Monday, February 13, 2006

Some thoughts on creating fiction

Here are two story starts I made up:

1) A man from London travels across the world to find and meet 'the wisest man in the world'. When he finds the man the wise man tells him that he (the wise man) is dying and that he wishes to pass the 'secret of wisdom' over to the traveler so that the traveler becomes 'the new wisest man in the world'.

The wise man tells the traveler that his wisdom/cleverness is due to a super-conscious state accessible to all. He explains that humans can naturally attain this state but over the centuries this knowledge has been gradually lost and that the wise man is the last to know the secret. The secret is a simple one and all humans can achieve the state simply.

What happens next?

2) A building in London has been demolished and before the construction company starts work on the new building a team of archeologists are permitted to dig at the site. One day - after finding numerous artifacts - the archeologists discover a solid brick 'box'. The archeologists break open the box and find a manuscript (or book). They open the first page of the 'book'. They see a date written and are astonished to find that the date is that day's date - the date they broke open the brick box. *

They turn the next page and the book instructs that only one page can be turned over each day, starting from that moment. The archeologists turn the first page...

What happens next?

*Anyone familiar with the story of Nostradamus will recognise this part of the story.

Thoughts on 'What happens next?'

For me, a more powerful and relevant question than 'What happens next?' is 'What do I (as the writer/creative) do next?'. My aim has been to devise a number of thinking tools/approaches that can (potentially) create any and every 'next' possible so that any eventuality is create-able. The tools should also be capable of creating any interesting starting scenario.

I created this idea for a curse: a man is cursed (by an evil demon or whatever) so that every time he is eating a meal and bites into a piece of meat he sees the animal that provided the meat dying in the abattoir. If I write down the basic concept of this idea:

A man is cursed so that every time he eats meat he sees the meat's animal dying.

I can ask how ideas like that can be created: I can set a team of monkeys typing on typewriters; I can pick seventeen random words from a dictionary and hope a good idea is suggested; I can pray for inspiration. However, what I've been trying to develop is a kind of 'fiction shorthand' so that ideas like that (and similar ideas) can be created systematically.

A slightly different scenario for a moment: if I wanted it to be me seeing the meat's animal dying then in this fiction shorthand the idea would be expressed as:

I track my food

Track is one of the supertools. As discussed in the supertools and track and freeze posts, track can follow a chosen subject/object backwards in time (almost as if there had been a secret webcam following the object at all times and the full recording of the webcam is visible). If, however, I am cursing someone else then in the fiction shorthand this would be expressed as:

I (en) track person A's food

Where the '(en)' indicates that I am forcing someone else - person A - to track their food, and thus they see the food's 'journey' - all the way back to the abbatoire.

Although the above shorthand wouldn't directly create the curse idea, the idea would almost certainly be a product of the considerations created by the shorthand.

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