The Latest Trend in Literature? Twitter Fiction

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Some of today's most exciting new literature is being doled out 140 characters at a time. The Atlantic reports that more and more writers are publishing fiction on Twitter, embracing the challenge of the character limit and coming up with creative new storytelling techniques. 

Nick Belardes was perhaps the first person to write an entire Twitter novel. The author posted the story Small Pieces on the social media site periodically from 2008 to 2010. Since then, both new and established writers have increasingly started to create works specifically for Twitter. Some of the stories, like David Mitchell’s latest work, about computer hacker I_Bombadil, are, in part, promotional: The tale is being released to publicize his upcoming novel, Slade House, which also got its start on Twitter.

Others are just about embracing the challenges and creative opportunities the medium presents. In 2012, Jennifer Egan, author of A Visit From the Goon Squad, published Black Box on the New Yorker’s Twitter, while Philip Pullman, author of the His Dark Materials trilogy, spent several months in 2013 tweeting the story of a friendly housefly named Jeffrey. 

Pullman and Mitchell’s stories, in particular, illustrate the various styles of Twitter tales. While Mitchell’s I_Bombadil piece is written in the first person, as the “real” Tweets of a fictional character (complete with cryptic abbreviations and slang), Pullman’s is more like narrative poetry, with a bit of humor mixed in:

Traditionalists might roll their eyes, but Twitter literature is just the latest in a long tradition of literary experimentation. “It’s the role of literature to play with forms,” Melissa Terras, professor of Digital Humanities at University College of London, told The Atlantic. “With Twitter fiction, people are taking the limitations of 140 characters and doing something creative.” 

[h/t: The Atlantic]