Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Wikipedia Writing Game

I am taking the month off from writing, and by month I mean from now until after my holidays in January. And by writing, I mean the serious part of it, like the editing and re-editing, and re-re-editing until I want to run screaming into the streets calling for blood and revolution. I can’t go cold turkey, but my end-of-year brain doesn’t want to do any of the hard stuff, like thinking, so I’ve decided to make it fun. Therefore, I present to you (ta-da!) the Wikipedia Writing Game.

Go to Wikipedia. Oh, I know that real researchers don’t use it, but we’ve all got it saved to our favourites, right? Go to the main page, and click on “Random article”. Save that article. Now do it again. And again. Do it once more it you feel like it. Keep doing it if you want. There are no rules in the Wikipedia Writing Game.

So now you should have three (or four, or twelve, or 329) random articles.

And now here’s the fun part: put them all together and make a story out of it. It can be an outline, a vignette, a short story, a novella, or a massively epic 200 000 word manuscript. Your choice. 

Here is my example:

First random page: Anchorage, Alaska.

Second random page: Enguerrand III, Lord of Coucy c.1182 – 1242.

Third random page: Tlačenka. Wiki tells me that Tlačenka is the Slovak and Czech variety of cheese similar to Polish salceson. But I don’t know what salceson is.

So, what do we have? We could have a man who lives in Anchorage, Alaska. He is an epicure, and has a particular fondness for cheese. One day, after suffering a blow to the head, he begins believe that he is the reincarnation of Enguerrant III, Lord of Coucy, and sets out on a mission to destroy the last of the Cathar heretics, and also find some Tlačenka.

Hmm. Part of me says it’s too easy. A modern day Don Quixote with a cheese fetish, and a bit too much The Da Vinci Code. I was hoping for something stranger. Like this: 

Enguerrant III, who everything thinks died in 1242, actually had a vision from God telling him to rise up from his deathbed and conquer China. After a brief dalliance in Český Krumlov with the syphilitic wife of a Tlačenka merchant, Enguerrant continues his travels with an empty purse and a worrying rash. Due to the difficulties of medieval map-making, Enguerrant believes he is crossing the Yangtze River when in fact he is crossing the Bering Straight. With the help of young Chan, an orphan boy he mistook for a messenger of God, Enguerrant travels through the strange wilderness, walking around in circles for months. Finally, he is trampled to death by a moose and Chan, sick to death of blisters and frostbite, builds a cabin and lives out his life on the site of what will one day become Anchorage, Alaska.

Now that’s more like it.

What did you come up with? 

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