A story idea about real writers and for real writers.
Demographic: 12 - 150 (some of us may live a long time)
!If you use this unique idea/storyline, it must be attributed to Dorian Scott Cole. See the note at the bottom of the page.
The year is 2015. Television has become fully interactive. People carry TVs everywhere with them. A new era of interactive TV is about to dawn.
Shaun is a television writer who is frustrated by the lack of meaningful creative opportunities. In his circle of writers, he is told by others to write something "meaningful" on the side and just enjoy the benefits of writing a meaningless TV series. That's what all of the rest of them do.
The story editor invites Shaun to go along to a preview showing to see the "real" feedback they get from viewers. After half an hour of viewers analyzing every character, the story line, the clothing, the gratuitous sex... every element in the story - and telling how they would change it so that it suits them, Shaun revolts. He throws down his pen and escapes.
Days later Shaun returns to the studio where he works. His stuff is in a box on his desk. He talks to the producer saying he is sorry he lost it and he needs the job. The producer agrees to give him another chance. Shaun takes his laptop and opens a "plot machine" program. He jots down notes from the machine. He has fully fleshed out characters and a winding plot. He reads over it and yawns. He writes at the top, "Killer plot - guaranteed to sell! Satisfies all feedback from the test audience."
Shaun opens his journal and writes in it: "Sold soul to the devil. Does this lead to happiness or where?"
We see the Nielsen ratings for his show. Market share soars.
Shaun visits a friend at a research psychology lab and sees brainwave response in action. He has an idea that it can impact sales from advertising, and he sells an advertiser on the idea, but he makes Shaun develop it on his own - refuses to bring it in-house. Shaun develops an earpiece that serves as the audio headset and also sends back brainwaves. Brainwave feedback for commercials is a big success, and suddenly Shaun is rolling in money. He finances and directs one brainwave commercial after another, creating hundreds of simultaneous winning storylines that wow corporate sponsors. Product sales soar.
Advertisers had long been on a quest to tailor commercials for individual approval. First, each age, gender, and interest demographic got a commercial tailored to them and sent to their device IP address. Next with Shaun's device, advertisers monitor interest level and begin changing commercials as interest weakens. After Shaun masters this technology, advertisers find that they can use brainwave response feedback to change the entire course of the commercial. Every word can be changed depending on reaction. The brainwave response literally writes the commercial. Each person hears exactly what he wants to hear. Suddenly there are thousands of variations of the same commercial. Interest levels increase and sales triple. Shaun creates a Perfect Story Machine to control the commercial sent to each person.
Seeing the success of "response directed" advertising, advertisers demand that television shows start doing the same thing to increase the show's ratings, and by doing so increase the number of people viewing their commercials. Of course, they point to Shaun as the expert they want running the show. Move over - no, move out - story editors and directors - they are no longer needed.
Shaun leaves advertising to do brainwave directed TV shows. They are an immediate hit. He perfects the method for delivering dozens to hundreds of variations of storylines tailored to collections of individual brainwave responses.
Shows soon become a live fiction - the brainwave response from the viewers literally move the show's action forward - literally write the entire show.
In the studio, actors begin to take their acting cues from the feedback, and often deliver improvisation instead of acting. Using improvised lines as segues, writers quickly provide alternate storylines, and soon develop techniques for changing the course of the story to any of hundreds of different directions. Actors aren't as fast as avatars in making sudden changes in direction, so avatars become the vehicle of choice.
Soon there are actually dozens of actors for the same character, all look-a-likes or computer aided characters (avatars), doing the story at the same time. Each story goes in the direction chosen by the respondents.
Shaun hires developers to perfect his Perfect Story Machine that integrates plot, character, dialog, and setting, and which responds in microseconds to brainwave responses with new dialog, a new plot, adds new or deletes characters, and changes the setting. All that the actors, or avatars, have to do is deliver the lines and physical action. He has perfected creating a perfect story for every individual.
Critics say Shaun is pandering to viewers and advertisers, call him a pimp, say that the commercials say anything just to make a sale and most of it isn't true. They say his method is the ultimate in Madison Avenue misleading advertising. He is taken aback by the criticism, takes a break, and then sees that his critics are now using the same methods, and doing better than he did.
Other writers complain that there is no real "dramatic action" in these movies. As a test case, they show that comedy can't be created by Shaun's Perfect Story Machine. The comedy portion of the machine is a complete failure. Shaun dismisses this as just a need for more development. But underneath, Shaun suspects that they are right. A meaningless story can't deliver real comedy. It can deliver corny and outdated one-liners, and physical comedy, and some trite embarrassing situations, but it can't create the real human drama from which comedy comes - those moments when we laugh at ourselves.
Shaun hires a team of artificial intelligence experts, comedians, and comedy writers to work on the comedy section of the machine.
Next Shaun launches into videogames, applying his Perfect Story Machine to videogame play. He tailors plot, character, setting, and difficulty level to brainwave responses. Every problem in the game is resolved at 30 seconds. Players love it.
Shaun takes the Perfect Story Machine with the new comedy section developed by artificial intelligence experts on the road. No sales - they don't like what they see. He makes four comedies from his own money. They fall flat. Shaun blames the director, but knows the blame is on his machine.
Disappointed, disillusioned, and having wasted a lot of his money on making comedies, he decides to risk a new venture: reality TV. In this first show, the brainwave responses of the audience direct real people in the real world, and their situations and actions are guided by the brainwaves of the people watching. Reality TV becomes interactive. Reality fiction - live! becomes the hottest thing on TV.
Soon the real people in these shows are driven by immediate response to do more and more daring things. They are getting arrested, and some are getting injured or even killed. The police attempt to arrest those who are sending the brain wave responses, but psychologists and producers maintain that the responses are not intentional but merely reactions that aren't within the control of the individual. Congress introduces legislation to make it illegal, but because of special interest group lobbying and public pressure, they can't get a consensus.
Next prosecutors go after Shaun and the producers. The prosecutors realize they can't make their case, so they and Shaun come to an agreement. Producers voluntarily put some restrictions on the real people, and Shaun builds some protection into the program.
A block of writers challenge whether there is any value in this type of "story." It does not have a "beginning, middle, and end," and it lacks characterization and plot. Other writers insist that reality fictions have all the features of standard stories - they are essentially no different than choosing the ending. Besides, little has ever been real about reality TV - they have gotten as phony as scripted wrestling.
Another block of writers maintain that the stories do not reflect today's world, have no premise, have no moral outcome, no message, and have no socially redeeming value - not even laughter. But most writers are having fun with this new technology - the hottest thing since the Internet - so the complainers are soundly pooh-poohed by almost everyone.
Because TV has been integrated into personal communication devices, people take it everywhere. They get captivated by reality programs that go on all day long and provide them with a continuously pleasing experience. This becomes an obsession for some, and for 60% of people it begins interfering with work. Employers start firing people for watching TV during employed hours. Groups advertise against Shaun and the havoc he is creating - he is labeled the great Satan, the great misleader of people, the soul collector.
A new reality TV show appears which treats people's obsession with interactive TV. People become obsessed with this show.
Finally the novelty of shows that do just what you want them to do begins to wear off. People become tired of shows that are predictable, and shows that provide no new "input" into their lives. One show looks just like the next. Each show delivers the message that the person wants to hear. Even advertising based on this model begins to fail.
What now becomes in vogue is the surprise and the opposite message. People who wanted vengeance, now are surprised by kindness. People who wanted love are now surprised by difficult and unlovable people. People who wanted sex, sex, and more sex are now surprised by unrequited love, abstinence, and respect.
Advertisers demand that the writers for these shows make everything a twist, a surprise, or an opposing message. Shaun makes a bundle through the Perfect Story Machines that he provides to all writers through the Internet, for a fee. He reprograms the machine to whatever the new viewing demands become. He even adds a "new and different" module that creates new ways to change the story.
Once again viewers get bored and turn away as they realize that everything they see is simply a manipulation. Fluff. Stories aren't based on real characters, real motivations, real situations, and potentially real actions. These stories take on the label "mirage," because they appear in a desert of meaninglessness, and are only wishful thinking. The writer could just as easily be a computer throwing dice, not someone with real experience and insight. The stories are meaningless and don't reflect real life. Many writers argue that no story ever accurately reflects life, and real life is just a toss of the dice anyway. But people don't buy their argument.
Throughout the world there are symbolic bonfires in which people throw in mirage stories (pretend pages). There are massive protests. TV audiences disappear. Writers go on strike to demand an end to mirage and brainwave response directed stories and the Perfect Story Machine. Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet becomes the first story to return to TV, followed by O'Henry's The Gift of the Magi. Both spawn hit series.
What happens to Shaun? Does he change? Do his critics drive him from writing? Does he return to creating the meaningful story that he originally wanted to write? Does he fall in love with a writing partner who throughout the story has created a different and meaningful storyline of his life, sparking a new career of writing with her? This is a subplot that would have to be written in. Hmmm. Is that phony?
How does a writer architect an honest story without making contrived or meaningless plots? Some fuel for addressing these issues:
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