Crowdsourcing Your Story

I apologize for another absence, though I have a semi-legitimate excuse this time.  I was in the hospital for a little knee surgery a few days ago and Mrs. Axe is visiting with the alternating purposes of consuming all my free time and taking care of me as I hobble about, or both at the same time.  The surgery went well enough but I am pretty doped up on goooood meds … so hopefully this post will be coherent.

I have seen a handful of projects out there where the author/editor is asking for folks to participate in writing a story in their world, or sets up a framework and opens the door for others to write into it.  Some call them "collaborative" writing or "shared stories."  Most of these efforts focus on providing the setting, doing the worldbuilding, and a loose timeline, then turning the author loose to write the worlds.

I am of two minds about this.  I get the point that a thousand minds collectively are more powerful at generating ideas and solving problems than one (the explosion of neat smart-phone apps in recent years shows that), so you can expect a whole bunch of authors working to produce a lot of good stories.  And if you have a successful license, it has built-in appeal; a lot of authors would leap at the chance to write something set in the Star Wars Universe, especially if they were told it would become canon.

On the other hand, I think it is really hard to maintain a clear vision when you start adding more and more perspectives.  I might be collaborating with someone in the near future but the production will be between me and one other person, with frequent in-person interaction and we are already basically on the same page to begin with in regards to this project.  I can't imagine doing it with dozens of other people, who I don't know.  There is a military theory called Unity of Command, that boils down to having one guy in charge for better or worse, as having bad orders is usually better than having conflicting orders.  Without tight control, these worlds can have some wildly divergent interpretations.  The guidelines on some of these efforts are restrictive and limited in focus but others are pretty loose – and some of the loose ones are looking for commercial sales success.  It feels counter-intuitive to me.  Without a firm guiding vision, I almost expect the result to be a slobbering mess of divergent information.

Maybe it's just me but I seem to be stumbling over more and more of these efforts – and I wonder what the wider trend is.  Maybe technology is just making collaborative efforts easier to do.

Here is a link to Shared Story Worlds, which has some more information which is undoubtedly presented in a more coherent manner than my own babbling.  In the meantime, I'm gonna take another pain med.

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