Adventures in Storytelling: The Dark World of Brandon Generator

Imagine the possibilities if people around the world shared ideas for a story, characters and salient plot points.

“The Random Adventures of Brandon Generator” is an online graphic novel-turned-film noir, featuring the baffled protagonist striving to create original worlds and instead succumbing to writer’s block. Brandon stares at the blinking cursor on his blank computer screen and feels like he’s lost control. That’s where you come in.

The Brandon Generator story-verse was created by film director Edgar Wright (“Scott Pilgrim vs. the World,” “Hot Fuzz,” “Shaun of the Dead”) and Marvel and Lucasfilm illustrator Tommy Lee Edwards. It’s narrated by Julian Barratt of “The Mighty Boosh” and fueled by cup after cup of espresso and the wild ideas of readers.

“I created a character who is creatively stuck and continually looks for random interjections to inspire him,” Wright says of the project on his blog. “Rapidly it becomes clear that the people who can actually help are the people at home visiting the site.”

“I like the idea of the world forming around Brandon and am excited to connect with people at home in a whole new way, creatively,” he explains. “It’s exciting to know that even though there’s an underlying narrative and set pieces in place, much of the plot is up for grabs.”

Despite the title, the multiple plot drivers don’t feel random at all – a tribute to Wright’s talents as a writer and storyteller. Edwards’ visuals combine with a score by David Holmes to transform the dozens of ideas, voicemails and drawings submitted by fans into a memorable, wry tale.

Two episodes have appeared; two more are in the works. At the end of each, you can mouse over the final scene and click on various images, like Brandon’s phone, to submit your own ideas, which are folded into the next episode. The project wraps in June.

Watch Brandon

You can view the first two episodes from Edgar Wright’s blog or on the Brandon Generator site at www.brandongenerator.com.

Connect with Brandon

Naturally, Brandon has his own Facebook page, Facebook.com/BrandonGenerator, and Twitter account, Twitter.com/Brandon_gen; you can discuss the project on Twitter using the hashtag #BrandonGenerator.

Practice Writing

There are plenty of inspiring books that discuss the importance of writing practice – if you have a favorite writer, she or he has probably written one – so this post won’t go into detail about that. I assume, if you’re a writer, that you already have a regular practice.

No, this is about practicing someone else’s writing. Also known as “copying.” But, without plagiarizing. Perhaps you do this all the time, jotting down sentences from beloved books. Writers are obsessed with words and usage, and your journals, like mine, are probably dotted with examples that made your heart leap, stirred your mind and caught your fancy.

Do you practice writing these phrases? With intention?

I remember an instructor at Berkeley telling us that he spent a summer typing the screenplay for a movie he loved. The film had hit the theaters, and the instructor, then a young writer, had managed to get his hands on a copy of the screenplay. He spent a whole summer copying the thing (on a manual typewriter, in those days) just to understand how the writer had done it – how the story built, characters developed, dialogue formed and, the very essence of screenwriting, how the screenplay format worked.

A few days ago, reading filmmaker Edgar Wright’s blog, I saw that he’d done it too, locking himself into an edit suite at college with a stack of VHS tapes of other people’s movies, cutting together other directors’ footage of things like car chases and gun battles. He wanted to understand the visual lexicon.

“I basically made these for myself and to figure out how to edit,” he writes. (You can read his discussion of the “mash-up” process here and find links to both montages. Note that the blog post has one bit of language unsuitable for younger readers, and the “Gun Fetish” mash-up contains extremely violent images.)

The first writer who ever made me want to retrace his steps was probably Tom Wolfe. The first novelist was John Updike. I’ve sat in libraries, under trees, at kitchen tables, waiting for quiet to descend, slowly moving my pen across the page, trying to put myself in their minds, to see how the words came to these writers in that specific order. It’s a way of learning that can be as valuable as your own writing practice.

Writing that inspired me this week:

“The cave of his skull furs with nonsense.”
~ John Updike, “Commercial”