Collaborative fiction

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Collaborative fiction is a form of writing by two or more authors who take it in turns to write a portion of the story. A collaborative author may focus around a specific protagonist or character 'owned' by an author in a narrative thread, and then passes the story on to the next writer for further additions or perhaps a change in focus to a protagonist 'owned' by the next author. Alternatively, one author might write all the portions of particular subplots, and other narrative threads might be shared. Which author then integrates the whole and smooths the work into professionally submittable form depends solely on agreements between the collaborators, as does whatever percentages of remuneration are earned by each party. Thus, since royalty payments may outlive the individual authors, these matters are generally agreed to in advance, using written contractual terms, while the collaborators are outlining and designing the fictional work.


[edit] Origins

Collaborative fiction seems to have grown from two distinct sources. Traditional fiction writers and writing circles may experiment in creating group stories, such as Robert Asprin's Thieves World and MythAdventures. Writing games for collaborative writing have a tradition in literary groups such as the Dadaists and the Oulipo. The advent of the internet has seen many such collaborative writing games go online, resulting both in hypertext fiction and in more conventional literary production. For example, the Baen's bar forum, known as 1632 Tech, has been a prime force behind the many works in the popular alternate history 1632 series under the aegis of Eric Flint β€” especially The Grantville Gazettes. Author and scholar Scott Rettberg's paper "Collective Narrative" discusses connections between avant garde literary groups and online collaborative fiction.[1]

The other source for collaborative fiction came out of the practices of table top and computer roleplaying gamers and related 'fandom' activities. Table top roleplaying has always been an exercise in collaborative fiction, but with more structured rules. Gamers of this variety may naturally wish to practice the more creative aspects of their craft without using the heavy structure of gaming engines. For computer roleplayers and genre fiction fans, much of the push has come from the effort to create fan fiction for popular characters designed by but not explored to 'satisfactory depth' by third party computer game, science fiction, anime, and similar companies.

[edit] Wikinovels

A wikinovel is a collaborative fiction work that is written by a community of contributing authors using a wiki. Although previous online collaborative fiction has been written, the first well-known wikinovel was A Million Penguins, an experimental wikinovel launched by Penguin Books in collaboration with De Montfort University, apparently inspired by the success of Wikipedia, in February 2007. The story may be contributed to by any site visitor, although a team of students at the University moderate contributions, in an attempt to keep the project on-track.

Two other projects were launched in 2007, one called Wikinovel and another similar concept for short-form writers, called Wikiworld. Each project shares the same settings and characters and is guided by a chief editor, whose job is to keep the projects on track, something other projects have lacked.

Reactions to the projects have been mixed, with some commentators expressing interest in seeing how the project takes shape, while describing the current progress using terms including "predictably horrible".[2] launched in 2008, and aims for a larger audience, stating that it's purpose includes collaboration on short stories, poems novels, plot lines, and character descriptions. Later in 2008, METAnovel launched, hoping to take editors completely out of the picture with Digg-like community voting features.

In the last few years, sites have appeared such as Orion's Arm and Galaxiki, which encourage development of science fiction universes, and sites such as Epic Legends Of The Hierarchs: The Elemenstor Saga develop fantasy themes.

[edit] Forms of guidelines

Collaborative fiction can be fully open with no rules or enforced structure as it moves from author to author; however, most collaborative fiction adopts some form of 'writers guidelines' on what constitutes an acceptable contribution.

Common rules deal in

  • Enforcing a specific genre
  • Sticking to a certain 'point of view'
  • Keeping a certain pacing, theme, or style emulation
  • Keeping up grammar and spelling and staying to a certain language
  • Sticking to rules regarding 'adult content'.
  • Staying with 'the story'.
  • Minimum and/or maximum word counts per contribution.
  • Restrictions on or requirements to work together outside the story over plot and other elements.
  • Restrictions on:
    • who can contribute, and how often, when the work is being put together in an open area such as an online forum or mailing list.
    • killing off or otherwise permanently changing a major character owned by another author.
    • 'God-modding' - the process by which an author takes absolute control over another author's character with or without consent, or making one's own character incredibly powerful (God-like, hence the term God-modding), never wrong in any given situation. In the first case however, God-modding is not always a bad thing to happen in a collaborative fiction project.
    • writing for another author's characters, unless agreed by the author.

[edit] External links

[edit] Further reading

Ashton, Susanna M. Collaborators in Literary America, 1870-1920. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003.

[edit] References

  1. ^
  2. ^ Pressley, James (2007-02-07). "In Wikinovel, Big Tony Craves Pizza, Carlo Shoots Up". Retrieved on 2007-03-02. 
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