I have am fascinated by rap battles, where contenders take turn at improvising lines in a song on a common base, while hurling terrible insults at each other and their closest relatives.
I also know there are competitions of writing improvisation, but the things that I find most fascinating in this area is something my friend Brian called Crowdwriting, a text written by many people in a sequential fashion, also called a Stream.
Our first attempt to a Stream (in the early 90’s) was the imaginary history of Georgius Lottus, the XIII Century inventor of the spreadsheet. That was more a game of tag, where each contributor would write a chapter and then nominate the next one, but having discussed the topic at length, we came to the conclusion CW has rules and here they come:
- it should never start consciously as we did with the story of Georgius Lottus. Proper Millennial CW starts spontaneously: i.e. someone writes some silly statement, and whoever sees it can build on it, and so on
- every addition must make (sort of) sense in its own right, but must be connected to the previous ones. The Stream is a story, and each author must keep the reader in mind.
- keep individual contributions under 1,000 characters
- the style of the Stream can be humorous, or tragic or academic or scientific or whatever. However, it cannot change too often, lest readers be confused and lose interest
- it’s OK to introduce new characters, but don’t overdo it.
- it’s funnier if many people take turns
- it’s funnier if snappy
- the initiator does not own it, the biggest contributor does not own it.
- be careful in using “closing” statements (like the death of a character) as it may make difficult for others to follow up
- it may be acceptable to add a #CW tag after the stream has started (still under review as it may conflict with #1)