Steve Turner opens up novel for reader input

Friday, October 2, 2009
Local filmmaker and author Steve Turner is posting his novel a chapter at a time online for readers to provide feedback on the work in progress. (Southeast Missourian file photo)

Typically, when a novel is written, there is a vision in the author's mind that is brought to fruition through hours of hard work. Twisting and turning, the story develops as the writer chooses the fates of the characters in the story.

But Steve E. Turner is taking a new turn with his book. He has decided to create what can be called a communal novel. Turner started writing his novel some years ago and has decided to open his story up to the online community.

"Recently, looking at a few interesting art projects online, I came up with the idea of doing something new with a novel," Turner said. The filmmaker and author decided to post a chapter a week from a book project, allowing readers to post comments about the story and the character development.

At, Turner poses the question, "In this digital age of instant reactions and discussion, the possibility of real-time artistic creation might possibly occur. Can a group of people, through in-depth collective thought, direct a novel?"

"The story is basically modern contemporary fiction," he said. "It revolves around the Taylors ... an adult family of men who have found themselves womanless and childless and in a constant battle with their past, their demons and all the women who surround them. It's certainly a drama, but it's also filled with humor."

Turner said about 80 percent of the novel is finished.

There are two chapters of the novel online already, and Turner will be posting a chapter every week around 6 p.m. Sunday.

"Hopefully decisions will come out of discussions in the comment section," he said. "Surely many will have a singular good thought or specific idea that can be used, but I think the real good stuff will come from the comments on the comments."

Turner is counting on the participants really getting into the story and giving specific analyses.

"It really won't be helpful if it's just 'I don't like that' or 'I'd do it this way.' That's just a person's opinion. I think real solutions will come from discussions about story and character. Talking widely about dysfunctional parents or siblings will spark more ideas than just saying 'this character should say this to his mother.' Though sometimes, in the right context, that remark might be just what we need."

Turner describes the concept of accepting reader plots as a give and take situation. He might not take all the suggestions readers give.

"A good plot idea might not fit with this story, but it will be important for participants to yell loudly when I ignore wise thoughts and stubbornly go down the wrong path."

Turner said he is looking forward to seeing how this project will lead his story. To read the first posting and to participate, visit

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