Fourth Fiction: The First Ten Days

4th-Night-Logo3_BLUE_2_webQuestion: Where would you find an organic farmer with a wicked sense of humour, a Carrie Bradshaw-esque art student, a NYC bike messenger with a penchant for poker, a fisherman with a sentimental streak, a Gone With the Wind loving mother of four and a self professed 19th Century flâneur awaiting his lift home all hanging out together?

Answer: Fourth Fiction!

Fourth Fiction is the world’s first blog based reality TV show currently streaming on Twitter and above are just some of the liquorice allsorts collection of participants.

Making its debut with YouTube aplomb on American Independence Day, the contest kicks off in earnest on August 4th. The month of July has been given over to a pre-contest build up on Twitter for the twelve contestants, who are restricted to four tweets a day to ensure equality for all. Penalties apply for those breaking the rules.

Creator and self appointed Host, Constantine Markides launched Fourth Fiction without any expectations of what would transpire once he unleashed his idea and the twelve contestants into cyber space.

I just wanted to see how it would play out. Starting it off with practically no guidelines does make for a chaotic opening but I thought that it might lead to a more interesting place than if I had planned it out. I can’t say I’ve been upset with how it’s gone so far. It’s quite a ride, but I’m having a great time.

So are the rest of us!

For the last ten days there’s been a microblogging meet and greet between contestants and readers – a chance for personas and personalities to rise and fall, to woo and kick you in the guts.

The twitter account, @fourthfiction, is shared by all twelve contestants and Markides (as host), with individuals identified by a four letter pseudonym. Using Twitter has been a sharp learning curve for some of the participants who had never ventured there prior to the competition kick off and sharing a twitterfeed has been interesting for those who are old hands.

It occurred to me as I was writing, the whole shared Twitter account has almost Mole-ish undertones – asking for integrity on one level but encouraging the opposite on a whole different one.  After all a shared twitterfeed opens the potential for all manner of nefarious undertakings, as we saw when Tuck reposted a deleted tweet from Tess over the weekend.

While Fourth Fiction contestants are unable to rely on image to lure readers to their fan clubs, distinct personalities have emerged and were rounded out over the weekend with the inclusion of micro bios on the Fourth Night site.  It is amazing how much you can learn about a person in 140 characters four times a day. I already have my most loved and hated list which will make the foray into fiction even more interesting.

Even before the writing has begun, there’s been interesting discussions between twitterers as to whether “a prick” styled contestant has the potential to make it beyond the first round, even with knock out writing, given the demographic following Fourth Fiction are not your run of the mill couch drones. While such antics attract attention (hell I’m writing about it aren’t I?) it does little to warm readers to the contestant going on the comments of WriteFromKaren and panderson1979.

Whatever you think about it personally, Markides has made good on his promise of “manipulation, voyeurism, backstabbing, exhibitionism, sexual gratuitousness, pettiness and exploitation” and that’s before the actual writing has even begun. One thing Fourth Fiction cannot be accused of is a dull Twitterfeed.

I made it very clear with all contestants in the beginning that this was a no-holds-barred style arena. And also that everyone should try to keep in mind that it’s going to be designed to create nasty kinds of conflict. It’s not pretty, but many things about our reality show culture are not pretty.

The twitter feed has been a pick and mix of the best and worst of human behaviour. We’ve seen Tuck infamously attack the Host, retweet Tess and have a go at followers too. We’ve seen numerous contestants whinge and moan about the absence of the Host, then about “interference” or “heavy handedness” when he steps up to take control.  Like small children you can never get the balance just right to keep them happy all the time. We’ve had contestants reprimanded for exceeding the four tweet a day limit and Tess banned for an entire day. We’ve seen pettiness between a couple of female contestants – nitpicking at each other because at the moment there’s little else to do.

However we saw all the contestants band together over the weekend to support Omar who had his bag stolen along with his lap top and iPod – though there was a certain amount of outrage that Markides himself deleted Omar’s original tweet on the grounds it jeopardised his anonymity and retweeted an edited down version, leading Rhae to ask:

“I wonder, Host, whether the ruling that Tess forfeit today’s tweets is more a case of us serving the law than the law serving us … Laws that cannot bend to accommodate changing winds will eventually break.”

But change is a-coming, as several contestants contemplate making like enigmatic Fyor who has kept out of the Twitter fray.

Markides has promised a radical new direction and focus for the rest of the pre-contest, and a new set of guidelines and challenges as of the 15th (US time) with the release of another video later tonight.

Amid what we’ve come to expect from the worst of reality TV, we’ve seen organic farmer Utah rise to the creative fore with her colourful and humorous 140 character stories about fresh produce, reminding all this contest, at the end of the day, is about writing – not personalities.

“What do you see?” the shrink asked the sex addict, showing a sketch of a small curved oval and a banana. “Bean there, done that.”

Igor followed Utah’s lead yesterday with: He tweeted from morning to night, more than the others. But nobody said much when they found him one day, dead in his cage bringing it back home that this is an elimination style competition.

And that’s what all the followers of Fourth Fiction are baying for – writing! We want to know who is going to cut it and who is not. After all, Markides did not have a vetting process for the inclusion of contestants.

I didn’t have a selection process. It’s just people whom I approached about it and who said they’d be interested. That may be why some of them are rather nonchalant about it all (and also why some of them aren’t afraid to take shots at me). But I did also choose people whom I knew could write well.

For those reading who wish somehow their paths had crossed Markides’ and been invited to be part of the Fourth Fiction adventure all is not lost. Any interested writers are invited to contact Markides through the website to register to be involved as parallel participants in the twelve literary challenges.

While many of us had hoped an outside parallel participant may have been included in the official competition to spice things up, reality TV style, Markides confirmed yesterday that he is not currently leaning in that direction.

If this whole thing goes off successfully, then maybe next time around something more elaborate can be done.

Seth Godin believes the purpose of a book cover (which is what the month long twitter feed is if we’re all being totally honest about it) is to set the reader up for what happens on the pages – and that is definitely the case with Fourth Fiction’s pre-contest TwitFest. There are possibly going to be some insightful and entertaining explosions plus a whole lot of rethinking and adjusting of loyalties, once the words hit the page. Until then we’ll just wait and watch as the “book covers” flesh themselves out and continue to ramp up the anticipation.

And for those wanting to know if Markides will make live the outtakes from the Fourth Fiction videos – the answer is a definitive yes.  You’ll just have to wait until December and the end of the comp.

Blast From the Past: Where the Wild Things Are and AstroBoy

I took my son to the movies today to see Ice Age 3.  While the movie was nothing to rave about, the trailers preceeding the movie were a different thing.

Maurice Sendak’s classic book about Max and monsters was a favourite of mine.  I remember being read it, as one of those huge books, in the library when I was about seven. I was fascinated by the monsters. And the rhythm of the text when Max sails away. And the transformation of his room.

Not surprisingly it was one of the first bought for Dylan – before he was even born, by his Godmother Meredith (also a huge fan of the book) along with The Very Hungry Caterpillar (though I’m pretty sure that story will never cross over into film.)

When we started reading Where the Wild Things Are to Dylan, my partner and I used to joke that in this day and age Max would be given Ritalin to curb his ADHD and then given time out. Or perhaps be diagnosed with Anti Social Personality Disorder – and again medicated. Such is our society’s low tolerance for adventurous behaviour and over reliance on pigeon holing “aberrant behaviour” with fancy names.

Due for release 3rd December in Australian cinemas, Where the Wild Things Are is directed by Spike Jonze, famous for his music videos. The screen play was penned by David Eggers in close collaboration with Maurice Sendak. Due for release last year, test screening apparently had kids running crying from the cinema. When you’re spending more than $80 million you want to make sure your audience can stay in their seats for the duration of the movie.

I have to admit I can’t wait to see it. It looks visually spectacular. Described as “haunting” you get that very feeling from watching the trailer – or at least I do. I was stoked to see the wolf suit Max is wearing in the film and carrying the fork in one hand – just like the book. My partner ever the cynic can’t help but wonder HOW you make a 14 page kids books into a full length feature film.  I guess we’ll just have to wait a see.

I did have a curious moment while watching the trailer. Seeing the boat being tossed about on the ocean I had a HR PuffenStuff flash back and expected Jimmy to come prancing off the boat with the Magic Golden Flute. Yes – I think I can safely say I was scarred and carrying something of a HR PuffenStuff legacy.

And if one childhood flashback wasn’t enough in one ten minute session of previews, there was another …

AstroBoy was one of my all time favourite TV shows as a kid (along with other anime classics G Force and Ulysese) all staples of ABC afternoon TV back in the early 80’s. I’m not sure about this “modern” version though. The computer generated animation looks too slick – it seems to me to miss something in the translation from hand drawn to computer created. Or maybe I’m just old?  While Dylan was ecstatic to see it was coming to the movies – I’m less keen.  Some nostalgia trips are best never taken – and I fear AstroBoy in it’s 2.0 guise, looks like one.

Back in the Saddle Again

With nine minutes left before I head off to bed, after a full day of writing, I thought I’d stop in here and try and offer up some original content.

I didn’t realise how recharging the two weeks in Cairns was.  This morning I sat down, vaguely appraised my to do list (will be more of a stickler tomorrow) and then set myself half hour time blocks to get it done. I loved the fact that showering and making my bed were the kick offs and managed to start the day achieving something!

Then it was time to do my editor’s comments for story #6 of the Chinese Whisperings anthology.  It was only when Benjamin Solah popped up on twitter that I remember my Write Anything article.

On the back of one of Tuck’s tweets from the Fourth Fiction competition, I had an idea to explore the power of book covers having read something a few weeks ago about how they’re considered an essential part of an eBook – just like a normal book. Part of me also wanted to have a bit of a dib at Tuck.

As I was writing, researching, taking down notes, putting down my own reflections and trying to put it all together in some cohesive form I had the distinct feeling I was missing something. It is often the way when things don’t easily gel when I write non fiction, or when there is no distinctive hook at the beginning of an article.

Checking my email later on in the afternoon and considering a new launch date for the Chinese Whisperings website I saw that today was designated a Eureka day in Mystic Medusa’s Astrology Guide for 2009. Ha! So much for flash insights.  My article was mired down in crap – sinking, choking and drowning in its own crap.

I had promised Dylan and his friend who was over for the afternoon to play, a trip to the park. And it was on the trip to the park that I got the flash insight. The fact that book covers and their contents are two different things – advertising and content/product.  Voila!

The idea perculated while I prepared dinner and as it cooked I resurrected my article, managing to reweave some.  A lot of the original article remains unpublished and is at least another two posts worth – either here on or Write Anything in the coming weeks. While I wasn’t originally keen to go to the park, I’m glad that I did. As always a walk or some kind of repetitive activity helped to unfreeze the cogs in my head and allow some critical/creative thought to happen.

I’m always in thrall of author Lilith Saintcrow – who I follow both on Twitter and Facebook. I love her recipes and the way she uses baking/cooking as a creative adjunct to writing. I’m going to take a page out of her book this week and bake something – not sure what. In time to share with my friends in at Writing Group on Thursday.

Tomorrow in between going to see Ice Age 3 – there’s my breastfeeding article to write for the week, story #5 to finish critting for Chinese Whisperings and some Take Five questions to start considering – especially if I want the other writers at Chinese Whisperings to get there bios etc in order. Oh and I have been thinking about doing a round up from Fourth Fiction – but might wait until the ten day stretch has completed and before the next one starts. There’s word there will be another video on the 14th of the month. Hold on – that’s tomorrow for me – well tomorrow will be writing a round up then.  Bugger!

I have to say – I did love having a public poke at Tuck in my WA column today! It appeals to some part of me which likes having a go at people who’ve been making a habit of poking at others – in a number of nasty ways also.  I’ll probably live to regret it.  Gratefully all contestants at FF only have four tweets a day.

And yes – the image to go with this post is totally inappropriate (a partially dressed woman madly threatening a computer with a hammer might have been a little closer to the target) but I loved the fact this is one of the image which came up when I punched “back in the saddle” into google images.  About as appropriate an accompanying image as one of Gene Autry and a guitar!

Time Out From Packing

As the title suggests – there are other things I should be attending to at this moment. It is hard to believe two weeks has just literally flown by.  And now I contemplate the massive of pile of work which awaits me at home – there are stories to crit for Chinese Whisperings, there are about eight stories to crit for my critiquing course (which is Thursday) and I don’t have four of them yet, there’s the website for Chinese Whisperings to keep hacking at (but very excited we have chosen colours and agree on them!), there is content to write for the website – then the back log of writing, editing and redrafting.

I am exhausted just thinking about it. The good thing though – I do feel recharged and relaxed from the break.  This has been the easiest school holidays to get through (not necessarily the most productive but I’m not sure you can have both.)

I’m missing the sunshine and warmth already and we haven’t yet left.

Getting Antsy

From Smaller Indiana

It is funny how this time last week I couldn’t have cared less if I was writing or not.  I was kick back, relaxing and enjoying myself.  A week on things have changed.  I need to get back to writing. It is my intention to participate in [Fiction] Friday today – Write about a misunderstanding between three people – but to do that I need to write one very long piece of Hartog to bring his story up to speed.  I’ve seen how the prompt  plays out in the Hartog series of stories and I could just write it off the cuff but well … I’m worried I’ll get blocked with the story.

Last week we visited my friend’s parents – who I literally haven’t seen in almost 20 years.  They were talking about how they knocked one of their old chooks on the head – and how she had about half a dozen eggs of varying sizes in her. Made me think that’s how I am at the moment – chocked up with Hartog stories, but unable to move through them until I get the first one out.  It has been brewing now for about five weeks.  Small wonder Hartog hasn’t become a stalker!

So today – need to ekk out some time to firstly get the next installment down and then, later on tonight write to the [Fiction] Friday prompt.

Guess you’ll be hearing a lot more from me shortly one way or another. We fly home Sunday and after some toing and froing, have decided not to extend our stay. While it is cold and raining in Brisbane (and who wouldn’t want to stay in Cairns in the glorious sunshine) – it has been break enough and I need to get back to life as normal and maybe that 1000 words a day challenge?

Holiday Redux

Gosh – it feels quite like I came back from the wilderness of the Bunya Mountains and promptly entered the wilderness of a writing drought.  Time and circumstances seem to be against me.  And unbelieveably I am on holidays again – this time in my home town of Cairns, staying with my Sister and Mum. With three kids under the same roof, old friends to catch up with, gorgeous tropical winter sun outside and a real desire to kick back .. I haven’t been making (or had!) the time to write.  Even my morning pages have gone beside the wayside which feels OK at the moment.

I wouldn’t like to call my morning pages crutches to get through life, but at the moment I don’t feel empty without doing them religiously every morning.

There’s been lots of behind the scenes work going on with Chinese Whisperings and we attempt to get the template right so we can then load up the information and make the permanent site live.  Without internet for a few days at the start of the week I lost momentum and I’m not too enthused at this point to trade CW work for a walk on the beach or gelato in the glorious sun.

The Dirk Hartog story is still clicking over.  Hartog has learnt some patience (huh – this is what you get when you choose “me” to tell your story to.  Bet you’re currently peeved about it Hartog! Maybe you didn’t do your research so well. Or maybe you have mor faith in me in telling your story than I do at present?) There is also Celia’s story I was intending to write for Fiction Friday yesterday – considering she’s been on an extreme change – time travel back into war torn Europe would do that for you. Plus I overheard a conversation I found interesting in regards to her story. And I also made a startingly discovery which came from said overheard discussion.  To suceed on her mission they had to destroy the time machine – thus she was sent back into the past knowing she would never be able to return to her time and her comrades.

I’m also on a bit of a fact finding mission for my potential NaNo story this year.  Probing and exploring my old friends  high school and teenage experiences/recollection.  I’m hoping if I have some insight into the drives, motivations, fear and triumphs of my old friends during those seminal years I will be able to attract the right characters for the story.

I’ll be back later to do my month in review (yes I am putting it off because it has been pretty dismal in many respects).  And I have a few more ideas I would like to write about.