It’s story time across the digital space

Sravanthi Challapalli Chennai | Updated on January 10, 2018

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The British Council’s 7-week Saptan Stories project ends on Sept 16

It’s one more chance for aspiring Indian writers to see their words... well, not quite on print, but online.

The British Council has called upon people to contribute their lines to the seven-week Saptan Stories online project, which it launched in collaboration with the Oscar-winning Aardman Animations.

The Council calls it the first-ever purely crowd-sourced short story in India. Seven artists from India and the UK have been chosen to illustrate every week’s instalment of lines, which amounts to 49 illustrations for a single story.

The project will end on September 16 when the final lines will be added to the story. Part of the British Council’s UK India 2017 programme, the lines submitted are vetted, shortlisted by a panel of judges, and the winner decided upon by public vote.

Alan Gemmell, Director, British Council India says the story plays out in the form of a giant game of Consequences across the digital space. In Consequences, players supply a word or a phrase each to build a story. Neil Pymer, Interactive Creative Director, Aardman, says, “I’d love to see if the same framework could apply to a longer piece, or see it work over hundreds of other short stories.” Pymer’s contemporary Jake Manion developed the original seed of this project. Aardman had undertaken a similar exercise with the Tate Movie Project where thousands of children in the UK contributed their ideas to an animated movie, which resulted in more than 1.9 lakh submissions, country-wide roadshows and BAFTA and Royal Television Society awards.

Adrita Das, one of the Indian artists working on this project, says accuracy of depiction and maintaining continuity were the main challenges as there was no way to know how the story would evolve the next week.

Why wasn’t the art component of the project crowd-sourced? Says Pymer, “Having so many calls to action over such a short period of time could have become confusing. We are, however, considering a legacy activity.” The story and artworks will be on the Saptan Stories website for everyone to see and access, says Gemmell of the British Council.

Other collaborations

There have been other attempts to create collaborative fiction through the Internet. In 2007, publisher Penguin tried it with the Wikinovel A Million Penguins, which did not culminate in a novel but became a widely discussed study in human behaviour online. In 2009, broadcaster BBC crowd-sourced an audio book by asking author Neil Gaiman to write the first sentence and getting Twitterati to write the rest. Later on, Gaiman collaborated with his Twitter followers on short stories and illustrations, too.

Published on September 10, 2017

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