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Weird and Wonderful Writing Adventures – Scriptopus

Welcome to the start of an occasional series where I set off on a new adventure in the web – slashing through sites, hacking through hypertext (you get the idea) – in search of interactive and collaborative writing sites that will thrill and challenge me, and leave me filled with inspiration as I trudge wearily but happily back to the safety of the  Blog Clubhouse to report on my intrepid experiences to you, my dear reader.

This week I have decided to investigate…

Scriptopus can best be described as a writing game, similar to the old ‘parlour’ game of heads, bodies and legs, except this time you are writing a story.  You are presented with a piece of writing and the challenge is to continue the story in between 250 and 1000 characters and a timeframe of fifteen minutes.  It is then passed on until ten (not eight? why the octopus allusion, then?) people have contributed, at which point the finished story is emailed to you for you to laugh at/puzzle over/learn from.

As far as I can make out, it is purely a writing exercise; with nine unknown collaborators it is unlikely you will be able to take the story any further, and it probably won’t make much sense anyway.  Great!  No pressure, lots of fun, and the knowledge that someone, somewhere, is reading your work.  Let’s give it a try.

As soon as I entered the site I was presented with a piece of writing, an empty space and a timer already counting down from fifteen minutes.  No pressure?!  Suddenly it seemed like I was in a school exam hall again, listening to the clock tick while staring at an empty piece of paper.  Good.  I love exams.

Scriptopus screen shotThe first story didn’t really inspire me; I don’t like writing detective stories as a rule.  The second had a swear word, the third was too political, the fourth was barmy, the fifth too tough, the sixth too garbled – finally after passing on fourteen stories I found one in a genre I liked, written in a way I liked, that I thought I could do justice to.

Then I wrote frantically for fifteen minutes.  No!  That’s not the way to do Scriptopus at all!  You have to keep an eye on your character count.  My final count was -1,700 characters.  That meant I had to delete 1,700 characters in order to submit my part of the story.  By then my story was a wreck.  Shame – I loved the bit about the severed finger.

I started again, flicking through some odd, slightly deranged work if I’m honest, and finally found an interesting little sword and sorcery type piece.  This time I kept a close eye on my word count.  Fifteen minutes was plenty of time and I hammered out a fun piece of hokum and submitted.  I was asked to register in order to contribute and be able to keep track on my stories as well as receive a copy of the current tale when complete.  It was only then that I was told my contribution was part 8 out of 10.  If I’d known it was nearing the end I would have included a good deal more action!  But I can’t wait to read the whole piece and find out if it really ended in the way the original author who started the piece intended.

So, to sum up: great fun, good warm up exercise – but a mixed bag so choose carefully, keep an eye on your word count, and don’t get carried away and start writing about severed fingers falling out of dust sheets.  I’m saving that for next time.


One thought on “Weird and Wonderful Writing Adventures – Scriptopus

  1. Thanks to Stephanie from Scriptopus for her reply to my email about the site. I now know that Scriptopus is made up of the Latin words ‘scriptor’ meaning author and ‘opus’ meaning work. It has absolutely nothing to do with octopuses (or should that be octopusi?), so I really should get that image of a frantically scribbling eight penned octopus out of my head!

    Stephanie also confirmed that if you are the last contributor to a story you will be notified as you write; otherwise you are in the dark. I still think it would be good to know where you are in the tale in terms of crafting the story, but I appreciate that the idea is to produce an instinctive, ‘off the top of the head’ piece of writing rather than a masterpiece!

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