First off, I’d like to ask you to bear with me because this isn’t exactly a film-based post, but it certainly has a strong enough link to the world of cinema that you’ll hopefully find what I’m about to discuss at least a little intriguing.
You may have stumbled across a new interactive story-telling experiment recently on the internet, The Random Adventures of Brandon Generator. If you haven’t, there’s at least one reason why you should be very, very interested in this project – or rather, at least one person. You see, the main overarching storyline to Brandon Generator is penned by non-other than geek-favourite Edgar Wright, of Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, Scott Pilgrim and Spaced fame. It’s also illustrated by Tommy Lee Edwards, who the website assures me is a ‘renowned Marvel and Lucasfilm artist’, and it’s narrated by the one in The Mighty Boosh that isn’t Noel Fielding, Julian Barratt.
The first short episode of the series went up last week. It tells a brief but fun tale of a writer with an unhealthy espresso addiction, struggling with a grand case of writer’s block that he just can’t shake. One night, after one espresso too many, our writer, Brandon, collapses at his laptop in front of his empty word document, and blacks out.
This is where things get interesting.
The next morning he wakes up and is shocked by what he finds. The Dictaphone by his laptop has messages – ideas waiting for him in his own voice that he has no memory of ever leaving. His notepad is covered in character and creature designs for the novel he’s yet to create that he has no knowledge of drawing. His phone, normally barely used and rarely rung, is flashing away with a host of voice mails ready and waiting for him. And most importantly and bizarrely of all, there’s text on his screen. A breakthrough. A small chunk of story, intricately written, is blazing from his laptop right before his eyes, that once again, he has no memory what-so-ever of writing. So where did they come from? How did they get there?
That’s where you come in.
Or rather that’s where all of us come in. Having watched the episode, you’re presented with four options. You can draw a creature-design on Brandon’s notepad and submit it. Leave an idea or thought on his Dictaphone, or leave him a voicemail by actually calling his number or using Skype. And last but not least, the option that caught my imagination, you’re given the chance to write the prose that Brandon wakes up to find on his screen.
What can you write? Well that’s entirely up to you – up to a point. You see, you’re only allowed to contribute 500 characters of text at a time, so essentially you’re given the chance to influence Brandon’s tale by writing a brief scene about whatever takes your fancy. Now I always loved creative writing in English lessons back in the day. It was just about the only thing that made the subject bearable alongside the breaking-down and sucking-the-fun-out-of classic literature and endless poetry analysis (I don’t care if she’s Britain’s poet laureate, if you did the same course as I did way back when you’ll never want to hear the name Carol Ann Duffy again).
Anyway, before I go spinning wildly off track any further, I decided to give writing and submitting a chunk of my own prose for Mr Wright to analyse a go. After writing it, I felt like they might just be onto something with this project, because as it turned out it was a lot of fun trying to come up with something constructive within such a limited space. So I ended up writing another. And another. And after another couple that night and again the next morning, I decided that six submissions were probably enough. At least for the time being anyway.
Now thousands upon thousands of submissions have headed Edgar Wright and the other folks working on the project’s way, so the odds of anything I wrote being incorporated in any way to the story are slim-to-none. In fact at the moment it’s a bit of a mystery how anybody’s contributions will be included into future episodes at all, that’ll be up to Wright and co to figure out before episode two, but it was fun flexing a bit of creative muscle for a while, so I’ll urge you to head to the site and do the same. You might just surprise yourself. Plus if you get writer’s block, who cares? It’s only 500 characters and it’s not your book to worry about after all, the pressure’s all on poor, exhausted Brandon.
And if you need a little inspiration or are just curious to see what I came up with, here are my six small chunks of prose (in the order they were written), in all their enthusiastic but amateurish glory:
1. He staggered through the door into the empty bar. The last shot had finally hit the mark and broken the lock clean off. His eyes adjusting too slowly to the darkened room for his liking, he fumbled his hand eagerly along the wall to his side, desperately hoping to stumble across a light switch.
He needn’t have wasted the time. The sound of the bar’s tinted windows smashing and crashing in pieces to the floor was quickly followed by a flood of light rushing in from the street outside.
That fabled sound. He was in.
He drew his breath, long and deep as he anxiously awaited whatever lay upon the other side of the door.
The door that hadn’t been there just one day earlier.
The door that came from nowhere, and yet, here it was. Unlocked. Begging to be opened.
Exhaling nervously he obliged the door’s desperate request and pushed. It swung open violently, with much more gusto than the force he provided could possibly have given it.
He gazed into the opening.
3. He hit the switch and the lights slowly flickered to life.
“Christ!” He threw his head to one side, averting his gaze as swiftly as the lights had lit the room. The harsh light from the uncovered bulb above illuminated what could only be described as an ex-person. A ghastly, twisted mess of remains which once comprised some poor soul lay strewn across the cold, tiled floor.
Recovering his composure, he cast his gaze back down to the body below, and a small glimmer caught his eye.
(Note: Why a tooth? No idea. Nice and mysterious. Is it the corpse’s tooth? A monster’s tooth? I don’t know and luckily I don’t have to write any further!)
4. He didn’t even like jazz.
Why in God’s name he’d decided to arrange the meet here, he’d no idea. It was close, it was convenient, but as the wail of the supposedly talented brass performers on the stage smashed through his ear drums he regretted his decision immediately.
A shaft of light beamed in as the door swung open. She had finally arrived. But something was wrong.
She was limping, no package in sight. And then he noticed the man who had entered behind her.
The one holding the gun.
What she wouldn’t give for just a drop of the stuff. That illusive devil that had stopped her in her tracks as he popped out elsewhere for a bit, leaving her to struggle on and desperately attempt to break down that giant block that stood between her and her writing.
Instead all she got was tiredness. Her eyes heavy, she began to drift off to a happier place.
That was when the hinges flew off her front door, crashing to the ground and startling her suddenly awake. It was him.
6. He peered his head above the ledge and gazed out through the window – well, what was left of it. The previous night’s attack had left little in the way of unbroken glass.
Or unbroken anything for that matter. Chairs and tables lay strewn in pieces upon the dusty, blood-soaked carpet, which gleamed in a horrifying crimson in the light of the rising Sun.
There was no-one in the streets outside. They seem to have all moved on. For now at least.
A crash pierced through the morning’s silence.
Well there’s your lot, and mine, for now. I’m intrigued how this series will develop in the coming weeks and how any of the contributions will weasel their way into the final episodes, so for now I hand over to any budding writers among you, and to you Mr Wright.
Good luck Brandon.