EXERCISE Compressed Stories

Discussion in 'REFINING WRITING' started by Samster, Oct 14, 2014.

  1. Two sentence horror stories are sometimes full of haunting implications and unsettling innuendo, but one in particular struck me as something entirely different.
    The last man on Earth sat alone in a room.
    There was a knock on the door.​
    "Knock" has been alluded to on numerous occasions in numerous places, anywhere from creepypasta archives to things like TwoSentenceStories.com. Fredrick Brown, starting with nothing more than the two sentences above, writes an entire science fiction short story, and even makes room for a second expansion.

    I call this Compressed Stories because what I'm talking about aren't just little scene sketches with only immediate implications and recent precedent; I'm suggesting an exploration of premise and inspiration — taking large ideas and making them small, and playing telephone in a cyclic Big Bang of ideas and creativity. :3

    Here's your exercise: In a paragraph or three, summarize a potential narrative that could be the basis for a previous writer's compressed story — tag the author when you post so they can read it! — like Brown did with Aldrich's comic line. Then, come up with something under four sentences that someone else might expand on.

    Inspiring other writers with your own ideas is an integral part of roleplaying. Part of what distinguishes roleplaying from collaborative writing is the tit-for-tat that facilitates a continuous, ongoing sequence of events; roleplayers feed off of each other in a way that is mutually codependent — a lot of the time, a dead roleplay is the result of an uninspiring couple of posts. One of the objectives of this exercise is to get some feedback on your ability to make every word count; the skill applies to one-liners and novelists alike, because in either case a worthless sentence is a worthless sentence!

    Multi-functionality is another significant attribute of roleplay: An unspoken rule of roleplay is that "Just because you can doesn't mean you should." Sometimes it's referred to as power-playing or metagaming, but these are ambiguous without explanation, as the vernacular of roleplaying etiquette is largely unstandardized. The point is that we should always be opening doors when we write, seldom closing them; it's not about winning or getting your way or even inspiring your partner(s) to do some specific thing. To me, the best scenes are the ones that never go as planned, and this exercise might help you to practice making your writing more open-ended and entertaining for everybody. You know you're doing well if your prompt inspires several distinct ideas!

    The other side of the exercise helps you to take a small and otherwise vague couple of lines and treat it like something worth responding to. It doesn't help when a boring post is met with another boring post; this is how many roleplays die. This not only helps you to cope with the occasional writer's block your partner(s) may encounter, but it also helps you to multiply the already-existing value of their writing, even on a good day! With this sort of exercise, you may find that some posts are easier to expand on than others, but I encourage you to pick a neglected prompt so that its writer has the opportunity to read some feedback!

    Here's a prompt to get you guys started, in case the last man in the world isn't interesting enough for you. :3
    Shadows flit in the alleyways — not for her, but for them; she could make it all better for a few minutes if she wanted, or she could stay dead and leave them lonely immortals.​
    Good luck, and have fun! :D