The Story of Us

As the process of applying for poetry mentorships has been moving forward, my brain is thinking about all the means by which I ought to be improving the other forms of writing which form the backbone of my online life: not simply blogging, but the narrative forms too. I’ll be trying a different approach to the August Short Story, for instance, which is again a diversion from my first person approach. It helps to try and mix up the foundations, in order to keep writing fresh. However, when reminded that every story is the same… is there a point?

I follow a number of automated ‘story’ Bots online. They’re a collection of random phrases, programmed into a spreadsheet, which then automatically generate these resultant Tweets at set times. It has always fascinated me that the Bots come up with interesting structures, but to do so, they have to be programmed with the correct language and syntax. Marco Polo’s structure, once you’ve read a couple of dozen tweets, is predictable. It’s certain key words that change meaning: temple, township, spire-dwellers, caverns are comfortable narrative baselines, but it is more often than not the protagonist’s reactions to these places which creates most interest.

This Bot is one of my favourites, and demonstrates that you don’t need 280 characters to tell compelling stories. I’ve found myself wanting to extend on certain stories from this account too, because the surreal nature of some of the juxtapositions between sentence one and two make for really entertaining reading. To write a good bot, it occurs to me, needs a programmer who understands how language works, and then how to translate that into the most accessible, compelling forms. It’s odd to say I’m being taught by robots how to write better fiction, but this is undoubtedly the case.

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With the holiday coming up, and with wifi at the villa we’re staying at, I hope to get some time to watch more of Will Schoder’s output because it looks interesting. After that, its time to see if YouTube has anything else to teach me…

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