What is The Exquisite Corpse Adventure?
by Mary Brigid Barrett
The Exquisite Corpse Adventure is a buoyant, spontaneous experiment; a progressive story game just like the one many families play on road trips, at camps, at parties, at home when there is a power outage. And just like in those games, characters spontaneously erupt out of one’s imagination; plots lines tumble forth, some realized, some lost; and we are often poised at the edge of a cliff with no logical solution in sight!
Progressive story games, like The Exquisite Corpse Adventure, can be played as an oral storytelling tradition, or in a written form, or even in a visual form as a drawing game. However the game is played out, its trademark elements are spontaneity, humor, bigger-than-life characters, and wild and wily plot threads, some of which inevitably remain unresolved!
Members of The Exquisite Corpse Adventure “motley crew” are, in reality, some of the most gifted artists and storytellers in our nation, award-winners all—M.T. Anderson, Natalie Babbitt, Calef Brown, Susan Cooper, Kate Di Camillo, Timothy Basil Ering, Jack Gantos, Nikki Grimes, Shannon Hale, Lemony Snicket, Steven Kellogg, Gregory Maguire, Megan McDonald, Patricia and Fredrick McKissack, Linda Sue Park, Katherine Paterson, James Ransome, Jon Scieszka, and Chris Van Dusen.
In order to try and retain the spontaneity of the original game, The Exquisite Corpse Adventure contributing authors had only a couple of days to brainstorm and then write their individual episodes. Each episode was then lightly edited and sent back to the author for a quick rewrite.
Even more fascinating, the illustrators operated in something of a blind, just like the Surrealists did when playing the visual version of The Exquisite Corpse! Each illustrator read the current episode, as well as the previous episodes, but they did not see the illustration that their colleagues have created for the previous episodes!