Features Books Published 30 November 2012


An essay on the Twitter Fiction Festival in 40 tweets
Carmel Doohan

So Twitter fiction. Is this a literary revolution?

@LucyCoats is writing 100 Greek myths in 100 tweets. Publisher @wwnorton is bringing us Shakespeare: A retweeting:

Leda in erotic antics with sensuous swan! ‘Feathers turn me on!’ preens satisfied Queen! Rainbow eggs due to hatch tomorrow #twitterfiction


Claims are big: Professor at @michiganstateu says, “tweeting can be thought of as a new literary practice.”

But this is not new; tweeters have published erotic fiction  for years & 2009’s Twitterature boiled 80 works of literature down to tweets

The novelist @john_wray has been doing this for years…

@john_wray I’m going to be tweeting for a while about the misadventures of ‘Citizen’, a character who was cut from my novel, Lowboy”

Star of TFF (http://bit.ly/XuxcNQ) @elliottholt‘s evidence based murder story is told via tweeting guests at party where the death occurs.

It’s very funny. A suspense filled  riff on the things we tweet about & the style in which we do it.

RT @elliottholt http://storify.com/penguinpress/elliotholt-s-twitterfiction-story

It uses the medium in a layered way and is also interactive- readers are asked to tweet back #accident#murder or #suicide

@laurenbeukes also makes fragmentation work for her: #LitMash takes incongrous fragments of general suggestions & reworks them into stories

RT @laurenbeukes – http://laurenbeukes.bookslive.co.za/blog/2012/11/29/litmash-2/

@tejucole‘s series of faits divers or simple tweets of fate are an old French journalist trick; headlines telling the whole story.

RT @tejucole – “Wives are flammable, a police inspector, Wasiu, of Okokomaiko, has found.”

Picasso used scraps of faits divers in cubist collages. As social media is curated in @storify does it become a kind of electronic cubism?

Essentially a blank page where any text or format can be uploaded, @storify makes a bricolage of social media.

On it the twitter fiction works, but when encountered on twitter itself it is frustrating; interruptions and RTs spoil the flow

Yet there is something very modernist about it- interruptions incorporated into the fiction; remaining true to the fragmentation of reality

For #WLRNStory Junot Diaz tweeted line 1: ‘The dogs hadn’t barked all week.’ Someone else added the next line. The story grew from there.

It was then remixed by @dw_toy– http://bit.ly/Va9JzY

This is an old parlour/drinking game isn’t it? The whole thing in a nutshell/tweet….

Old game: new medium. Same impulse but channelled through a new tool/toy?

The question is: Will the form have the power to shape the function and result?

OMG! Will the condensed form that twitter demands create a radical new way of using language? WTF? LOL!

Will the fixed form inspire the kind of creativity Oulipian restraints do in experimental poetry?

Reading and writing on the web is increasingly byte size. Flash fiction as a responses 2 the constraints of digitized reading

Is the twitterisation of fiction the internet re-organising our brains? Nicholas Carr might think so.. http://bigthink.com/ideas/26561

Or is this just serialization a la Dickens- but shorter to keep down with our shrinking attention span; more headline, less article?

With Arab Spring we were quick 2 cry revolution in the wrong direction. Did putting ancient forces through new media really alter them?

Politics democratised, the unvoiced given voice- yet did this not also occur in France 1789 via printing press, posters & word of mouth?

The eternal cycle of revolution and reaction- dialectical push and pull; alongside electronic storytelling- a resurgence of its opposite:

As our narratives become more digital, more fragmented and isolated, events featuring oral and live story telling are on the rise:

Just 4 starters Are you sitting comfortably (http://bit.ly/a6wQYE) for…

@CrickCrackClub, @BookSlam, @LitDeathMatch, @TheMoth? It’s a Special Relationship (http://bit.ly/KGLIgh)

Perhaps, like the Greek myths tweets, its just a case of same story; different style. Lucy Coats on her #twitterfiction:

“I’ve condensed them down into a series of short, punchy tabloid headlines. Human (/godly) behaviour doesn’t change much over the millennia”

Festivals ends Sunday- Search #twitterfiction at http://twitterfall.com/ for beautiful viewing. Will it forever change the face of literature?

And will the twitter essay forever change the face of criticism? Answers on a postcard.



Carmel Doohan

Carmel is an arts journalist and writer who lives in Hackney, London.



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