Post Fiction: Writing Novels over Social Media

Social media keeps people connected. Every day, people share status updates, news headlines, commentary, and blog posts just like this in order to craft their own narrative and keep others informed. Even if websites like Twitter and Instagram already have their own purposes, people are always testing boundaries and seeing what they can create.

Novels are forms of longform content–they take a lot of time to read, and even more time to write. Books aren’t supposed to be consumed in a few seconds’ time. That doesn’t stop writers like Rachel Hultin or T.R. Darling from experimenting.

Using Instagram account heyharryheymatilda, Hultin chronicles the exchanges between twins Harry and Matilda, who communicate through new posts as if writing short entries in a diary. The small pieces of conversation often leave plenty of room for inference. Doubleday Books will publish the entire project as a physical book in January 2017.

hhhm

An excerpt from Hultin’s Hey Harry, Hey Matilda

Twitter, however, takes the real spotlight for short novels and experimental writing. As a medium with a 140-character limit, it makes sense for writers to test their skills in shortform creations. These fall into different categories, beginning with the hashtag #140Novel, where anyone can craft a short string of sentences to create the illusion of a bigger story. Some people, on the other hand, use this hashtag to summarize novels that they have already written in full. Either way, the challenge here is to condense ideas into the smallest word count possible.

140-2

Some accounts, like that of T. R. Darling (also known as @QuietPineTrees), are focused entirely on brief, self-contained posts that follow the 140-character limit on a regular basis. This account in particular has gathered a lot of attention from Twitter users for its imaginative, science fiction-based entries and dense, information-packed yet bite-sized stories. According to the account’s bio, Darling is in need of an agent. Microfiction posts like these both draw an audience and showcase the writer’s remarkable ability to condense information while still creating gorgeously short story concepts. In a recent interview, Darling mentioned the potential for direct criticism that the Twitter account offers. Followers are free to comment and pick apart each tweet so that the author can improve. Playing with the 140-character challenge, it seems, can create productive results.

darling

T. R. Darling has not only a prosperous following on Twitter, but also a Moteefe store and works exhibited on a Gumroad account. Both allow fans to support the writer by buying merchandise or access to other works.

Bite-sized stories come in many other forms on Twitter, including that of piece-by-piece status updates and generator accounts. A Strange Voyage gives status updates about a small community that has taken to sailing across the ocean after their village burned to the ground. I imagine they are or were also being pursued by someone or something else. I could gather all of that information, however, from a post containing just ten words, now pinned to the top of the account’s feed:

sv

Each day, followers hear another small addition to their travels. I have no idea if the characters will ever reach land again. The only way to find out is to continue reading tweets as they appear.

Even bots take part in the fun. Generator accounts, while lacking the organic and more original feel of other Twitter microfiction, are fairly amusing as well. Most follow similar scripts, with a few words changed here and there for each new post. Dungeon Junk and Future Junk generate scenarios written in second-person, in which followers find weird, malfunctioning things from either a fantasy or science fiction setting. Generated Planets and Space Traveler let followers explore the galaxy from their mobile phones.

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Of course, no collection of fiction would be complete without parodies. One of my first introductions to Twitter microfiction, in fact, began with a weird yet hilarious take on noir detectives. A chain of tweets starring chain-smoking, crime-fighting detective Dick Hardboiled made a mockery of the angst-ridden worlds characters like these populate.

hardboiled

Awful Fantasy and Awful Adventures have stepped up to the plate to make fun of the fantasy genre and all of its well-known, often-used plot devices. While Awful Fantasy relies on the typical standalone tweets for its humor, Awful Adventures allows followers and fans to choose their own path through Twitter’s poll add-on. The entire account is like one big Dungeons and Dragons session, and it gets pretty entertaining. Unfortunately, it hasn’t updated in a while.

adventures

According to the followers, everything that can go wrong, WILL go wrong.

Though I already follow each one of these accounts, I’m sure that many more exist, still undiscovered or largely unknown, churning out microfictional content for anyone who notices. The absolute creativity coming from these accounts is both astounding and entertaining. No matter what the limits are, people always find a way around them.

Do you know of any other microfiction accounts or social media novels? Let me know by commenting on this post!

If you enjoyed this, try:

Four Sci-Fi/Fantasy Reads to Add to Your List
Webcomics: Hidden Gems
Podcasts: Hidden Gems
Terry Pratchett: Men at Arms

 

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