Twitter Fiction: Short stories in the spotlight

Emily Hepner
Staff Writer

If you were limited to 140 characters to describe your day or to tell a story, what would you say? Is it possible to tell a story with only 140 characters? Believe it or not, many are able to do so, and creative users of the social networking site Twitter are experimenting with doing so.

For those of you not familiar with Twitter, it is a social media service for anyone with Internet access or a mobile phone to share a message comprised of 140 characters or less, known as a tweet, about anything, according to Twitter’s Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) page. It is limited to this amount because most text messages are at a length of 160 characters, so 20 characters are left for Twitter names and the other 140 are for the user to decide. Within the past few years, Twitter users have been using their limited characters to tell a story, a practice known as Twitter Fiction.

Consider participating in the Twitter Fiction Festival this March 12-16. Don't forget to add #TwitterFiction to your tweet!
Consider participating in the Twitter Fiction Festival this March 12-16. Don’t forget to add #TwitterFiction to your tweet!

According to the Twitter Fiction website, this form of tweeting is a short story composed within a tweet. However, others will tell you that it is too new of an idea to be constrained to one solid definition. In a TED Talk given by Andrew Fitzgerald, who helped launch the Twitter Fiction Festival, Fitzgerald gave various examples of what this “micro-fiction” can be. One example came from the Twitter account “New Yorker Fiction,” whose owner would tweet a sentence every night at 8 p.m. Each sentence was a continuation of the story this author, of sorts, was trying to tell. However, that is just one form of Twitter Fiction.

It can also take the form of a user’s setting up the scene of a story, a murder, or something as simple as someone going to the store. From there, other users or followers who see the tweet can add other details to the story, turning it into something of a modern day Choose Your Own Adventure story. Another example is the hilarious and grammatically incorrect Twitter account, Crimer Show. On this account, tweets serve as episodes, or “eppasods” as they are called, to tell the adventures of Crimer the Crimes Man. Regardless of what Twitter Fiction actually is, what’s important is that it is changing the way literature has traditionally been thought of.

This new wave of tweeting has generated enough attention to lead to the establishment of the Twitter Fiction Festival. Taking place exclusively on Twitter from Mar. 12-16, authors from across the industry will tweet their fictional stories and then have them judged, according to the official Twitter Fiction Festival website. These judges aren’t just advanced Twitter users, either. Most of these judges work at major publishing houses, such as Simon & Schuster and Penguin Random House. To be a part of the fun, all that you have to do during this week is add “#TwitterFiction” to the end of your short story.