Twitter Stories – Maybe not so special after all

I just want to start by recognizing that I was harsh on 7Scenes in my previous post. It wasn’t until I actually built a locative narrative that I able to appreciate the usefulness of this tool.


This past week we were introduced to Twitter fiction – stories told 140 characters at a time. This idea of constrained story writing was initially captivating, but upon further thought, seems much less revolutionary.

While Twitter offers some interesting possibilities, the fundamentals of the story are essentially the same. Unlike other mediums, like Twine or 7Scenes, the use of Twitter to tell a story doesn’t really add unique elements. It instead encourages a different style of writing in which complete thoughts must fit into 140 character bursts.

Surely, sentences bound by this 140-character limit must be difficult to craft, or at least flow in some memorable, poetic way. As a counterpoint to that misguided philosophy, I’d like to draw your attention, reader, to this very blog post. Every sentence transcribed here contains less than our Twitter character constraint, and yet was no more difficult to write. The only distinction Twitter offers is the self-contained nature of each thought, allowing stories to be narrated in a staccato fashion.

One underdeveloped feature of Twitter fiction is the potential to create a crowd-sourced novella. This tantalizing possibility was teased through Teju Cole’s Hafiz story, artfully designed to create the illusion of a collaborative work. This tale, secretly written by a single author and then publically tweeted by his friends, showcases the wonder of a crowd-sourced story. Each person who responds takes control of the narrative, but only briefly. While each user can only steer the story for one sentence, they have the power to drastically redirect the narrative. What makes this effort magical is that no one author knows the fate of the plot or the characters. Each scene is at the whimsy of the next author. Just like with ergodic literature, the reader and author overlap. Upon reaching the conclusion of the told story, the reader can chose to continue the plot in any direction, or simply leave it be. When the story has finished, readers can marvel at this collaborative work constructed by a group of complete strangers. While the story might not have gone the way any one of the authors envisioned, the result is a work of art. I think this collaborative story telling is one of the few affordances that Twitter lends, and I hope to see more works utilize it.


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