the collaborative novella (ish).

In October of 2021, I read Liane Moriarty’s best-seller (now Hulu series) Nine Perfect Strangers. The story features nine individuals (strangers, in fact) whose paths intersect at an Australian wellness center. The focus of each chapter alternates among the characters. The result is a larger frame (outer) story—strangers at a wellness retreat—that includes the (inner) backstories of the nine individuals, with nine distinct voices.  

Enter: My hubris.

The entire time I was reading, I kept thinking, We could do this! How hard could it be? We have 19 accomplished voices in our Creative Writing II class that could work in groups to write parts of a larger story. I began poking around the web, assuming I could beg, borrow, and steal the good parts of someone else’s labor. Nothing. Not a blessed thing. So, we started our Collaborative Novella project from scratch.

Our conversations began around the well-known Life Raft scenario: the raft only has room for X people; who is worthy of being saved? There may or may not have been some immediate candidates for shark bait (ooh ha ha). (This is a very dark philosophical bunch, as you’ll soon discover.) The idea morphed into our own premise, which is also a Frame Story: the inner story is a group of students marooned on an island (a la Lord of the Flies). The outer story is a group of dysfunctional Creative Writers sharing the marooned-on-an-island stories they had written. 

Each group (of 3 or 4 authors) created major and minor characters. Each character had an object that had to appear in their story. Each story centered around a killer that was loose on the island—the island where each story is set. Each story was going to be broken into several smaller chapters that would be interwoven throughout our novella. Each chapter had a page limit for manageability and to stay true to our novella form. Oh, and each of these steps had to be finished by the end of Term 2. I mean, authors write novels in ten weeks, right?

It was a lot. (Remember my hubris?) 

I’ll spare you the growing pains of how this project morphed and evolved along the way. However, what I can tell you is the result is still five fantabulous stories, written in groups, set on a tropical island where a killer is afoot. Sometimes the characters give a nod to the characters in other stories; sometimes, they don’t. However, this collection includes five distinct voices and tones. There’s some lighthearted fun (where the teacher’s name sounds a whole lot like my own), some Shakespearean-esque tragedy, some campy murder mystery, some sardonic wit and satire, and even some heartwarming romance. It’s all in here, folx, and it’s all fabulous. 

Just like these authors.

Click HERE or on the cover art below (by Sabrina the Fabulous) to check out the finished product!


*Featured photograph by Rachid Oucharia on Unsplash

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