Sunday, October 25, 2009

neil gaiman and twitter: testing the limits of collaboration in fiction

here's the concept: neil gaiman writes one sentence, and a bunch of people continue the rest of the story via twitter, 140 characters at a time. the result, according to, is rather a mess:

...Gaiman's kickoff sentence for the the BBCAA story is, "Sam was brushing her hair when the girl in the mirror put down the hairbrush, smiled & said, 'We don't love you anymore.'" What follows, coaxed out of the Twitterverse, is a patchwork of extremely familiar motifs: malicious animated puppets, cuddly talking animal pals, an ominous castle, a sinister music box and spookily chanted rhymes -- all tied to the obligatory chase after objects of obscure magical importance (otherwise known as plot coupons).

Here's how it worked: Although anyone could tweet a suggested next sentence, an editor at BBCAA selected which ones would be incorporated into the canonical version of the story. (Gaiman's involvement in the creative phase of the operation seems minimal, which didn't keep one participant from grandiosely claiming to be "writing an audiobook with Neil Gaiman" elsewhere on the Web.) Oddly enough, no one was bothered by this "gatekeeping" role. Anyone who took a good look at the chaotic selection of potential paths forward could see that somebody had to steer. Yet, even with a skipper, much of the time the tale didn't seem to be sailing anywhere but in circles.

read the full story here.

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