Where is our literature headed with Twitter and Facebook fiction?


Have you ever heard the terms Twitterature, Twiller or Twiction? Or maybe Facebook fiction? If not, you’re seriously missing out on the trend that has started since 2009 and is slowly gathering steam with more and more curious, excited, indie writers jumping the bandwagon of churning out Twitter and Facebook literature.

Although Twiction and Facebook fiction are forms that are still in their stages of infancy, it is an expected turn in the world of literature. Not that all literature will be published in the 140 character style from now onwards, but this fresh, irreverent style of looking at the play of words and ideas is a change we must check out, if not accept immediately.

The International origins

When "Twitterature: The World’s Greatest Books Retold Through Twitter" by Alexander Aciman and Emmett Rensin was released in 2009, it received a good amount of flak by serious literary figures about how the authenticity of great classics was reduced to dust. What the book really required was a fresh set of eyes to laugh at the social media slang and the in-jokes used to give readers a fresh take of what Shakespeare or Woolf would have been like if they were writing in the age of the Internet.


Although this book has been said to "reduce the writers to their bare essentials", as reported by The Guardian, we must remember that the ground beneath the feet of American writers too shook when television entered American households and a new language of communication with new inferences was making way. The same is happening with Twitter and Facebook fiction today.

Closer home in India

Although there are thousands of writers joining the bandwagon of writing Facebook and Twitter fiction, there are only some whose work has been able to hit the news.

Chindu Sreedharan, a UK based lecturer at Bournemouth University retells the Hindu epic Mahabharata on Twitter, snippet by snippet. This piece of Twiction called EpicRetold has a current following of 1600+users, uses the point of view of Bhima for storytelling and is currently standing at 600+ tweets. Sreedharan picked Twitter for the retelling of the Mahabharata not because it would be a fad but it may prove to be as revolutionary as its televised version was, when it was released in the 80s. [Note: not much activity has happened on this recently]

Tech writer Rakesh Raman is posting 10 tweets a day to tell a story about Robojit, a humanoid protagonist who leads a mission to the Sand Planet. The story combines themes of spiritualism, technology and humanism. Although Raman’s following may have dropped because his Twiction has now been released as a book on Flipkart – The Sand Planet – it wouldn’t be surprising if he chose to do another Twiction piece very soon.

There’s also Arjun Basu who writes "Twisters" or 140 character short stories on Twitter with a current following of over 1 lakh. More recently, a Facebook fiction storm is picking up with advertising professional and national creative director of Publicis India Emmanuel Upputuru having started a writing experiment. One Facebook user picks up the story from another user and continues adding threads to develop a piece of fiction. In this way, strangers bring in their own insights and influences and piece together a Facebook novel. No one knows what kind of potpourri it will turn out to be and where the story will end up. This unique novel is called ‘Once’ and more than 30 writers have already contributed, as reported by TOI.

No one knows the future of literature written on the internet, but surely literature has to get ready to face the power of technology. The fact that anyone and everyone can publish, offer and get free access, comment and opine in real time and virtually do this in no time or money is a herculean challenge that publishers and the industry around literature will face. Of course, in this race of everyone rushing to publish their two words, separating the needle from the haystack is what will decide literature’s future.

More resources for those whose interest has been piqued with this post:

It would be great to know what is your point of view on these literary changes that we experiencing due to different social media platforms…. Comments are open!

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