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Dissenting opinion on collaborative fiction

Re: Story flows from character

You're forgetting what I consider to be the prime example of collabrative fiction (both successful and unsuccessful): Television. Television writing, with the notable exception of a handful of shows like ''Babylon 5'', is done collaberatively. There is a staff of writers who each take on different episodes of the show themselves. As Brent pointed out, there's a common context for the story, which holds the thing together. Often, to be fair, there's a "show runner" of some sort, who is sort of the Keymaster for the whole shebang, but the heavy lifting is done by the writing staff.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel are excellent examples of this. Joss Whedon makes sure the story as a whole stays on the tracks, but the flavor of any individual episode is dependent entirely on who's writing it that week.

And yes this does have a point.

Brent pointed out that context is important to collaberative fiction working, but part of that context should not only be what type of story, but the structure of the story as well. Who's gonna write what, and when, and all of that. I think that as important as narrative context is to collaberative fiction working, phsyical structure is just as important. I brought up television in regards to this because to some degree, the best collaberative fiction that isn't written by a specific Writing Team is more or less serialized fiction. In other words, you've either got to be 100% in tune so that breaks between one writer and another are not evident, or choose a format where the tonal breaks are SUPPOSED to be there.

-- Saalon

Interesting points, but I wouldn't go so far as to make assumptions about all collaborative fiction based on what we've observed in past collaborative fiction efforts (as Saalon does in the last sentence of the last paragraph there, "you've either got to be..."). I think that Wiki allows for a fundamentally different type of collaborative fiction than we've previously seen.

I certainly hope that this collaborative fiction doesn't require a Keymaster. Wiki history supports my hope, I think: The most successful wikis (in terms of reputation, longevity, popularity, etc.) -- such as [Ward's Wiki] and [Wikipedia] -- were started by people who consciously did ''not'' seek to be a "show runner." I look at apparent failures like WhyClublet and see that the creator did.

The question becomes, how much context do we need? I intend to answer that on Story flows from character by gathering context until I feel there's enough, then venturing out and seeing what works.

-- Brent

Clarification: My "you've either got to be..." statement was not an assumption about collaborative fiction so much as a philosophy of fiction as a whole. I'm not saying you either need to be a coherent book or a television show, but I am saying that for an audience member not to be jarred, you've either got to be very smooth and not have the breaks typical of much collaborative fiction (and how you accomplish this is where making assumptions about how it CAN or SHOULD work can be dangerous) or come up with a format where the breaks are supposed to be there, for whatever reason, and thus the user is intrigued by the changes in tone rather than rattled.

And when I say this is a satement about fiction as a whole, I mean it. This is equally important for something written by one person. If you're going to be shifting tones in your story, either be wicked smooth, or have a good reason for the tonal shifts that the audience can understand and follow without difficulty. If your story shifts from third to first person in every other paragraph, you might have a problem; if you do it because your character is a schizophrenic and the whole story really IS in first person, but the character has a tendency to think of himself in third person...well, that could be interesting.

(As a side note: I'm interested by the experiment of a story without anyone specifically holding the Keys to the Vision, and would like to see it tried. Still, I'm also extremely dubious it can work, because it's my belief that someone's vision is integral to all great art. But I like to have those beliefs challenged, so consider this a ringing endorsement for experimentation)

-- Saalon, who is not saying he's definitely right, but he feels strongly enough to jump up and down about it, because he's like that (IOW: Annoying, nagging, jerk).

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last edited September 28, 2004