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The word Twitterature seems to go without saying, doesn’t it? It’s literature on Twitter. But what does that mean, exactly? What counts as Twitterature and what doesn’t? Here is a brief overview of the genre with some examples for your reading pleasure too!
What is Twitterature?
Turns out, Twitterature can mean a lot of things, as long as it’s a kind of literature created and shared on Twitter. Sometimes that means poetry or short stories on a tweet. Sometimes that can mean entire novels shared over the course of hundreds or thousands of Tweets. New terminology has been created to describe the different versions of Twitterature: Tweetfic, twillers, twiction, and more!
Short stories from a tweet
I think short stories in a tweet are what you immediately think of when you hear Twitterature. It sounds like it sounds: writing a story within the confines of a Tweet. They started with 140 characters in the early years of the genre, but with Twitter’s extended Twitter limit, many are now using 280 characters.
The account @veryshortstoryfor example, has been tweeting from fiction to a tweet since 2009, and many users have taken to the #vss (very short story) to share their own attempts at the medium.
@sixwords Tweets six-word memoirs, sometimes compiling them into books. They are now into their 10th book of six-word memoirs and show no signs of stopping. According to their website, more than 5,000 teachers have used the format as an exercise in their classrooms. If you want to try your hand at a six-word dissertation, you can submit those too!
Another author, @arjunbasu, saw one of his “Twisters”, what he calls his stories in 140 characters, turned into a short film in 2009! Here is another one of his Twisters:
Serialized short stories
Some authors have used Twitter to share short stories over a large number of Tweets, spreading them out over months or even years. The great thing about Twitter? You can pick it up and type a Tweet in minutes, perhaps while waiting for the microwave to ring or between meetings.
Philippe Pullman, author of Its dark materials, took to Twitter to share the story of his house’s resident fly which he named Jeffrey. At first, he was just tweeting about what the real fly was doing, but after the fly disappeared, Pullman wrote an obituary. Jeffrey’s fans, however, were saddened by his loss, so Pullman “brought him back to life”. Thus began the fictional life of Jeffrey the Fly.
Interactive Twitter Fiction
For some authors, the interactive aspect of Twitter is proving to be a new way of writing stories. Writers will write the first sentence or, like pick-and-choose stories, give readers the chance to vote on what comes next. Neil Gaiman, for example, tweeted the first sentence of what would become Hearts, keys and puppets. To complete the story, anyone could tweet what came next and have their idea made into the final story. The completed novel’s audiobook won the AudioFiles Earphones Award in 2011 and was an Audies finalist the same year.
Teju Cole, author of Open City and Every Day is for the Thief, created a short story called “Hafiz” by retweeting others’ posts. In isolation, the Tweets were unconnected, posted by different people at different times, but Cole retweeted them in a specific order create a story!
David Mitchell, author of cloud atlas, also tried to tweet a news. “The right sorting” was published in bursts of Tweets. They were then compiled into a collection of Tweets by @SceptreBooks where you can always read the story in chronological order.
Twitterature isn’t just one-tweet stories. Many authors have taken to the platform to Tweet entire novels, one Tweet at a time.
The first Twitter novels, both tweeted in 2007 and 2008, would be small places by Nicholas Belardes and The Good Captain by Jay Bushman. small places took two years to complete, landing at around 30,000 words in total as Belardes told the story of one man’s mundane corporate life in California. The Good Captaina sci-fi retelling of “Benito Cereno” by Herman Melville was originally tweeted from November 2007 to February 2008 and was later compiled into an ebook.
Classical stories and literature
Similar to the serialized email newsletter that was sent Dracula Every day, some people have chosen to take old classics and bring them to modern audiences using Twitter.
Account’s Chindu Sreedharan @epicretold, told The Mahabharata on more than 2,000 tweets and 1.8 million words over a few years! The story was later published under the title Epic Retold: The Mahabharata in Tweets.
Romeo and Julietalso received the “Twitter treatment” when the Royal Shakespeare Company shared a retelling of the classic story over 4,000 tweets in 2010.
Others have taken to Twitter to tweet Exodus, add a fictional twist to classic stories, or put modern slang where it’s never been before.
Fictional Twitter Bots
Some bots have joined the deluge of fiction writers on Twitter, spitting out scenes or lines of different genres. @Magicrealismbotfor example, tweets a few lines of magical realism, often absurd and ethereal.
As you can see, there are quite a few things included in Twitterature. Some even say that fan accounts that tweet from the perspective of fictional characters are part of the genre. The possibilities are limitless!
If you’re interested in other genres of niche literature, check out this guide to digital literature or this exploration of horror subgenres.