Penguin Random House backs Twitter Fiction Festival

twitter fictionHow many novels have you written? If you’re on Twitter chances are you’ve at least written a novel’s amount of words. But you can do a lot with 140 characters. You can make a LOL inducing pun or wish a celebrity to rest in peace or better yet you can tell a story.

The Association of American Publisher and Penguin Random House have joined with Twitter to create what is now the second Twitter Fiction Festival. Using the hashtag #TwitterFiction storytellers (that means you) are asked to submit their work. Although based in the States everyone is invited to join in. Established authors are also contributing, as this is as much about the reader as it is the writer. Winning submissions will be shown online from March 12 – 16.

Air passenger Elan Gale infamously upset the world recently by posting his ‘hilarious’ collection of tweets and pictures attacking a fellow passenger. Gale’s tale was unpleasant, riddled with banter, creepily smug and sexist but everyone still wanted to know what happened in the end. We all sat transfixed on his sweaty knee. Twitter and storytelling have a history.

The philosophy behind the project is the power of story. Just because a novel has 600 pages doesn’t mean it’s any good. There used to be only four channels and there used to be books made from paper that you bought in a ‘bookshop’. Well everything is different now. We get our stories wherever we can find them and whether we realise it or not we’re all junkies.

Can a tweet convey the same power as a book, a play or a film? This is an experiment to see if it can. The Internet, the damn Internet, is blamed for the lowering of our attention spans and Twitter in particular is held up as an example: 140 characters? Seriously? But what users have done with the space is fascinating. Really all the TFF is doing is acknowledging this fact.

Entrants are encouraged not to simply tell a story in a series of tweets, although they can do that, but it feels like cheating; we already have Storify. You have the opportunity to use Vine or pictures and sounds or you could crowd source. Most excitingly of all you could do something nobody has ever tried. Closing dates for submissions is February 5. You should enter. You may just get around to writing the great American novel after all, albeit an incredibly short one.

Graeme Swanson is a writer and journalist.