Strangers piece together novel on Facebook

Kolkata: The co-authors of this forthcoming book are strangers to one other, who are unaware whether the fiction they are penning would turn out to be a thriller, a comedy, a romantic novel or some other genre. Started off as a creative experiment by advertising professional Emmanuel Upputuru, it allows anyone on social networking site Facebook to take the tale forward from where it was left by the last writer.

"The characters and the story remain frozen till a fellow netizen adds a passage or sentence. Then it is again surrendered to the next person who volunteers to come forward. All along, none of the authors know what will happen next," says Upputuru, national creative director of Publicis India.

The Delhi-based adman began by creating a page on Facebook `People like you and me` in March and wrote the first three paragraphs of the unique book that he titled `Once`. He subsequently invited those on the site to use their distinct creativity by commenting on the post and be one of those myriad storytellers that takes the tale forward.

Attracting thousands of members as readers of the story, which is still being written, the idea became a superhit online. Around 30 people have already contributed to the story, with ten of them being regular writers. Mostly strangers, some of the authors are even students and foreigners like the controversial British advertising legend Neil French.

Since every writer brings in his own perception, style and flavor into the story, which is set in Spain, the novel may turn out to be a thriller, a comedy or even a romantic love story as time progresses. Upputuru says, "It`s an experiment to see whether we can create something by people who don`t even know each other. I am not trying to create the most well-written story. I am trying to create a story written by different people who are common men and not a Salman Rushdie or a Chetan Bhagat,"

However, there are a set of rules which one needs to follow to co-author the book.
"They should know the characters well, how they are growing, the locations and try and build on them while writing. They are not supposed to dwell outside unless they really feel there`s merit in cutting away from the scene," says the adman.

To get more variety and colour in the story, every writer is allowed to post only once every five posts. "Otherwise, it will become like any other book where one or two authors write the story," says Upputuru.

Describing his role as a "curator of the book", he says he too contributes at times but deletes any posts he finds inappropriate to the story, obscene or bad in taste.
"But I am not rude to anybody. I send a valid explanation for it with a suggestion," he says.

The idea behind the innovative experiment came to him one day when he was playing a game where he gave random sentences to his seven-year-old son who added next line. "It was then I thought why can`t we have a game like this on Facebook where one writer adds to what the other has already written," he says.

Expected to reach climax in next 3-4 months, the story will be published in a book form thereafter, where all those who have contributed to the book will be credited as co- authors. Interestingly, even as there are thirty writers working on the same story, a writer`s block still happens as there are phases when nobody contributes.