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One Page Novel Idea

Round and round she goes, where she stops...
  (+16, -4)(+16, -4)
(+16, -4)
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For readers who hate to get to the end of a good book or who will repeatedly reread something they liked, a never-ending novel is the ticket. Yep, you guessed it, the "book" is printed on a mobius strip! With no pages to turn and unnumbered chapters, the story's "beginning" and "end" are seamlessly interwoven, and one could start reading and immerse into the narrative anywhere on the strip. The continuity of the time flow could be achieved in various ways; one example:

. . . Hearing the approaching click of heels, he looked up in time to catch a glimpse of her profile, the soft bounce of her breasts, the flowing hair that met her shoulders. He grabbed his cup, left the cubicle and headed towards the coffee machine. He'd catch up on the project later. This was like a drug. He had to have another look into those eyes that locked onto his and take another extra breath when her heady scent reached him. What was her name? . . .
. . . They had rolled him onto the porch, facing the evening sun. Despite his pain, the warming rays calmed him, and as the occasional click of checkers and drone of conversation faded away, his thoughts wandered to his first days at the company. The work was exciting and that was when he met Lucille! The memory was still vivid. He sat absorbed in the glow and hum of the PC when another sound sharpened his senses like a child pulling on his sleeve. Hearing the approaching click of heels . . .

FarmerJohn, May 10 2002


       Hah! Sounds like a book intended for [gizmo]'s fish with the 4 second memory. Nice little piece o' writing by the way.
bristolz, May 10 2002

       What happened? What happened?
thumbwax, May 10 2002

       Stolen from salachair's annotation in Recursive Man, Man:
"It was a dark and stormy night, and the ship was far from the land. Said the skipper to the mate, "Tell us a tale, Antonio," and this was the tale that Antonio told:
It was a dark and stormy night, and the ship was far from the land....."
calum, May 10 2002

       For some time I've been tempted to post an idea that could make use of this, but I can't quite get a bead on just specifically how my idea differs enough from baked or halfbaked concepts, although I haven't seen my idea proposed explicitly.   

       The idea is to publish books in e-book format that are written specifically to take advantage of the unique properties offered by the format. An e-book, for instance, would be (I think) an even better format for this "One Page Novel" than a moebius strip, since the publication format would not give away the story's format.   

       Similarly, I've always wanted to write a "novel" that starts off with the scene or chapter that clearly introduces the main character and begins to establish our sympathy for and interest in this character, begins to introduce some conflict, and then, before any of this gets fully going, the main character is killed by some random accident that has nothing whatever to do with the story line. And the book ends there. But you can't do that with a paper-format book because the skimpy number of pages would give away the surprise.   

       Other things you could do is include music or visual effects that artistically enhance the mood intended by the author without stooping to the level of mere illustration.
beauxeault, May 10 2002

       The collected works of Joyce Kerouac?
quarterbaker, May 10 2002

       I'd vote for a book written from the pov of Lucielle, the dancing poodle...
yamahito, May 10 2002

       you sure that was not trepanation? bliss.
po, May 10 2002

       Gay Blade?   

       Now there's a PC hero for the modern age!
yamahito, May 10 2002

       got it in one, bliss
po, May 11 2002

       [beauxealt]'s idea is discussed in Hofstadter "Godel, Escher, Bach," I think, or perhaps one of the follow-ups to it. The book (the proposed one, not Hofstadter's) has an indeterminate number of blank pages at the end, so that the reader won't be able to determine the arc of the story from the book's length.   

       See also Italo Calvino's "If on a Winter's Night a Traveller," a novel in wherein every chapter dispenses with what's come before, taking off on various tangents while incorporating a meta-story about a reader trying to make sense of Calvino's very text.   

       I'm no fan Robbe-Grillet, the "anti-novel," or post-modern fiction at all, but Calvino's book is excellent, and every contributor to this site would do well to investigate Hofstadter. Nice idea, Farmer John.
snarfyguy, May 11 2002

       Thanx misses and misters, but of course there's more:   

       ...Chewing on the last of the chocolate chip fortune cookie, "Your yearnings will be answered", she leaned forward to reread his love note. He came up quietly from behind noticing the blush spreading to her neck. His eyes were drawn to the small of her back. He lost control as his fingertips reached out to the dimple on each side. At the moment of contact, a charge shook and intoxicated him. She leaned back offering her warm lips to his and her hand went to his waist. As the trousers slid off his slim hips, she glimpsed through her closing eyes the pulsing glow of his light saber...
FarmerJohn, May 11 2002

       So, you want a large hairy man with birthing hips. Hows big foot sound to you?
[ sctld ], May 11 2002

       Short of thumbcuff length, one of these novels could not be authored insufficiently.
reensure, May 11 2002

       ...racing towards the galaxy's center, the martian hitched up his tights with razor-sharp creases before settling into the space cubicle on his last journey. "This idiotic fashion," he telepathed to himself, "there's hardly room for your saber and they keep sliding off slender hips!" He tried to clear and focus his mind during the last seconds left. Being rejected by a primitive earthling was shattering, but he had no hard feelings. He had even left his deciped on her desk. The furry, muscular pet alternately ran upright and climbed upside down on the mobius exercise wheel before growing drowsy in the oygen-rich atmosphere. He had caught it himself on the PC-renamed planet, Mycolon, and wondered sometimes if Lucille didn't prefer it to him. As he whirlpooled into the black hole, a last hope of other-universe-reincarnation quickened his spirits...
FarmerJohn, May 12 2002

       I second snarfyguy's recommendation of 'If On A Winter's Night a Traveller'. Hard work, but entertaining.

beauxeault, I too have always wanted to create a lovingly crafted and constructed character who suddenly dies in a pointless and meaningless way. I suspect that part of the inspiration for this is Monty Python's 'Tale of Princess Lucky', wherein the handsome prince gets killed in a traffic accident whilst attempting to buy a packet of cigarettes.
DrBob, May 12 2002

       "riverrun, past Eve and Adam's, from swerve of shore to bend of bay, brings us by a commodius vicus of recirculation back to Howth Castle and Environs."
stupop, May 13 2002

       ...He threw golf ball after golf ball out the passenger window for days, weeks,months on end as the deafmute Driver wondered why Howard was doing this. By the time of their 17th cross-country trip, Howard's right arm had been reached for by his own left arm many times, in an effort to ease the soreness. But this time he reached for his left arm. The Driver knew Howard was having a heart attack. He now wished he'd gotten the Nationwide Savings Cellphone Plan, though he could neither speak nor hear. Instead, he typed into the phone a Text Message, as he always did when inside the Local Calling Area and instead of pressing Send, he pressed the phone into Howards dying eyes. The Message read: Wy'd U Sav n Thro th Glf Blls? With his full weight on the hopper lever, four fingers extended into the air and a smile on his face, Howard died. Just then, the balance of the load of Golf Balls came crashing through the window, reviving Howard. Onward they went back to all the places Howard had tossed his balls until the truck was filled again. Once filled, they sat in the cab of the truck with Howard's lifetime savings feeding through a hopper from the enormous trailer....
thumbwax, May 13 2002

       ... see Dahlgren, by Samuel Delaney.   

       But beware the author whose first (and possibly only) thoughts are to structure. If there isn't a good story in there somewhere then who will remember it but Eng Lit students? Of course, you could always ...
brainSalad, May 13 2002

       ...seven years ago, our fathers brought forth a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.   

       Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived, and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met here on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of it as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.   

       But in a larger sense we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled, here, have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here, but can never forget what they did here. It is for us, the living, rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they have, thus far, so nobly carried on. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain; that this nation shall have a new birth of freedom; and that this government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth upon which, four score and...
beauxeault, May 13 2002

       ...A bead of sweat formed between his brows and then started moving, gathered momentum down the bridge of his nose and then stopped and hung tenuously from the nose tip. Below it was a sheaf of stock market graphs and under them a cooler full of medicine. His head was bowed and he sat cramped, fetus-like, hugging the cooler. The air in the glass sphere was stale, smelled of ozone and vibrated with a buzzing that slowly increased in intensity. The sweat drop increased in size until its weight overcame surface tension, and for a half second it was free in the air before landing with a splat between "Enron" and "Cisco". His head jerked up and bumped the glass above him and his startled eyes widened and registered that the timer showed ten minutes left. "Damn!" he thought, "How could I have nodded off? I've only been in here five minutes while the force field builds up."   

       In spite of his discomfort, he was happy. After eight years of hard work, his machine was finally ready. Eight years after his wife, Lucille, had died. He missed her terribly, but everything would soon be alright. He had it all planned. The new medicine would cure her, and he would devote all his time to her, cuddle her and romance her. Instead of spending his time with half-baked inventions, they would go out dancing and have those kids she had always wanted, and he would become the most successful daytrader in the world.   

       But suddenly an ugly suspicion interrupted his thoughts and convulsed his gut. He recognized the sickly rush of adrenalin from when he was twelve years old and had released the family car's brake to push it out of the way for basketball. The car had started rolling down the driveway and he had been unable to stop it. It had accelerated towards the busy street. The same sense of foreboding shook him now. Something was horribly wrong! He wiped the moisture from the glass in front of him and peered through the blurred air towards the computer screen. He could still make out the "10" he had entered on the left under years to go back. The middle column was days and on the right was minutes. Or..no!..the left column was minutes!   

       "SHIIIIIT!" The scream echoed in his head and then faded away. He fumbled desperately with the exit handle as his fingers went numb and the air became empty of smells. His last perception was seeing the screen, as if faulty, losing pixels of color and then everything fade out and suddenly become very white and very quiet.   

       A bead of sweat formed between his brows...
FarmerJohn, May 14 2002

       Get your hands off of me you damn dirty ape!
drdan, Aug 21 2002

       In response to beauxeault's first post -- I love the idea of killing off the protagonists, but what if it's carried out repeatedly? Cf. Douglas Adams's intro to h2g2 involving a woman who realizes how to fix the world, seconds before it's destroyed. What if Arthur Dent died after being ejected from the Vogon ship, and we carried on with the Vogons? From there, we could move to the Dentrassis, carrying on a chain of stories with intertwining plots. This could be an excellent genre to serialize. The scope can become as grand as one wishes as well, for there are few plot restraints when one has the universe to tinker with.
Rhetoric, Sep 13 2002

       //a woman who realizes how to fix the world, seconds before it's destroyed//   

       Yeah, but he couldn't resist bringing her back later on (she's Fenchurch)..
yamahito, Sep 13 2002

       I was surprised not to see any references to film or TV. These are some of the thoughts that are sparked off for me. 1) I'm told (I'm not yet 40 myself) that through the 1950's, movie theaters would routinely show a movie continuously. Movie-goers could buy a ticket and enter a theater regardless of when the film had started. Then they'd sit through the next show until the point where they came in. 2) One could argue that if there is a surprise ending in the film, you won't get the proper "payoff" if you didn't see the setup. Supposedly Alfred Hitchcock put an end to the practice of letting patrons join the movie in the middle with his movie "Psycho" (certainly not the first movie with a surprise ending [gratuitous nested footnote-- a memorable earlier film is NIghtmare Alley, 1947, starring Tyrone Power], but perhaps the first time that a director had the clout and will to dictate a change to the practice). 3) By the same token, one could argue that a well-constructed story would lose impact if you jumped around in the story. 4) On the other hand, there's a growing body of works on film and in books that explore nonlinear storytelling. Vonnegut's "Slaughterhouse Five"? Tarantino's "Pulp Fiction"? Christopher Nolan's "Memento"? Perhaps the impact of works such as these is not significantly disrupted by absorbing them in another order. 5) I've become a fan of several long-running American TV dramas well after they began their runs (ER, NYPD Blue, The Sopranos, Six Feet Under). In all of these cases, I later saw earlier episodes once they were available due to syndication. Sometimes the basis for the relationship between characters would be suddenly illuminated for me, a rather pleasing experience. 6) It's my intuition that it's a significant challenge to write extended dramas that both hang together as individual episodes, and are enriched by cumulative viewing of other episodes. 7) "Seinfeld" was frequently brilliant at this; an episode might slyly refer to a much earlier one, delighting the regular viewer. (George, in the 'hand model' episode: "That's not a problem. I won a contest once." referred back to the infamous "master of one's domain" episode.) 8) Having to keep unresolved relationships in one's head makes extra demands on the attention of the viewer. It can be a pleasurable experience, giving a feeling akin to solving a puzzle once everything become clear. On the other hand, some viewers (those who aren't up to these extra demands, due to inclination or a half-sleepy mental state) won't enjoy the experience.   

       I'd like to hear from any professional writers, on the merits and/or demands of producing a work that could withstand nonlinear reading/viewing... dialogues like these are part of what makes the Halfbakery such a compelling place!
ratsass, Oct 07 2003

       wow the infamous ratsass at last.
po, Oct 07 2003


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