The latest project of the Museum of Modern Fiction is The Life Of Mann, an experiment in creative storytelling. It will be a collaboration with creatives from around the world, anyone from writers, to artists, designers, illustrators, directors etc.
Too many cooks do not necessarily spoil the broth. I like to explore how a
single idea, when passed through different hands can be pushed much further than
possible with a single creator. Mann was conceived as a guy without a past. A
man who was given a second chance in life, beginning from a deserted island. He
is a blank piece of paper, the perfect white canvas. The Life of Mann is like “Truman’s Show” in comics form. Except that there are more ‘Gods’ involved. Here are the rules of the game. I’ve started the ball rolling with 5 pages. Another artist/writer will continue the story in another direction, again in 5 pages. I’ll come in every now and then to continue the story and swing it in a completely new direction, so as to pose new challenges for the next creative.
The fun bit is that no one will have any idea how the story will develop. Not
even me. Will Mann escape from the island? Will he start living there and find a
friend in a certain volleyball? Will there be an undisclosed monster lurking in
the dark? Who is St.Elvis? Is the guardian angel story for real? I too am eager
to find an answer to all these.
There are a few things that make a good story.
Every good story has a hero. He/she need not be the smartest, the strongest or the bravest. But the hero must be a distinctly unique character in order for the entire story to be built upon him/her. Think Superman, Astro Boy and Tintin.
Next, the hero needs to complete a task / reach a goal / embark on an adventure, against all odds. The Monkey God and company journeyed to the West, battling hordes of demons along the way to obtain the sutras. Romeo and Juliet yearn to be together, despite harsh parental objections. Moses had to split the Red Sea to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. That was followed by another 40 years of wandering in the wild before they reach the Promised Land. And superheroes have tons of tasks to complete. Save the world, slaughter villains, fall in love, and keep a day job.
Sidekicks are also of extreme importance. The supporting casts provide additional subplots and very often help to enhance the role of the hero. Like Robin in Batman. The Donkey in Shrek. And Bond girls.
Throw in some romance, suspense, mystery, horror, sci-fi and you are almost there.
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So what makes a GREAT story?
All of the above and more. The key to great stories lie in how the stories are told. Pacing is important. Plot twists are essential. Climax is utmost crucial. This is why every 5 pages from The Life Of Mann end with a climax. And every next 5 pages come with the resulting plot twists.
Chapter 1 of The Life Of Mann rolls off with Mann (the hero) who has lost all memories (mystery) and found himself on a deserted island (fiction). A stranger on the island (the sidekick) introduced himself as Mann’s guardian angel (fairy tale) and revealed that Mann was supposed to die (suspense) but was given a second chance.
That is like 7 different ingredients from just the beginning of the story. Concocted together, the 1st chapter has introduced enough leeway for future development.
And what makes The Life Of Mann interesting is that there are no restrictions to the genres and plot as every artist/writer has absolute free play to develop the story. For example, Mann can go on a journey to retrieve his memories (adventure). Or he can murder St.Elvis and feed off his meat for survival (crime and cannibalism). Or they can both fall in love and build their love nest on the beach (romance).
Like the rest of you, I’m hoping for a great story at the end of the day.
Watch out for the next 5 pages of The Life of Mann. The artist-in-residence currently is JunMing, a brilliant local cartoonist, who is also my long term partner-in-crime. I’ve absolutely no idea how he will continue the story but I believe the results will be amazing.
This was where it all started. The initial idea that spawned The Life Of Mann.
I believed the idea was first germinated sometime in October 2006, if my memory serves me well. This was the earliest documentation of my concept for a global collaboration in storytelling. I vaguely remembered getting all excited when the idea first sprung from my mind, and hastily recorded it all down.
Here’s the transcript for those who are struggling to decipher my barely legible handwriting:
The Diary/Life of John Doe
- An experiment in collaboration with the world
- To explore how creativity can be pushed when different minds come together in developing a character
- Life of character mirrors real life of how we are never in control of life, but whenever shit happens, we have to either deal with it & either go with the flow, or face the problem
Rules of the Game
- 24 frames
- symbolic of 24 hours in a day
- one artist per week
- continue from last frame of last artist & introduce a new development / style / climax / character / etc etc.