1. Magnatolia
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    Magnatolia Active Member

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    Storybase - has anyone used it?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Magnatolia, Mar 25, 2014.

    Hi guys,

    I'm looking for a software that can help generate creativity. This one apparently gives you possible story ideas as you go along. So for example on their website, they start with Todd loses his job and then this software gives several possible ideas to continue with, and same for the next level.

    Is there anything like that, or is Storybase the only option out there?

    Thanks!
     
  2. Lae
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    Lae Contributing Member Contributor

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    I haven't much to offer in terms of software suggestions, im confused and slightly intrigued by the premise. How does any software help generate creativity? Surely creativity is the 'human' part, the inspiration, isn't the methodical stuff like spell checking, grammar correction etc best left to the computer. I dont see how a computer can understand creativity.
     
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  3. sunsplash
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    sunsplash Bona fide beach bum

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    I'm not sure I understand its purpose...what use is your imagination if you don't create possible scenarios yourself? Isn't that the point of creative writing? I could maybe see the concept behind it being helpful in a younger classroom setting to get things brewing but it's certainly not something I'd ever pay for. It would feel like a cheat. I like to come up with stuff on my own, thanks. :cool:
     
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  4. Echoesian
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    Echoesian Member

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    It's also good to think backward, don't you think? When you have a character and a scene you always have two directions you can go-- what's already happened, and what's coming next. I always try to look both ways when thinking up characters and plots. If you only think and write in a forward manner you are missing a lot of details. There have to be reasons for things happening, and how can a computer know what will qualify?

    I looked at storybase.net and it has loads of simplistic suggestions:
    Hero envies Nemesis
    Hero competes with Nemesis
    Hero is ignored by Nemesis

    I imagine that these sorts of ideas are alive and well in the minds of storytellers. They are part of the story.
    I can imagine someone seeking practice, a new writer, finding prompts useful until they felt more confident with the process, but there is a lot more to a story than these writing prompts can provide. I guess I'm reiterating what others have already said... I don't quite see the point? I think writing is too complex for a simple system such as this to be helpful. It's a construction project with three dimensions, large structure as well as fine details, not just a series of railway cars in a row. You know? It all has to come together, all 360 degrees of it.
     
  5. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I wouldn't like a creativity aid that is story structured--I think that the structure would strangle out my own creativity.

    I have, when wishing for some source of random input, been known to go to Wikimedia Commons, click the "random file" link, and try to think of how the image that that produces could fit in whatever I'm trying to write. Or I'll click it a bunch of times and try to think of something that could fit them all together.

    The specific resulting thoughts rarely get in there, but it does sometimes kick me out of an unproductive train of thought

    (Edited to add: Hmm. Y'know, I suddenly find myself wanting to do that, put the resulting dozen or so images on a Pinterest page (of course including any required attributions), and suggest that people here write their own individual stories/flash fiction pieces based on the images. Is that just madness or could it be fun?)
     
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  6. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Why does this strike me as a "programmer-as-ghostwriter" scenario?
     
  7. MilesTro
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    MilesTro Active Member

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    Check out this site. It will give you tons of ideas for creativity.

    http://www.seventhsanctum.com/index.php
     
  8. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    I thought of something similar once. :) It's a funny thought. Take x number of random picture/news paper headlines/tweets/what have you and use them to put together a story. Just for fun. I think I'll do that some time. :D
     
    Last edited: Mar 25, 2014
  9. Magnatolia
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    Magnatolia Active Member

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    Hey Ed, nice one :)

    I'm curious, if someone wants to write fiction but may don't have the creative genius that goes with that, then wouldn't they benefit from having 'ideas'? I don't want a story that says write scenes A, B, C, D, etc. By having an already plotted out structure I can then add or subtract what I want. And also the program doesn't tell you what to do in your scene. It gives you multiple suggestions. Heck I might read one and get a spark of my own idea. I can write short stories easy enough, but I want to write novellas. Yet I struggle with plotting out something large enough for that. The longest story I've plotted was about 10k words.

    @Echoesian hmm thanks for that. The ones you have pulled from the site are very generic, when I looked they had a sample showing much more detailed suggestions. Will need further investigation.

    Thanks guys!
     
  10. sunsplash
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    sunsplash Bona fide beach bum

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    Getting an idea or spark when stuck is one thing; I took your description of the program to be quite different, more of a Goosebumps-choose-your-own-adventure type of service giving you continual suggestions after selecting each choice. Basically story-building for the writer. If I'm misunderstanding, then I apologize for my ignorance. It just seems like a wannabe writer scam because it costs money and, in the very least, a creative cop-out for anyone who really takes their writing seriously.
     
  11. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    That is what it seemed like for me too. To the OP: Creativity is so much more than just the ideas, the whole writing part is a creative journey. Actually, getting ideas is probably the easy part of it...
     
    Last edited: Mar 26, 2014
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  12. Robert_S
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    Robert_S Contributing Member

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    Here's the thing, and I'm just playing devil's advocate, if the writer finds themselves using the same stale underlying tone, idea, etc, it should prompt them to think more, or in the case of a more proactive writer, write something new, but still achieving the same end result.
     
  13. Magnatolia
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    Magnatolia Active Member

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    Hey all,

    I haven't actually used the product so I can't predict whether it aims to plot an entire story for you. I highly doubt it although it does look like each plot choice provides more options. But ultimately it's just a tool. You might get an idea and then go hang on a second what if I did this. I have two problems when doing my writing. One is coming up with enough plot to create a novella or longer-length book. Interestingly I listened to a creativity booster audio today (brainwave stuff) from YouTube. Don't know if that's what caused it but I suddenly had a brain dump for a book idea that came to me about a zombie apocalypse. I scribbled down a full A5 page of stuff at the time until the well dried up so to speak. Then took a standard scene and wrote it, just to see how it felt. Interestingly it flowed pretty easily, and then suddenly I'm writing and this thought and image pops in my head.

    Anyway, I'd love a product that you can type a scene into and it goes 'here how about this addition'. All it is in the end is a suggestion and a tool. You can do what you please with both of them. For example my characters are teenagers who have basically been given the role of trying to find the cure, and they're trapped after trying to get food. Then I thought okay so their only option is to get to the car on the other side of the road. Dialogue starts flowing about how they can't drive which felt out of character for some reason. So I went bingo, and changed it to a truck.

    This is why I love the gigs on fiverr where you give them your idea and they give you several options. Like @Robert_S said, you could end up writing the same general concept. My idea I submitted with that gig was two brothers, one good and one evil. The guy gave me six variations, most of which i had never even considered or crossed my mind. You can then mull those ideas over and new ideas will arise.

    With the free online plot generators I find them stale. Most of them have a template at the back end so it's the same story with just different scenes/characters etc.
     
  14. Echoesian
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    Echoesian Member

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    Hey, if it helps, by all means, use it. I'm all for tools that help people with their writing.

    Still, I agree with Tesoro's statement above-- having ideas is the easy part. I have more ideas than I have time to write. A prompt can inspire, it can be good for writing exercise, but it's not going to get a novel written. I still think that reading is a better way to discover possibilities. You can see what other authors do, what works, what doesn't. Reading is our own process of downloading info.

    I mean, we ourselves are supercomputers. If you read, study, write, think, reflect, etc... you can produce something amazing-- an automatically generated program has nothing on the powers of our brains. But there are no shortcuts, unfortunately. And writing is something that takes study, patience, and practice.
     
  15. plothog
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    plothog Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Having a bit of software which could even understand what your scene was about in the first place would be a pretty impressive bit of A.I.
    A product which could make meaningful suggestions for additions is the realms of sci-fi.
    Fortunately for writers, creativity is an area of thinking that we humans are still far ahead of the machines in.
     
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  16. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Because the creative genius doesn't manifest itself in the "ideas", it manifests itself in the writing. Story ideas are a dime a dozen, and everyone of 'em has been done before. You can look to your life experiences, newspapers, folk tales, novels or plays and get all sorts of ideas. Ideas are the easy part. It's the writing itself that's hard.
     
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  17. Macaberz
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    Macaberz Pay it forward Contributor

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    Amen.

    Seriously though. Ideas are cheap. Very cheap.
     
  18. Magnatolia
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    Magnatolia Active Member

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    @plothog, actually I think it could be quit easy, admittedly it will never be the same as the human mind.

    @EdFromNY I think the creative genius resides in both the ideas and the writing. Could you not have a lousy idea and write amazing prose? I can write scenes pretty easily, like today in my lunch break I pushed out about 1500 words in two different scenes for the zombie plot that came to me a couple of days ago. For me the next thought is usually 'okay what next?' and because I have trouble expanding on my plot/idea I get stumped. I've been told with most of what I write that it's really good, that my beginnings often suck the person in. I know for my short story I wrote last year the lady at work that I gave the draft to was really impressed, and was eager to know what happened at the end (I forgot that draft wasn't finished haha). This is why I'm excited about this current story I came up with.
     
  19. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    @Magnatolia - My point is that the idea is meaningless without the writing. It's the writing that makes it a good idea or a poor one.

    If you're having trouble expanding your story, it may be because your are thinking of single story elements (i.e. ideas) and not writing in depth. There's nothing wrong with that, but it is writing that is more conducive to short stories than it is to novellas or novels.

    A story idea: as the cold weather approaches, a hobo plans to get himself arrested for vagrancy, so he'll be able to spend the winter in a warm place with food provided for free; his personal freedom means nothing to him, only survival. He passes a church and hears the organist playing inside; the music stirs more noble thoughts in him and he decides to reform his life. While he's still standing there, he's arrested for vagrancy.

    Another idea: a poor fisherman hasn't caught anything in almost three months. He goes out and hooks the biggest fish he's ever seen, but sharks destroy it before he can get it back to land.

    Unless you are familiar with the two works, you can't really tell which of those is a short story and which is the novella, and both of them could have evolved into either, depending on how much depth the writer added. O. Henry added just enough to fill that pause on the church steps with what the hobo was thinking at the moment, but not his life story or future consequences in The Cop and the Anthem. On the other hand, Hemingway treated us to a full day and night of Santiago's heroic resolve in The Old Man and the Sea, which was the first of two novellas published in Life Magazine in special issues devoted to that purpose.

    I don't think your problem is a lack of creativity, and I would stop looking for hi-tech, new age methods to "stimulate creativity" and instead do a little nuts-and-bolts review. Go back and re-read some of your favorite literary works, but don't just read for pleasure. Pay attention to how the author introduces the characters, gives them depth, places them in conflict and resolves the conflict. How does (s)he start the story? How does it flow? What else is there besides the simple idea?

    In the Hemingway example, it wasn't just about the bad luck, it was about how the rest of the village had shunned him, how the parents of the boy who usually helped him would no longer allow him to do so for fear that he would be contaminated by Santiago's bad luck, and how Santiago had to maintain his faith in himself. It wasn't just about hooking the huge fish, but about his resolve as the fish dragged him further and further out to sea before it succumbed. It wasn't just about losing it to the sharks, but about his fighting the sharks off as they attacked in waves all night. And it was about his faith in God, which never wavered.

    Good luck. And remember, "Man is not made for defeat."
     
    Last edited: Mar 27, 2014
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  20. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I'd like to echo @EdFromNY here, with a slightly different example of how it isn't the idea, it's the writing.

    Alistair MacLean wrote Force 10 From Navarone. Ernest Hemingway wrote For Whom the Bell Tolls. Both of these books have the same idea: During a war, a small group of fighters must destroy a bridge to prevent the enemy from bringing troops across it at a specific time, so that the good guys' side will win a major battle. MacLean's book takes place in World War II; Hemingway's during the Spanish Civil War, just a few years earlier.

    MacLean's novel is a standard-issue war story, very run-of-the-mill and dull, if you've read a few of these things. The heroes are all stock characters: steadfast, courageous, predictable. They treat their mission as a simple punch-the-time-clock job, to be dealt with competently before moving on to the next punch-the-time-clock job. The reader never gets the impression that anything is really at stake here - the heroes will succeed in their mission, nobody important will die, Our Side will win the war, everyone sleeps easy at night. It's a big yawn.

    Hemingway's novel is a powerful, moving story of desperate characters attempting what is, to them, nearly impossible. The difficulty comes not so much from lack of expertise (the American demolitions expert who serves as the MC provides that), but from the limitations of the group of warriors themselves. These are not highly-trained commandos; they are barely-literate peasants forced by circumstance into a situation they never wanted any part of. They're distrustful, sometimes cowardly, often drunk, only very loosely organized. But a couple of them have passion for their cause even if they have little ability to further it. Hemingway was brilliant at characterization: his people are fully realized and believable, full of self-doubt on one hand and bravado on the other, trying to impress each other, struggling for dominance, sometimes despising each other, yet uniting to attempt this mission because they all believe in it. The group dynamic is astonishingly well realized. The reader is deeply invested in these people, because they're people - we know them. Everything is at stake for them, so it is for the reader, too.

    MacLean's novel is a routine war story with nothing particular to recommend it. Hemingway's novel is brilliant and alive. These writers took the same idea; one wrote forgettable trash and the other wrote a masterpiece.

    Ideas mean nothing. It's all in the writing.
     
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  21. matwoolf
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    matwoolf Contributing Member Contributor

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    It's also the novel where our hero says 'Did the earth move for thee, Maria?' and I used to wonder whether the expression pre-dated Hemingway or this was his euphemism for the page - on that day, that stuck...

    it must be older than Hemingway? I dunno, tho' is archaic in 2014. I never use it with my many lovers particularly.

    Your point is perfect btw, spot on Minstrel. All this labouring before the 'board, we might as well copy Shakespeare and see what comes, or parrot those seven essential story-lines people always cite...
     
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  22. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I think the "earth move" thing was original with Hemingway. At least, I remember seeing it somewhere, with him as the first citation.
     

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