Will a twit fic lit fest get followers?

Next month, Twitter will host its first online storytelling festival. John Walsh explains how the medium is already shaking up fiction

Readers who complain that novels are too bloated and baggy these days will welcome the news of the first Twitter Fiction Festival next month. It won't take place in a field in Hay-on-Wye or the town hall in Cheltenham; it'll occur online, under the hashtag #twitterfiction. And it has so few rules, the organisers are asking contributors to make them up.

"We're looking," say the organisers, "for new, creative, exciting ideas that will push the bounds of how we tell stories on Twitter. Tell us how you are going to explore content formats that already exist on Twitter… or how you'll create a new one."

Much of Twitter operates as a linkage service, urging a tweeter's followers to read an attached article or view an attached video of a kitten in a catsuit. Many tweets are smart remarks – and Gertrude Stein famously told Ernest Hemingway: "Remarks, Hemingway, aren't literature." Twitterfiction uses the tiny compass of a tweet – 140 characters – as a creative or critical tool. We've seen many examples already.

Twitterature (Penguin, 2009) by Alexandere Aciman and Emmet Rensin, re-told great works of fiction through multiple tweets that cut through the, you know, verbiage to the meat of the plot, whether it's Oedipus Rex ("PARTY IN THEBES! Nobody cares I killed that old dude, plus this woman is all over me. Total MILF") or Anna Karenina ("Alright, twenty rubles says I can toss my bag in the air, run across the tracks and catch it before the train arriv..."). The hilarity soon fades.

A chap with the Twitter handle of @biblesummary offers a condensed version of the Bible, one tweet per chapter, one chapter per day. It's ingenious, because the terse précis suits the Old Testament ("The serpent deceived the woman; she and Adam ate from the tree. The earth became cursed, and God sent Adam and Eve out of the garden.")

On Bloomsday (16 June) last year, a group of Joyce fans chopped the 20th century's greatest novel into tweets, each "representing" eight pages of Ulysses, a doomed and fatuous exercise about which the loquacious author would have expressed contempt.

In last week's Guardian, certain writers including Ian Rankin and Jilly Cooper were asked to write a story in under 140 characters. The results were patchy, more like jokes than bonsai tales (David Lodge's was: "Your money or your life!" "I'm sorry, my dear, but you know it would kill me to lose my money," said the partially deaf miser to his wife.) But they pointed the way to a genuine innovation: using Twitter to tell a story in real time.

The best exponent so far is Jennifer Egan, Pulitzer-winning author of A Visit From the Goon Squad. In May she tweeted "Black Box" (a series of dispatches from an undercover agent in the future) on the New Yorker's Twitter feed, at one tweet a minute, for an hour, and did the same for 10 nights until the 8,500-word story was finished. It offered a thoroughly conventional experience of reading literature in instalments (see Charles Dickens,) provided you could stand the jerky rhythm; and the Pinteresque, pause-heavy dialogue. You've got until 28 November to set the Twittersphere alight. #goodluck

Arts and Entertainment
Art on their sleeves: before downloads and streaming, enthusiasts used to flick through racks of albums in their local record shops
musicFor Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Arts and Entertainment
Serial suspect: the property heir charged with first-degree murder, Robert Durst
TV review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Igarashi in her

Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression

Arts and Entertainment
Could Ed Sheeran conquer the Seven Kingdoms? He could easily pass for a Greyjoy like Alfie Allen's character (right)

tv Singer could become the most unlikely star of Westeros

Arts and Entertainment
Beyonce, Boris Johnson, Putin, Nigel Farage, Russell Brand and Andy Murray all get the Spitting Image treatment from Newzoids
tvReview: The sketches need to be very short and very sharp as puppets are not intrinsically funny
Arts and Entertainment
Despite the controversy it caused, Mile Cyrus' 'Wrecking Ball' video won multiple awards
musicPoll reveals over 70% of the British public believe sexually explicit music videos should get ratings
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister and Ian Beattie as Meryn Trant in the fifth season of Game of Thrones

TV
Arts and Entertainment

book review
Arts and Entertainment
It's all in the genes: John Simm working in tandem with David Threlfall in 'Code of a Killer'

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Far Right and Proud: Reggies Yates' Extreme Russia

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West was mobbed in Armenia after jumping into a lake

music
Arts and Entertainment
The show suffers from its own appeal, being so good as to create an appetite in its viewers that is difficult to sate in a ten episode series

Game of Thrones reviewFirst look at season five contains some spoilers
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench and Kevin Spacey on the Red Carpet for 2015's Olivier Awards

Ray Davies' Sunny Afternoon scoops the most awards

Theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Proving his metal: Ross Poldark (played by Aidan Turner in the BBC series) epitomises the risk-taking spirit of 18th-century mine owners

Poldark review
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne is reportedly favourite to play Newt Scamander in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

film
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars in dystopian action thriller Mad Max: Fury Road

film
Arts and Entertainment
Josh, 22, made his first million from the game MinoMonsters

Grace Dent

Channel 4 show proves there's no app for happiness
News
Disgraced Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson
people
Arts and Entertainment
Game face: Zoë Kravitz, Bruce Greenwood and Ethan Hawke in ‘Good Kill’

film review

Arts and Entertainment
Living like there’s no tomorrow: Jon Hamm as Don Draper in the final season of ‘Mad Men’

TV review

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Revealed: Why Mohammed Emwazi chose the 'safe option' of fighting for Isis, rather than following his friends to al-Shabaab in Somalia

    Why Mohammed Emwazi chose Isis

    His friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
    'The solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown'
An open letter to David Cameron: Building fortress Europe has had deadly results

    Open letter to David Cameron

    Building the walls of fortress Europe has had deadly results
    Tory candidates' tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they seem - you don't say!

    You don't say!

    Tory candidates' election tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they appear
    Mubi: Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash

    So what is Mubi?

    Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash all the time
    The impossible job: how to follow Kevin Spacey?

    The hardest job in theatre?

    How to follow Kevin Spacey
    Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

    Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

    To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
    Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

    'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

    The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
    Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

    This human tragedy has been brewing for years

    EU states can't say they were not warned
    Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

    Women's sportswear

    From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
    Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

    Clinton's clothes

    Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
    NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

    Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

    A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
    How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

    How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

    Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
    From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

    The wars that come back to haunt us

    David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
    Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders