Friday, September 13, 2013

Out of the Box

Writer David Anaxagoras is tackling a new project that's right up our alley- building a narrative with a collection of props.

I’m currently working on something I’m calling a story box. A story box is a collection of related artifacts that imply a narrative. The story is constructed, interpreted, by the recipient of the box who weaves a tale that incorporates and illuminates each of the artifacts.

While the curator of the box might have had a specific storyline in mind while gathering or creating artifacts, different recipients will obviously conjure different stories. This is participatory storytelling, where the “audience” is perhaps more responsible for creating the tale than the “author” is. Ultimately, it’s an open-ended game that encourages creative thinking and imagination.

If that all seems a bit abstract, let’s try a specific example. Let’s say you wanted to create a story box about a world-weary cynical American who runs a bar in war-time Casablanca. Your “box” might be a courier satchel containing letters of transit, a gun, a newspaper article, sheet music for piano, a lease agreement for a night club, postcards from Paris, an empty gin bottle and so forth. The story of how these objects are connected is up to the receiver to interpret.

I'm looking forward to see how this develops. Mr. Anaxagoras has some strong media writing credentials that bode well for the project.


CoastConFan said...

The story box idea is one used in early education and seems to be successful. In a sense religious icons, murals, sculpture and the like in medieval churches not only set the stage but made tangible input into rites and reinforced the storyline.

The use of suggestive props is a powerful was to reinforce a story or introduce ideas on a subconscious level by suggestion or nuance. Movie makers know this and writers, by descriptive narrative do the same thing. Props (like CGI) both underline the action and move the story forward if used wisely. When used unwisely they simply muddle a story.

A reverse spin on the story box idea is to provide a group with a box full of items and let them interoperate they reason for their association and write as story either collectively and collaboratively or separately. It would be very interesting to read different interpretations of the Casablanca story box if taken as a fresh story idea. The interrelationship between the items would be different as well as the importance of each item would change.

In a way, that was how I ran open-ended RPG scenarios; with an outline of a plot direction and the characters themselves as generators. Generally, the players gave feedback about the direction of the game and even suggested possibilities to the GM. Mind you this was with veteran RPGers who could step outside of the character critically and be sure the character was played truly.

Ivo Wilson said...

hah, really interesting, this actually reminds me of how the 'Call of Cthulhu' short story is told as the narrator tries to know more about the objects he found in the box.

Ken Robkin said...

I love this line of thinking! I am eager to see what your project turns out like.