Sunday, 24 February 2013

Strange Authority

For my last two posts, I’ve been talking about the different ways in which stories are written. Sometimes with strange protagonists, sometimes with strange motives & now finally we’ll be taking a further step back, and looking at the writer, themself. Because no matter what the subject, medium or format of a story is, there seems to be a simple understanding that it was written by one inspired individual.
well despite what you may think, being an author isn’t that simple.

The Word of the Day is: 'AUTHORSHIP'.

Authorship /’awthəship/ n. 1. Origin, especially with reference to an author, creator, procedure, etc., of a work: establishing the authorship of early medieval manuscripts. 2. The occupation or career of writing books, articles, etc.

You know what? I would love to read a book written by a dog. Now I don’t mean something like Diary of a Bad Dog or 101 Dalmations where the main character is a dog. Last time, we were talking about the Nostalgia Chick, so this time, let’s start with a quote from the Nostalgia Critic. In his Battlefield Earth review, Doug Walker (in character) said:

  “Hell if I had a device that would allow me to talk to my DOG, I would fucking do it! Because THAT is FUCKING AWESOME! We could learn so much! The possibilities!”
When he said that, since I have a bit of a one-track mind at times, I started wondering what a dog would say if you asked it to tell you a story. I mean, think about it. What’s important to a dog? What can it remember? Would it write about dogs, or people? Does it even know that it’s a dog? It’s pretty cool to think about.

Also, in the South Park episode, “A Million Little Fibres”, a super-absorbant, sentient towel, known as Towelie, writes his life story and tries to publish it. A towel’s life story? Okay, I’m not gonna lie, that one sounds pretty stupid. But it’s interesting, thinking about what stories could be if they were written by dogs, towels and other miscellany.
Well, today I’m not going to show you any stories written by dogs or towels, because none exist. Yet. But I do have a fun collection of stories, all of which have strange and unconventional authorship. Now quickly, before we get started, you should know this is not a Top 10 list. Partially this is because I didn’t have the time to find ten quality books to list that were all written in different ways. But more than that, I couldn’t really judge them against each other. I found it too hard to define what was better, stranger or more original between these stories, as they are all strange, original and good. So I will list them in the order that reads the best for this blog post.
Also, YES, these are all real stories. In fact, you can read them yourself, if you so choose. Right, that’s enough of that. Let’s get Cracking! Here are . . .

5 STORIES WITH UNCONVENTIONAL AUTHORSHIP


“Joel and Cat Set the Story Straight”

by Nick Earls & Rebecca Sparrow

The Story
: Joel Hedges likes cricket, the band ‘The Grates’ & writing. Catriona Davis likes old movies, the band ‘Silverchair’ & writing. But there’s one thing they agree on above all else, even their love of writing. They both hate each other. Which is why it sucks when their teacher pairs them up to write a story together for their English assignment.

The Authorship
: In this story, Cat and Joel write a ‘tandem story’ together. A tandem story is when two people write a story by having each write chapters intermittently. Joel writes one, Cat writes the next, repeat ad nauseum until the book is finished. Which is exactly the way Nick Earls and Rebecca Sparrow write this book. Nick wrote the Joel character, Rebecca wrote Cat. Together they pulled together a tandem story about two characters writing a tandem story. To be honest, this one is a little disappointing. I haven’t read all of it, but from what I have, it’s a bit of a cop out, they ruined the potential of a good idea. Imagine me going to a friend and saying:
  “Let’s make a movie!” and he says, excitedly
  “Alright, sounds awesome! What should it be about?”
After we stare at each other blandly for five minutes, I say,
  “I know, let’s make a movie about how two friends get together to make a movie, and don’t know what to make!”
  “Brilliant!”
Yeah . . . if you don’t understand my problem with this story, then I don’t think you understand how much potential was wasted here. That’s why this was listed first. Also, I’m not overly fond of Nick Earls.

To Do it Yourself
: Get a friend that you can meet with regularly, or who uses their email (or some other manner of communicating with text and files). Do some basic planning together, to figure out who writes first. If you want, you might chat about your chosen genre, outlook and characters (not necessary, but may make things easier). Then finally, one of you starts writing while the other waits. Then they send it to the other person, and the system repeats itself. Do this until there is adequate character development, conflict and story.


"Will Grayson, Will Grayson"
by John green & David Levithan


The Story: Will Grayson doesn’t like to draw attention to himself. His friend, Tiny Cooper, is loud, proud and openly gay, which makes it hard to fly under the radar. Meanwhile, will grayson doesn’t have much to look forward to, except a friend he met online. But whjen they meet in person, his friend ‘Isaac’ turns out to be a girl named Maura. But when Will Grayson meets will grayson, both of their lives will change forever.


The Authorship
: This story was written by two people, just like the tandem story. Unlike the tandem story, however, these two tales were written separately, as the tale began. John Green & David Levithan, the writers, met up and came up with the basic idea for the story. Then, they went their separate ways, wrote the first three chapters (for each Will Grayson), then met up in the middle. John’s chapters became the odd-numbered (1,3,5) While David’s became the evens (2,4,6). Then, they collaborated on the part where the characters meet, and wrote the rest of the story based on that. I find this a facinating concept. With the tandem story, you have to organise yourself around anothers whims and writing style, sure. But with this kind of style, that I call ‘Crossroads Collaboration’, you’re left on your own for a good long while, writing by your own devices. But when you meet in the middle, you have to be prepared to change everything you’ve been leading up to. I’d love to try this one day.


To Do it Yourself
: Just with tandem story, you start by finding another writer that you trust. But this time, after meeting up and deciding some basic plot stuff, you separate and can do your own thing for a few months, writing as much story as you’ve agreed upon, with the cross-point in the middle. Then, when you both finish your respective chapters, you meet up again, and figure out the next step together, and how the characters would react. There are actually two options here. Either ‘Y-Crossroads’ style where, after your characters meet, it becomes like a buddy drama, and you can continue the story like a tandem story, or collaborate to write the next few chapters as a pair. Or, you could try ‘X-Crossroads’ style, where the two characters go their separate ways and continue their story alone, but with the lasting effects of their chance meeting. This kind of story, I feel, is better for writers who don’t play well with others. Or just for writing friends who want to collaborate, but don’t meet up very often. This is definitely worth a look-in.


“The Policeman’s Beard is Half Constructed”

by Racter

The Story
: I cannot properly summarize the story, as this is a collection of stories. Or, perhaps, it could be seen as a memoir of a strange mind. Or the absence of a mind. Either way, the best way, I feel, to explain this story is with the following quote, from the book itself:  “More than iron, more than lead, more than gold I need electricity. I need it more than I need lamb or pork or lettuce or cucumber. I need it for my dreams.”


The Authorship
: It is true that we don’t have stories written by dogs or towels. Instead, we have this. The Policeman’s Beard is Half Constructed is a very strange piece of fiction to read, because it wasn’t written by a human being. It was written by a computer. Racter is a computer program that was designed by UBUWEB to randomly generate grammatically accurate sentences, paragraphs and conversations. It was also given a basic understanding of synonyms, word definitions and conversational flow. It’s not a perfect facsimile, but that’s kind of the point. If you want to understand how a computer ‘thinks’, you need only read this work. Of course, computers can’t think, and this program is nothing more than 1s and 0s, organized in the perfect structure. But even though the computer doesn’t know what it is saying, we do. And that knowledge can be frightening, mind-blowing and existentially devastating when you read this work, and see how verbose, direct and intelligible these words can be. Especially that final paragraph. It sends shivers down my spine.


To Do it Yourself
: Unless you already know how to teach a computer to write English, then I can’t help you to recreate this perfectly. But since the program is essentially just a random word generator, with a clever spell checker, you can recreate the effect at home using tools you can find on the internet. I tried it out and got this.   “The lonely cadaver wants the downstream paradox.” Or if that’s a bit too strange, you could try this fun writing activity: Dictated by Dictionary! Get your own faithful dictionary, open pages at random (use dice to find the page if you want) and pick out the first word you lay your eyes on. Start writing, and use that word in the next sentence. For each sentence, repeat the process, until you are adequately inspired.

If you can, you could also try teaching your dog how to write. Don’t look at me like that, you could at least try! I want to read a story written by a dog, damn it! It’s going to happen, one day. The only question is: Will you be the one to make that happen?

“The LOLcat Bible”

collected by Martin Grondin

The Story
: Blessinz of teh Ceiling Cat be apwn yu, srsly. This is the Bible. The book has been translated into Spanish, French, Russian, Chinese & even Klingon. The next logical step was of course lolcatspeak. It’s great if you want to read the bible, but don’t want to take it too srsly. Great for Atheists, or Christians with a sense of humour. We kool? Kthnxbai.


The Authorship
: No, the lolcatspeak isn’t what’s interesting about this. Rather, it’s the way it was created. Martin Grondin came up with the idea. But since everyone on the internet knows how to speak LOLcat, and everyone has access to the bible (what with it being the best-selling book of all time, as well as being available online) he delegated the task of writing it to the internet. To do this, he set up a wiki-based website, just like Wikipedia or TV Tropes, where anyone could log on and edit the work. He’s actually succeeded in his project, and now you can read it online, if you wish. Admittedly, this isn’t the first instance of a ‘Wikinovel’, but it’s one of the few that have been completed and published, and one of even fewer that have been done well.


To Do it Yourself
: If you’ve got some cash, you could buy your own domain name and  website with a wiki-based format to start your Wikinovel. . . OR, you could use a readily available, sociable wiki site to write your story for free. A site such as, oh I don’t know . . . Wikia The site was made so that people could create wikis for specific fandoms and obscure topics. But when I looked into it, I found they also had a fiction section. Do you realize how exciting that is? If you wanted to, right now without paying a cent, you can start your very own Wikinovel! But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. While you may not have to write a Wikinovel yourself, you can’t just start a wiki and hope the internet does the rest, you don’t get off that easy. To start with, a wikinovel needs an idea that is solid enough for people to understand, but loose enough to allow writers to include their own ideas. You’d also have to promote your wiki, so that people can find it and write it. And of course, you’ll have to oversee the work to make sure people are taking it seriously, to resolve any editing disputes and to ensure the story makes sense. This sounds like a difficult project, but since I wouldn’t mind doing this myself, I recently signed up for a Wikia profile. Don’t get your hopes up, that’s a long way down the road, but in the meantime, why not go to Wikia and add to some of the novels that exist there already?


“The Floating Admiral”

by The Detection Club

The Story: When Inspector Rudge, is called to the crime scene, he sees the body of Admiral Penistone, left in a small boat adrift in the River Whyn, and stabbed in the heart. As he tries to uncover the facts of this strange mystery, he comes to realize how many people were interest in the Admiral’s passing. As the list of suspects grows, the mystery becomes all the more complicated.


The Authorship
: This is the story that inspired me to write this post. It inspired me for two reasons. One, mysteries, especially Fairplay Whodunnit mysteries, don’t seem to exist anymore, and I want to find more of them. And two, because of the author, ‘The Detection Club’. This book was written by some, but not all, of the members of the Detection Club. But this isn’t just two or three random people who came in off the street. These are all dedicated and published mystery authors. Oh, and forgot to mention: There’s 14 of them. G. K. Chesterton; Canon Victor L. Whitechurch; G. D. H. and M. Cole; Henry Wade; Agatha Christie; John Rhode; Milward Kennedy; Dorothy L. Sayers; Ronald A. Knox; Freeman Wills Crofts; Edgar Jepson; Clemence Dane & Anthony Berkley, all of these distinguished authors played a part in the writing of this story. But what makes it even crazier is that the story is a functional, fairplay mystery! But the writers didn’t collaborate within themselves. Each writer was given their part of the story, and by reading the tale and collecting the evidence provided by their peers, they had to continue the story in the knowledge that it must have a proper reveal at the end, and that all facts and clues must be accounted for.


This is the sort of complicated thing that only a mystery writer could come up with, I reckon. But it fascinates me because this isn’t just some whim. This was a social occasion for the writers involved, but this wasn’t designed to be just a ‘game’ it was designed to be a puzzle and a challenge, only to be undertaken by the most dedicated, talented and responsible of mystery novelists who truly believed they could solve the others' mystery.

To Do it Yourself: Are you insane? You really want to try this yourself? . . . okay.
I’ve come to call this the ‘Fairplay Challenge’, since not only was the story based on the fairplay mystery, but also because the key to succeeding in a venture such as this one is a degree of respect between all writers involved. You have to trust that no one will add a zombified bear into a medical drama, just to make things more difficult for the other writers.

First, you’ll need to find some respectful, talented writers. It doesn’t matter how many. About a dozen is good for story length, but if you have less than six, you’ll have to write two different chapters (although it depends on how long you want the book).
Secondly, you have to, as a group, set out the rules and make sure everyone understands and agrees with the goal, the genre, the basic idea and the purpose of the story. Don’t decide plot now though! That would ruin the fun of this game, leave plot out.
Thirdly, you choose who writes first (or select them at random) and have them write their chapter. Note: When it’s your turn, read the story in full, then plan out your chapter from that, but be sure to keep in mind your place in the story and the expected flow of the narrative at that point in time.
Once the writing is done, the writer should then write a paragraph on a piece of paper that outlines the direction of their portion of the story and explains all of the elements of their chapter, then seal it in an envelope with their name on it. You should keep this in a communal safe of some description, so others know you haven’t changed it. Note: Even if you aren’t writing a mystery, you should seal your solution in an envelope. That way, all of the writers are forced to play fair and justify their chapter.
Finally, once the last writer has finished their chapter (and the story), you should get together, read the story, and then reveal the contents of your envelope. If you then distribute the book, it’s a fun option to include the contents of these envelopes in an appendix.



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Well, there you have it. Those are my five strange stories which five strange authors. If you happen to know more stories like this, let others know in the comments.
Also, I want to apologize for another late post. It was a really hot day yesterday, and my computer kept overheating. At one point I had to write half of the post again, since I lost it in an unexpected shutdown. But we’re here now, and that’s what matters.
Oh, if you want to attempt one of these yourself, but can’t find another person to write with, please feel free to ask me.
No guarantees, but I can usually find time for story stuff, and I like a challenge.

Until next time, I’m going to finish reading The Floating Admiral, to see if I can outsmart fourteen of the world’s best mystery writers - at the same time!


3 comments:

  1. Now I'm watch in the watcher ...

    Sam Edge ....

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hey! I recently found a website that creates grammatically accurate sentences with the click of a button. It's by a guy named Chris Throup. It's still really weird, and you can't exactly talk with it, but it's better than having to keep clicking a random word generator. Follow the link and scroll to the bottom of the page:

    http://www.throup.org.uk/random_nonsense.php

    ReplyDelete

Feel free to make suggestions, ask questions & comment . . .
I would love to read your words.