Audience-plotted storytelling

Back in college, probably under the influence of drugs (just kidding mom!), I was fascinated with the idea of using a typewriter to create stories where I would write the first part and then pass it along to a colleague roommate whomever happened to be flopping in the house at the time.

The best part about the experiment is how seriously or unseriously people would take the endeavor and especially once you got the story back and realized that at some point your detective noir thriller somehow turned into a post-apocalyptic zombie survival story and the main character was killed off in chapter three and existed in corporeal form only. (Yes, I’m looking at you Elias Christeas)

I’m glad I’m not the only one out there that finds this form of collective story telling enjoyable, exciting, and nay, a bit dangerous. For the characters, not so much for the authors involved.

Underland Press is taking that concept and has created the “wovel” – a web-novel – in which the author creates a short installment, published on Monday, with some suggestions for where the story could go (that might have helped me avoid zombies and the death of the main character); readers then vote on the direction through Thursday; and the author creates the next installment to be published on the following Monday. At its heart, this is serialized storytelling, in the vein of Charles Dickens or other authors from a century ago.

The first wovel, The Living by Kealan Patrick Burke is certainly worth reading. You know if you like zombies, which ordinarily I do, just not when they show up in a detective noir and eat the main character. Not that I’m bitter or anything. Below is the first page of the first chapter of The Living. The entirety so far is eight-pages. FYI, I voted green when I got to the end.

The night was a symphony of whistles and gunshots.

Inside the dimly lit apartment, the old man stood by the door. He was not old enough to have lived through a war, and didn’t expect to live through this one. Though he didn’t count courage among his virtues, he had accepted the notion of his imminent death with curious calm. For what was there to fear? This was not a world he recognized. It hadn’t been for some time. Instead it had mutated into a kind of hellish garden in which neither God nor nature prevailed. When the time came, he would be glad to leave it.

Footsteps on the stairs.

Whines and pained whimpers from the bed behind him.

In the dim glow from the lantern the man’s face was a thousand years old, appearing to be more rock than flesh. The thin shadows on his sunken cheeks were like spilled ink running from his eyes. He turned and said, “Hush, Maddy.”

Behind him, the keening faded to a whisper.

A gentle knock on the door, little more than the brush of a knuckle against the surface. The old man put his cheek to the cold wood. Listened.

“Joseph?” he asked quietly.

“Yes,” came the reply. “Open up.”

Relieved, the old man did.

Not to be outdone by the wovel is Rootclip. This is video storytelling, voted on by readers. So far there are three chapters completed our of six. If you’re video is selected for the final chapter, you’ll win $500 and go to the Traverse City Film Festival to meet Michael Moore. If your video is selected as a chapter you’ll also get $500 Visa gift card but no Michael Moore.

Submissions should be about 60 seconds long. Below is chapter one.

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