First there was the micro novel, or microblogging novel, a work of fiction intended as a full-length novel written and distributed in chunks, varying in size, depending on the social media site it was being published on. Then, flash fiction burst onto the scene (see: The Short and Short of Flash Fiction) and dared to tell big stories with extreme brevity. Not to be undone, a new arrival,Twitter fiction (aka tweet fiction), tossed its hat into the ring, boasting its ability to tell a story within 140 characters.
Thumb your literary nose up at it, if you will, but surely you can see the art in concise writing. Catching the key moment of a story and carefully selecting the proper words so that your audience infers your meaning and does all the heavy lifting of filling in the details themselves requires a level of skill and finesse. Not to mention the challenge of drawing laughter or tears from your reader, or filling them with horror or dread as you build suspense in such a confined space.
And this latest sub-genre hasn’t escaped the notice of well-known writers who have tried their hand at 140-character novels:
Geoff Dyer – I know I said that if I lived to 100 I’d not regret what happened last night. But I woke up this morning and a century had passed. Sorry.
James Meek – He said he was leaving her. “But I love you,” she said. “I know,” he said. “Thanks. It’s what gave me the strength to love somebody else.”
Ian Rankin – I opened the door to our flat and you were standing there, cleaver raised. Somehow you’d found out about the photos. My jaw hit the floor.
Andrew O’Hagan – Clyde stole a lychee and ate it in the shower. Then his brother took a bottle of pills believing character is just a luxury. God. The twins.
Jeffrey Archer – “It’s a miracle he survived,” said the doctor. “It was God’s will,” said Mrs Schicklgruber. “What will you call him?” “Adolf,” she replied.
SJ Watson – She thanks me for the drink, but says we’re not suited. I’m a little “intense”. So what? I followed her home. She hasn’t seen anything yet.
Charlie Higson – Jack was sad in the orphanage til he befriended a talking rat who showed him a hoard of gold under the floor. Then the rat bit him & he died.
India Knight – Soften, my arse. I’m a geezer. I’m a rock-hard little bastard. Until I go mushy overnight for you, babe. #pears
Rachel Johnson – Rose went to Eve’s house but she wasn’t there. But Eve’s father was. Alone. One thing led to another. He got 10 years.
Inspired and curious, I even took a stab at Twitter narrative one idle Sunday and among my favorites are:
A large stone, the opportunity, a swampside grave; all that was needed to end a lifelong sibling rivalry. Guess who’s Daddy’s favorite now?
Mother warned him not to look but curiosity was his master. Now he struggles to reverse the time of eye to unsee the horror.
Regardless of your personal views on Twitter and tweet fiction, I honestly think you should give it a go. If nothing else, you can consider it a warm-up exercise to get your mental juices flowing. Can you think of a better way to hone your craft than practicing clear, clean and concise writing? And what have you got to lose? Surely not time. In the moments wasted complaining about the artform, you could have written several magnum opuses.
Sally forth and be tweetful.
— Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys
PS. If you’re looking for more famous author tweet novels, you can find them by searching #140novel on Twitter.
P.P.S. Not exactly #tweetfiction-related, but dealing with creating fiction, the NY Times ran an article on the importance of Twitter in today’s pop-culture era: How To Make a TV Drama in the Twitter Age.