WHEN YOU THINK of Twitter, the thoughts most likely to spring to mind would be 140 characters, news updates, parody accounts, and overall, a quick and snappy service.
Chances are story telling wouldn’t be as high up, but it’s a section of the site that is growing in popularity. The concept of twitterature, which is the telling of popular stories in 20 tweets or fewer, has been around for a while so the next obvious step is to create original stories using the medium.
That’s the premise of the Twitter Fiction Festival, an event designed to tell original stories within the confines of the site. Currently in its second year, the event has 52 entrants tweeting their own stories around the clock, using everything the site has to offer.
While there is the option of using traditional tweets, others are using images, vines, retweets, multiple twitter accounts and getting suggestions from the public to shape their story.
One will chronicle the fears the hopes, fears and frustrations of passengers and staff who have been left stranded in an airport because of a snowstorm using tweets, images, maps and video, while another will be tweeting the story of Star Wars, specifically what happened on Bespin (the second half of The Empire Strikes Back), using multiple accounts and in the style of Shakespeare.
In short, the focus is very on experimentation and seeing just how far the medium can be pushed.
One of the authors taking part is Rebecca Kemp, who is based in Tralee, Co. Kerry. Her story, The Incredible Shrinking Woman, is straightforward, but the twist is that while the main character shrinks, so do the tweets.
While the first tweet starts off with 140 characters, subsequent tweets will use one character less, meaning the last tweet will only be one character long.
When she originally suggested the idea, Kemp didn’t put too much thought behind it, believing that she wouldn’t hear back from the organisers, but when the judges asked her to expand upon it and show them how it would work, the idea gathered pace.
“When they (the judges) came back and asked ‘give us some examples, give us some idea of the story,’ I thought, ‘I’m going to have to sit down and do this, really,’” joked Kemp. “So I did that and fleshed out the idea a bit more and then again thought ‘well, never mind, we won’t hear back,’ but then got another email back from them saying… you’ve made it through to the final”
Kemp will be joining a diverse group of participants from eleven different countries, each of them approaching the medium in their own, unique way. While the first festival was a way of testing the waters, the second one will be a real indicator of just how far it can be taken.
The constraints of Twitter, while they present certain challenges, allows scope for creativity as well. It forces authors to cut to the chase, and even with multiple tweets, there’s very little room for expanding upon a point without upsetting the flow of a story.
As Kemp puts it: “you have to tell a story, tell it directly and something has to happen rather than you waffle on.”
It’s forced me to think differently about my writing because I normally [focus on] creative writing where I can write long sentences… and you can’t in Twitter. It’s been a really interesting discipline for me to have looked at and experimented with.
The #TwitterFiction festival will take place between 12th – 16th March around the clock, while Kemp’s story will be tweeted on Sunday 16th March between 10am to 12pm.