Sunday 15 May 2011

Writing: Stories in tweets

I, probably like a lot of people, thought of writing as, well, writing a book. Of course, when I take a moment to mull it over, I realise that writing may entail poetry or short stories. However, I'm sticking in the realm of "art". Beyond that, I can find examples of all sorts of writing which fall within certain restrictions. Newspaper articles come to mind; journalists are writing and writing a lot. Now with the Internet, blogs have sprung up all over the place so even us average Joes can be penning god only knows what for the benefit of the masses. I've been a big fan of limericks and I know about but do not necessarily understand the Japanese poem known as Haiku. Recently, I ran into the drabble (see my blog Writing: Less is more: the drabble) which turns out to be a story exactly 100 words long. A drabble is a type of "flash fiction" and there are other forms of it like the "55 Fiction" or nanofiction clocking in at 55 words.

In other words, the creative spirit exists in all sorts of situations and I remark from the above that sometimes the addition of artificial or let's say self-imposed restrictions on form or length can add new challenges to the process of crafting an original literary opus.

Picture how much IM chat or Instant Messaging has affected all of us with the major restriction being typing in real time. You don't converse, you type. That physical limitation has lead to a plethora of imaginative short forms and symbols for the expression of all sorts of ideas. LOL, :-), i<3u; the list goes on and on. To the uninitiated, it all looks both foreign and sometimes silly but to anybody trying to expound on their innermost thoughts while two thumbing their message during a real time text conversation, every shortcut counts. *laughs*

By the way, one thing I found to be an interesting addition to IM chatting is that you can include actions or thoughts by enclosing them usually with asterisks. *laughs* means "he laughs" referring to me laughing. It's intriguing *raises eyebrow*, isn't it, to express yourself, your physical self *smiles* while typing. When I discovered this I couldn't help thinking that it is almost like writing a narrative in a book with speech and description but you're doing it as part of your IM chat.

Twitter, obviously, is another intriguing form of IM chat. Restricted to just 140 characters, we all have the creative task of fitting it all in, our message that is, into this self-imposed, no, Twitter imposed length. Once again, we all are learning the various ins and outs of modern acronyms. LOL.

Last November, I discovered that the film maker Tim Burton was doing an interesting experiment on Twitter. (see my blog Tim Burton's Online Twitter Story) He started a story by tweeting the first line. Subsequent tweets were submitted by users and the best one was chosen then the next line of the story was submitted and so on. The final story consisted of 88 tweets, each tweet being written by a different person. I noted that there is a parlour game called Consequences which has the similar idea of a group of individuals each contributing to a narrative. (see Tim Burton's Cadavre Exquis, all 88 tweets together as a story.

Surprise, surprise, it seems that Mr. Burton's experiment may have been new to me but the idea was certainly not new. Others have been using Twitter and all its 140 character glory to imaginatively work within this creative challenge to act out stories.

Star Voyage Online seems to be some sort of "play" where the individual players tweet their lines building the dialogue tweet by tweet and telling the story.

The Pesach Twitter Play recreates the Passover story on Twitter.

A year ago, a playwright by the name of Jeremy Gable tweeted his play The 15th Line.

Sean Hill tweets stories called very short stories. Yes, each "story" is 140 characters long. Or less I guess. His web site seems to offer an archive of his work.

The clown leaned in and kissed me, soft and slow. I learned things aren't as they appear & discovered beauty beneath my own flawed exterior. (May 12/2011)

Each new wrinkle was a mark of a lesson learned. The years had filled me with knowledge, but I sat alone, the young ones not seeing my value (May 11/2011)

Curious, eh? Just one line, 140 characters max, but somehow it does evoke an idea, an emotion, a feel for something.

Final Word
Set yourself some limitations. Now try to create something which respects the rules. It's interesting and sometimes amazing what people come up with when working within certain confines. This reminds me of visiting as Ripley's Believe or Not museum and seeing some sculpture of a building built entirely out of grains of rice. It was quite remarkable and certainly raised the question of why would anybody start out with such a restriction or rule in creating something artistic. Then again, maybe that rule or restriction is part of the art. Whatever the case, it does make me step back, take an admiring look, then say, "Wow."


Star Voyage Online
[N.B. This web site was active a couple of months ago, but as of this writing has disappeared. Is the adventure over?]
Welcome to our Star Voyage Online concept page. We are a group of 11 actors and actresses that perform a daily science fiction galactic adventure on Twitter. Each actor or actress has their own page. All the pages together make up our story.

The pages are:

Our story has been running for a year now and we have overcome many perils and are in our 14th episode. Join us as we rebuild and populate Planet Arenta. A world that belonged to our ancestors but was lost in time for 12,000 years because of a malfunctioning time machine.If you missed our first episodes, you can read them in our magazine at

Pesacht Twitter Play

latest updates: Pesacht Twitter Passover Play

my blog: Tim Burton's Online Twitter Story


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