The problem of team writing
So, we had the big picture on transmedia storytelling. The next step for the team was to work out how to get 15 scriptwriters in a room together and produce a coherent storyline.
The expert who addressed our group on this was not a writer, but a mathematician, who had hit upon “the right set of ingredients for getting groups of people to writer fiction together”. His approach was essentially about solving systems issues within the creative environment by applying a strict set of criteria to participants’ areas of responsibility and influence.
Joe’s track record in producing collaborative works is impressive. His business White Water Writers teaches kids in schools as well as adults, prisoners and university students how to work collaboratively to write a novel in 5 days – that is from presentation of technique through to having the finished book in their hands.
It’s an extraordinary achievement and one that is a testimony to how to get people to work together for a single goal.
A thousand perspectives
The very first exercise we did with Joe was a fascinating exercise in deconstructing and recreating a story. He gave each of us a movie to consider – say, Star Wars or Iron Man – and asked each of us to consider a minor character and tell their story – what they see and experience, rather than the overal narrative or the story from the perspective of the central character. Thus, one might be Pepper Potts in Iron Man, or a storm trooper in Star Wars. How is their story told?
It was the starting point for a day of experiencing perspectives, and also for creating storylines from scratch. It was intense. Working in groups, we created a set of characters, a milieu, and a storyline. The work rate was high, and Joe set criteria which meant there was no room for creative differences. Each character had his or her own story arc, and no one was to interfere with other characters’ visions or tell other characters what to say – provided all was agreed under the plot that had been worked out as a group.
Plot, character, storyline – simple!
It was extraordinarily effective, and when it later came to the unfolding of the plot, the creating of characters and dialogue, we used the lessons he taught us to push forward quickly and efficiently with the minimal amount of ego-based friction. Basically, Joe had designed ego out of the structure.
With this under our belt, we all felt more confident about what was to come – the gamification of the project so that those who were watching the story unfold on facebook and on the streets of Portsmouth would be able to take part in the story, too.