle ( a missing person, a disputed will, documents that have vanished from the office safe.) I'm suggesting this just so that there is a kick off point and the characters have something to react to. Is this corny? I'm happy to take suggestions from anyone who has feelings on this point.
step three: creation of the blog. I'm happy to set one up in Blogger unless anyone else has a suggestion. Each participant emailed and asked to join the blog. They create their own "nickname" in Blogger so that it is easy to distinguish between characters. Character profiles are linked to.
step four: Backstory is published and the blogging can begin.
This is just some loose and early thoughts, which are open to any fine or gross tweaking anyone feels is necessary.