I scare myself sometimes. I come up with crazy impossible ideas like a Social Networking Week Story Project with a different writer bringing each character to life and live scenes on Twitter.
Actually, if all I did was come up with the idea, it would be fine. This idea itself isn’t crazy. It’s kind of cool. It calls for performance writing and writing is a performance art done in private.
But I wasn’t content to come up with the idea. I had to try to make it happen.
That’s the crazy part.
That’s how I scare myself.
I’m trying to do it.
I started with the open call for collaborators. I had some people in mind and was hoping they’d volunteer, but I wasn’t above making a call or two. Some great people volunteered including a few unexpected people, some I know and some from beyond my immediate circle who saw something in a blog post or on someone’s Facebook wall.
Writers aren’t enough. You need characters and story for them to inhabit.
Over lunch last week, with Scott, Karen and I talked about the kind of stories that might play out over a week. We thought there should be some kind of a ticking clock in our story to give it momentum. We told each other stories. Stories about Twitter or Facebook and people’s lives. Themes come up. Reconnecting with old friends and old flames. Forgetting that it’s a public space and showing your underwear (metaphorically and figuratively). Connecting with total strangers regularly — casually and but also forming close relationships. Becoming part of a virtual community. After the meal, Karen spilled her coffee on Scott’s smart phone (a Nokia E71 if you must know, which he happens to love). And all over Scott, so he was soaked in coffee and his beloved phone was wet. Karen was horrified and kept apologizing. I recognized an inciting incident when I saw one. (Sorry Karen, your life continues to generate all the best stories.)
I took some of the stories Karen, Scott and I discussed — along with the spilled coffee incident — and wrote a bible with half a dozen characters and some simple stories for each laid out over 5 days.
I sent that to the people who’d expressed interest in the project and offered them a choice: adopt a character from the bible or come up with your own that plugs into the ones already there in some ways.
Last night, I spent a couple of hours with Adam Higgs, Brent Delaney, Illia Svirsky, Jennifer Laio and Scott Albert. By the time we were done, there was a character for each writer and some broad strokes story for each character.
This is a strange way to write. In television, film, novels, one person writes all the characters. This is more like improv. Actually a combination between puppetry and improv. We’ll all be working from a blueprint which will tell what is going to happen, but it will be up to each writer to manipulate his or her character in the moment. Exciting and scary.
And there’s another thing to remember. All of us at the table last night are screenwriters which means that our stories are built for film. We think visually in scenes. But we’re not going to have the luxury of video (or at least much video) in this telling. The story will be told almost entirely in the first person (although there will be a half dozen or more first persons) and the characters will be telling their stories in the public space that is the web. No objective camera catching secret moments or listening in on private conversations.
But we had a lot of fun and many laughs in the couple of hours we spent together. They had great ideas and I felt like, maybe together, we’re going to pull it off.
Then they left.
And I started thinking about what’s left to do. Everything has to get written up. There are several other writers with other characters who have to be integrated in and brought up to speed. There needs to be branding and more story meetings and schedules. And a website!
The website’s a big one; a central hub to find everything about the story. This is what I wrote about the website in the Crushing It bible:
We’ll put up a site at Crushingitstory.com. It will aggregate the story itself and any mentions of it on blogs, tweets etc. It will also host the schedule of live Twitter scenes.
For each character:
- Links to all social networks with profiles, twitter, blogs etc
- A FriendFeed widget that aggregates all that activity
- A writing credit and link to the bio of the writer
- An acting credit (who the profile picture really is)
For each scene on Twitter:
The scene laid out as a conversation including tweets from all the members of the cast and any other people who chimed in, in chronological order so that it can be read like a script or conversation.
In which I do a daily recap of the story events of the day with links to everything for those who want to follow the narrative that way.
A credit page:
With info on everyone involved and links to their presence’s on the web
An About page:
With info on the project
A press page:
With links to any blog or conventional press about the project
A Twitter feed:
Capturing any mentions of the project on Twitter
Now I just have to find someone to help me build it. Hello? Anyone out there want to help with that?