Sunday, 8 March 2009

#TwitterNovel: Writing things (in 140 characters or less)

There's been lots of 'how to use Twitter' articles been flying around in the last week, some good (Wall Street Journal, FT), some less so (Shortlist). And ad agencies are not immune - this Slideshare deck from BBH/MadeByMany is a great intro that also starts to talk about how the service has been used to publicise things other than the people using it. The challenge for ad agencies joining in is all around the 140 character limit: what can actually be said in 140 characters (or less)?

In terms of narrative, 'flash fiction' predates short message formats, and although the genre tends to be Six Sentences, or even One Sentence that take the 'short story' to its logical conclusion, the genre tends to focus on narrative under 1000 words. The goal of this style of writing is to create narrative that exists in isolation of other reference points within pre-defined limitations. Kind of like what Twaiku (Twitter Haiku) does already within Twitter, but with more words to play with.

But for the communications business the 'in isolation of other reference points' bit is irrelevant: nothing exists outside of the framework of cultural and commercial significance, and everything contributes to it. So 140 characters is not the limitation for telling a story, rather an opportunity to reference the existing story.

So I was thinking along these lines after reading some Twaikus, and wondered how big an idea you can condense into 140 characters if everyone knows the original idea. My attempts are below, which I'll also publish on Twitter as it seems a much more relevant medium than here. Please add to comments if you want join in, but again, it seems like something that shouldn't really exist in a blog environment, so maybe better to use #TwitterNovel (actually that's giong to make it 127 characters or less, and every character counts...)

His Dark Materials
Most conspiracy theories are true, but only kids and physicists know it. BTW Milton was right, Satan’s a dude

Lord of the Rings
Get off your arse. You’ll be surprised what you achieve. Look, there’s King Arthur with the Romans

The Great Gatsby
Maybe boy meets girl, maybe girl rejects boy, maybe boy wins girl back. Who knows, sounds good though, eh?

Catch 22
War? LOL that’s sane compared to people. I’m the only normal one here. Don’t trust the normal ones. Jump!

The Beach
Smug narcissistic backpacker seeks similar for utopian idyll. GSOH unnecessary. May lead to reality TV show

1 comments:

Graeme Wood said...

and apparently the nth degree of flash fiction does already exist - http://tinyurl.com/crp2fy is novel summaries in 25 words or less - thanks to @tomewing for pointing out

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