I was excited last night to see a new writing technique that had inspiring- and perhaps unintentionally hilarious- results.
The New York born, Newcastle based author of ‘Fontoon’ John Schoneboom has created a website which uses words to create random stories. The component parts of the story might be from the author but the final result- and therefore the effect- are a pure result of chance.
John calls it his “magic stories” site (the link for it is here- http://www.magicstories.org.uk)
The idea is that you can ‘use the site to read and/or write stories that take advantage of the possibilities of the digital medium by building in a lot of randomisation, so that a given story is different each time you load it.’
Sounds impossible? As someone teetering on the thin divide between creative and programmer, he elaborates-
‘The story is not ENTIRELY different, as in a completely different story altogether, but each iteration is a variation, or a different point of view, or a different sequence of events, or a different point in time, or the same actions have different consequences, or different characters take the same journey, or whatever else you can imagine.’
I think this hits on the aspect of the website that most intrigues me. I know from my experiences as a writer and as a tutor that a huge amount of our time is invested in creating characters. We explore the worlds that they live in- what is on their wall, and what they wear. We create a visual sense for them and then (just as in life) we make choices. In fiction (as perhaps in life) the choices are predicated on maximising the rich experiences a character can have. Even if in fiction we lean towards the most dramatic events- which in life we try to avoid! But having created characters there is an infinite number of narrative possibilities that they can experience. And this is where a ‘plot randomiser’ like John’s really interests me. In his words-
‘It creates new kinds of narrative possibilities — stories that are in dialogue with themselves over time, or what might be called an iterative intertextuality, complete with its own version of dramatic irony where the reader eventually knows more about the characters and events than anyone in a given rendering of the story.’
This makes me think of a narrative as being like a vast ship cutting through the ocean with such force that it kicks up all the sand beneath it, revealing what is really hidden under the sea bed!
Last night I saw John use this website in a live setting. He got the audience at the Creative Writing night that I run to come up with character names, adjectives, and verbs and then having written a brief story he allowed the website to randomise the outcome. The results were admittedly pretty hilarious because all it took was one slightly outlandish suggestion (one audience member suggested that the character be the famous actor Hugh Jackman) and it showed how in the creative process the whole trajectory of a piece can be thrown in an entirely new direction. Not just narratively, but in terms of tone too. Taking something from being a drama to being a comedy.
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