By Eran Ranatunge
When I was growing up, I was a voracious reader. I knew I wanted to read. It was the same when I first put my hands to a keyboard, and realised I wanted to write. I grew up writing on internet forums, helping to ground me in my ever-more-mobile childhood. But I’ve never been too interested in writing novels.
What I enjoy about writing is the dialogue – it’s between my reader and me. As someone who has grown up with the internet, text is a form that I view as a give and take. Sure, I’ve read plenty of novels, but I also grew up with chat messengers and blogs. Forums, microblogs, and fan communities give the modern reader the chance to engage with source material they love in new and exciting ways.
My current project is science fiction – based on questions of the technological singularity, and AI rights. It is not a fully-formed idea. When it is ‘done’, it will eventually be a self-contained prologue, introducing some basic characters, the world they know, and a meaningful crisis to mark the end of my story. Then, I’ll post it on a forum. From the aether, other participants in the community will be able to reply to that story, setting themselves up within my fiction and I within theirs. My world will become just one more, in a harsh and dangerous universe populated by other writers.
Compared to reading a novel, participating in this back-and-forth is an entirely different experience. My writing has improved dramatically, of course, but more still, it is an exercise in reading and understanding narrative. Those who participate are writers like me – amateurs who just want to have fun creating a shared world. It is not pacing, gripping characters, witty verbosity, or even a deftly handled structure that define interactive writing. Instead, it is a relationship between you and your many writing partners. A book club where you write the book, warts and all.
I don’t expect my project to be read by many people; it’s not intended to be. Interactive writing is a social process – a way for the amateur writer to put pen to paper (or keys to screen). My own might get two or three active participants, building a shared world. The characters from the project may recur in others – either mine or someone else’s, if I give my writing partners permission to take them on new adventures. It might be quick and dirty, but I’ll have explored new ideas I’ve never expressed before.
I have to confess: science fiction is a new frontier for me. But I’m excited about this project – and when I’m excited, I read. If you’re in between books, why don’t you pick up something off your beaten path?
You never know, you could find yourself writing about it. And you could find someone else writing about that – and so on, and so on …