Come together by Bill Kirton

Last month, Ann Evans wrote an interesting and knowledgeable blog about her experiences of collaborative writing. By chance, its timing coincided with the appearance of a short story which I co-wrote with Eden Baylee, a Canadian writer with whom I’ve already co-written 3 other stories. Our combined efforts were written to be read by us on R B Wood’s Word Count Podcast

The picture prompt for our story

I’m choosing this as the subject of this month’s blog because each time we’ve written together, the results have been very satisfying to both of us and I think it’s an exercise that’s well worth trying.

I’ve written before about how fictional characters seem to act autonomously and how those in my books often surprise me by seeming to take directions which have nothing to do with me. In our collaborations, they behave in the same way, but with the added twist that, even though I may have created  one, given him/her a specific identity, and sent him/her off on a particular path, when Eden sends back her version of how the story (and that character) develops and progresses, he/she may have become a relative stranger to me. However, the constraints of what has by now become a structured, recognisable narrative, (which the character – having been part of it from the beginning – knows even better than I do), seem to remove even more of my control over who he/she then becomes.
But it’s not only that twisting of the relationship between author and character that’s of interest, it’s the fact that the co-author may have incorporated undreamed of (by the story’s originator) elements of the setting, introduced objects or actions absent from the initial conception, interpreted the first author’s words in an unexpected way, added themes not necessarily related to the original intentions or led the plot/story in any number of unanticipated directions. And that, in turn, forces the first writer to readjust his/her thinking and, almost, start afresh.

As I list those possibilities, it makes me wonder how on earth we managed to reach a satisfying conclusion with any of our efforts. But we did, Richard was content enough with them to include them in his shows and, in my opinion, in at least two of them, the results of the ‘double narrator’ approach produced twists better than any I might have dreamed up on my own.

This isn’t something I’m suggesting only for first-timers; I think those of us who’ve already produced stories, plays and novels might find it interesting and inspiring to try.

And there’s also the fact that, if you know a fellow writer is waiting for your copy in order to get on with some work, it’s a compelling incentive to get writing. If any of you do try it, please let the rest of us know how it felt for you.


Anonymous said…
Aargh I think I'd be totally thrown by collaborating with another writer on characters and a story I felt I'd created! Obviously it does work and I take my hat off to you for seeing all the unexpected twists and new themes introduced in a positive light. It must come down to being in sympathy with your fellow writer and having trust in them. For me it conjures the wonderful picture of a whodunnit, say, in which the collaborators have utterly opposing views on which among the dozen or so suspects is the killer, and keep wrenching the clues to point in different directions...

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