I am a consultant in social marketing specializing in education and health. I am also parent to three great kids. I drove a lot of carpools back in the day (1993-2010 was the apex of my career as the schlepping mom in the silver Volvo station wagon—ancient history yet ever-present), and relished spying on the candid conversations playing out in the back of the car.
My passion is storytelling. So I started surreptitiously jotting down some of the backseat banter and, as my kids grew up, noted how their language, ideas and attitudes transformed along with their bodies and brains. It was a complete anthropology lesson in teen social psychology that, as a mom, I found exasperating, but as a writer and science interpreter, I found fascinating.
The result was a flight of fancy from childhood—out of time. Literally. Begun in 1997, I have recently completed writing a screenplay, “Out of Time”, whose protagonist, Charley Morton, is a 13-year old middle school girl and self-styled Renaissance Genius, à la her Florentine Idol, Leonardo da Vinci.
Social media makes the element of storytelling more intriguing, so when a friend suggested I take my screenplay public, anticipated Hollywood agents and directors lining up to option the story notwithstanding, the idea of tweeting it and incorporating followers’ voices into the storyline seemed intriguing.
The result is @OutofTimeMovie, a new social experiment to encourage friends and followers on Twitter to interact and direct Charley M. & Friends on adventures through time.
We’ve set up a profile on Twitter where Charley has already begun narrating her tale.
Charley’s adventures with friends and frenemies in multiple “time zones” over 500 years was seeded by a decade or so of those aforementioned carpool conversations. What happens next will grow out of your participation in the tweet-adventure.
A gaggle of over smart teens get literally carried away while doing a school science fair project: constructing a time machine. Thanks to two enterprising teens Charley Morton and Billy Vincenzo’s detective work, uncovering plans they attribute to Leonardo da Vinci, the intrepid Charley travels back in time to 15th century Florence. Armed with nothing more than an iPad, cell phone, rigged up solar battery, Legobot pieces and sour gummy worms, she jumps back show 500 years to meet Leonardo, her “Italian Idol”.
Both real and fictitious characters mingle in the present in a Washington, D.C.-area middle school, and in Renaissance Italy, where 21st century teens learn more than they bargained for, jumping into a time of social, intellectual and religious ferment in contrast to their modern lives, and shocking early Renaissance sensibilities with their relaxed attitudes towards authority, religion, and women’s place in the world.
Charley finds herself continually censored for pursuing her passions—culinary, scientific, technological and musical (ranging from a search for the best spaghetti pomodoro (tomatoes not yet having made it to Florence from the New World-Columbus just circling), to playing Words with Friends on her iPhone to playing violin with Lorenzo di Medici’s orchestra)—while Leonardo discovers a girl with learning far in advance of his own discoveries, but Charley is endangered by forces beyond her understanding, including the Dominican Friar Savonarola, originator of the famed bonfires of the vanities who deems Charley and her “magic-possessed” friends a threat to the minds, hearts and souls of the people of Florence.
Making it Social: Drop a Tweet
That’s the foundation; now we want you to get involved. Please follow along in the adventure or, better still, jump in and “Drop a Tweet”!
How? Simply tweet questions, replies, instructions or twists to their adventures to the characters (listed below). Or ask them to describe what they see, hear or smell along the way. Charley has already consulted a pediatrician who’s joined in the tweet chat (@jackmaypole) by asking him whether time travel might bring on motion sickness. Check out Dr. Jack’s response.
She’d love advice from technology mavens on how to stay connected to the present with her iPad or iPhone, since satellites obviously weren’t circling the planet in 1492 (in fact, Columbus was…barely).
And, teachers in every subject area from science to art to music could suggest a rubric for Charley and Billy’s science fair report, how discovery of the Higgs Boson has implications for time travel, whether Charley’s talent on theviolin would match the abilities of a professional orchestra in Lorenzo di Medici’s court, or sharing historical context for Leonardo da Vinci’s role under the di Medici’s, or whether advance knowledge of the future (gravity, flying) might change da Vinci’s legacy.
I plan to post a series of short video updates (aka: serial story tweets) to recap the story for new followers, and as catch up for those who may have missed episodes.
Five simple story rules for driving Twitter action:
1. Tweet as yourself; the characters will respond or change action if, and at the time, your direction fits into the narrative.
2. Please use only these fictional characters to anchor the story. Will consider introducing a new character if it makes sense as the story develops
3. Will work on developing only one storyline at a time (past, present or future) to have time to experience the scene, create a narrative line (setup-hook-inciting incident-plot point(s)-challenge-resolution). Will jump into new adventures after these criteria have been satisfied in the time/place involved.
4. Strive for historical accuracy (please research the time period): consider actions, interactions and dialog suited to time place, and historically accurate figures.
5. Appropriate use of technology (time travel and other) is encouraged.
Charley Morton, 13-year old girl, dreamer, violin player and self-styled modern day Renaissance genius who loves all things Italy and Leonardo da Vinci.
Billy Vincenzo, 13, Charley’s science fair partner, class “nerd”, crush on Charley.
Beth Jacobs, 13, social butterfly, smart but would rather be popular, Charley’s BFF (not!) and rival for Lex Campbell’s attention.
Lex Campbell, “hot” new guy at school, plays on baseball team and dreams of being recruited for major league team out of high school, major crush.
Kairos, 15-year old who appears mysteriously at Charley’s Dad’s office on Take Your Child to Work Day. He can travel across time to show up anywhere, any time. Origins unknown. In 1492, he is Leonardo’s apprentice, and sits to model for his art.
Elisabetta, 13-year old in 1492 Florence. Works in di Medici palace and takes the impetuous Charley under her wing to protect from palace intrigue.
Gwen Morton, Charley’s mom, concert violinist with National Symphony Orchestra and music teacher.
Jerry Morton, Charley’s dad, contractor for Homeland Security, and clueless about teenage girls.
Mrs. Schreiber, science teacher at Da Vinci Middle School
Leonardo da Vinci, Renaissance genius, needs no further introduction.
Lorenzo di Medici, Duke of the Republic of Florence and part of the powerful family that includes Popes, Bishops, arts patrons, military innovators and enlightened citizen-politicians
Giralamo Savonarola, Dominican friar, preacher, and self-ordained prophet. Originated the bonfire of the vanities to burn as “sin” all art, wealth, books and religious tracts. Repeatedly denounced Lorenzo’s “despotic” rule and pursues any sign of “idolatry” or “witchery”.
Settings: Home/School, the present
Takoma Park, Maryland - Suburban Washington, D.C., Da Vinci Middle School, Takoma Park Public Library
Renaissance Italy, 1492, Carnival time
A rural field outside Florence, Italy, di Medici Palace, Pitti Palace and Piazza Signoria, the central square of Florence