Saturday, August 22, 2009

RB on Twitter Fiction

There's an interesting post on Randall Brown's site about work in the, um, 140 character range. I was interested. (I confess to having written a short on Twitter's real-time character counter -- it's forthcoming in Nanoism).

Brown starts by talking about shorts in general and the test often put to them: "Can you deliver a story in so few words?"

More RB: "Even when [the short] gets Twittersized, people focus on the challenge of delivering a story with so few words. Personally, as either a writer or reader, I don't particularly want 140-character stories."

I'm like: right there with you, right there with you....

I'd actually take it further: not only don't I want them, I really dislike them. I love vsf for its openness, for the freedom it gives writers. But people who try to telegraph full story arcs in 140 characters have rapidly created what I'd call a tight genre -- the antithesis to openness. I mean, you know exactly how these things are going to go. You know how to read them, you know how to write them. Often the exercise turns on the ability to imply a single lurid punchline. Like, oh, she's been poisoning his food. Oh, he doesn't know that she's packing to leave him.

Traditionalists would go, This isn't fiction! Without sharing their reasons, I'd be close to agreeing w/ them.

7 comments:

BlogSloth said...

Fuck twitter

Roxane Gay said...

I don't dabble much in nanofiction. I can't say what is a story or what isn't or determine legitimacy but (and I blogged about this for PANK a while back), I am very skeptical about calling something 140 characters long a story. I am also weary of the popular lament about attention spans. People have shorter attention spans because the things we consume aren't as good as they used to be. Instead of trying to become better writers, directors, producers, actors, or publishers we're giving in to the idea that less truly is more.

Scott Garson said...

Twitter sex? Don't want to go there.....

R: yeah i think 'fiction,' as a count noun, is a better choice.... From my angle, it's the expectation of approximated story arc that's kind of the problem.

The whole q of attention spans is pretty interesting. I've been asked a few times about whether shorter attention spans might be a factor in the emergence of internet lit. I've never answered directly; what I think I'd say, though, is that it might go the other way too: the medium itself affects attention spans.... I mean, regardless of quality. That's to say, people don't curl up with a good internet fiction, you know? The reading experience is different. And that's definitely not bad. It's just different....

Thinking more about your angle: the whole term is so technical, isn't it? I mean, I'm reading D.O. Unferth's Vacation right now. CAn I really describe my engagement w/ it in the same way I'd describe my engagement w/, like, my kidz' Backyardigans DVDs? (ANd just to be clear -- I like that show.)

Andrew Roe said...

The Backyardigans ain't bad.

Robert said...

As usual, I'm late to the party, but I wanted to chime in (I was actually just talking to Ben White about this very topic the other day). Ever since this Norton thing happened, I seem to have been stuck with the keys to the very very very very short story kingdom. Fine, whatever, I'll take it, but this whole thing started because of those narrow-minded traditionalists who dismiss certain forms of fiction to begin with. Like the Hemingway piece (I know, I hate always using it too, but oh well): is it a story or isn't it a story? Those who say it can't be a story never really give a good enough reason, at least for me. They just say it can't. Well, why? Because. When you ask people what the purpose of "literary" fiction is, they'll say depth of character, strong theme, lyrical prose, all that bullshit. Okay, so then at what length do those thing become irrelevant? Nobody is saying that "twitter fiction" is better than any other form of writing. But I think it should at least be given a fair shake, just like any form. There will be a lot of shit (the slush for this anthology more than proves that) but there will also be some really brilliant stuff. But staying on the topic, I feel writers will always find a forum to tell their stories, and Twitter is just the latest. Something else will eventually come along, and then THAT will be the new forum, and people will dismiss that one too ... it's just one of those cycles.

wv: lizedehe

Scott Garson said...

i hear you, r.

for sure narrative can be done on the small scale. i mean, you can't kill narrative. that's what really interests me about trying to do something in 140 chars (or 25 words).

Scott Garson said...
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