Monday, 5 December 2011

Real-time Fiction: a Guide

S.Cornish: Time Flies 

This is frontier territory; beyond that line of jagged prose there be dragons.

Using tweets to drip feed the narrative directly to the reader is pretty novel. This is a strange and unfamiliar format, even to me.  Follow it as a reader and you catch the story, blink and you’ll have to scroll back to catch up. Twitter isn’t the medium to simply deliver an existing piece of prose fiction line by line, no-one will want to read that. As a writer it takes some planning to write a story that unfolds in real-time, but it doesn’t need to be difficult or intimidating to do.

What makes any story a good story is an interesting premise, strong believable characters and an engaging narrative. Put this across as a succession of tweets that unfold the story in a fictional real-time and you have a temporal tale.
When setting out to write a temporal story there are a few things worth thinking about.

1. Temporal fiction lends itself to the first person, present tense written as if the narrator/character is sending the tweets. 
2. Give it some structure. Like any story, a beginning establishes the characters and setting, the middle moves the story on from the driving incident/motive and the end brings it to a conclusion along with any consequences. 
3. The story will unfold over several hours or days, so try to pace the delivery of tweets to allow the story arc to work with that, making sure interest is maintained even on the days that are leading up to the major bits of drama.
4. In some respects temporal fiction will work more like a film script or radio play than a short written story. It is worth writing a treatment beforehand to help plan how the story will unfold and how long it will take to do so.
5. Making short plot notes also helps as these are already part way to being tweets in their own right.
6. Note down any extra foibles that occur to you about the characters or situation, these can often be worked into the main story arc for additional interest/drama/comedy.
7. Most likely any dialogue will need to be reported, unless it is addressed directly to the reader. But it isn't the only way, be inventive.
8. Suspension of disbelief should be maintained: if the story had been relying on the character sending tweets on their phone and they get tied up: how are they going to be able to send more tweets?
9. Twitter is a restrictive medium; there are only 140 characters for each tweet (both MS Word and Apple Pages will give a useful character count of any chunk of text you select), avoid having to break a segment of story into more than one tweet. But if it can’t be helped then try to use a device like an interruption to make this seem more plausible.
10. Short snappy delivery of the narrative as reports or recounts is easier to write and read.
11. A one day story may need as many tweets as a five day story, try ensuring there is a tweet every few hours to keep the audience interested. 

If you have any other ideas or thoughts on using twitter as a storytelling medium please comment.
These pointers aren’t rules, they are just things learnt from messing round with the format,
an experimental format. With it, anyone can be a ground-breaker and make up the rules as they go along. Go on, surprise us all.

@TemporalTales is looking for story submissions by new or established writers that can be tweeted over a period of one to fourteen days. Please email stories (.doc .txt or .pages format) to:
muse (at)
(I’ve used (at) instead of @ to defeat the bots. I’m sure you can figure out how to reassemble it). 

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Temporal Tales

Having got the bit between my teeth with this whole idea of streaming real-time stories through twitter, I've now created a new twitter channel @TemporalTales that will be dedicated to the format, but how is this new way of telling and distributing short fiction through twitter even going to work?

No, the wheel has not been reinvented, experiments in real-time storytelling, like Jeremy Bushnell's Imaginary Year, have been created before, but the demands of the twitter medium calls for a new format to put over the stories in a much more immediate way.
After the successful tweet broadcast of the Bad Hair Daze story in April 2010, I started writing a Christmas story that would be broadcast in December of that year, but workloads being what they are, the broadcast was delayed until this year and @HoBloodyHo will begin tweeting on the 15th December. I’ve been excited getting it all ready and working out the bugs to be able to schedule the tweets. Making a new twitter account for each story has worked for these first two pilot stories, but I’ve realised that to broadcast more stories on a regular basis needs a different solution. Having a tailor made twitter stream for a story looks great, but having to build up a following prior to the story launching is hard work, and most of that following will drift away once the story is over. The idea of a dedicated stream is a much more attractive option, allowing stories to be broadcast back to back (if I can get enough submissions). @TemporalTales has been created to do just that.

The channel is intended to be a platform through which new and established writers can show their ingenuity and writing talent in what is effectively a new format (in the same way that flash fiction is a new format) of real-time storytelling. It also allows links to blogs, books and websites to be placed in the credits that can directly promote the writer to a receptive audience. A supporting blog-based website with an archive will provide additional information about the stories and the writers.
The Temporal Tales twitter account is already up and ready for new followers and will start delivering tales as a channel in the new year. As a test it will be mirroring the tweets from the @HoBloodyHo story, but with a time delay so that the tweets can go at at Eastern Standard Time. The Temporal Tales website and blog are still being designed at the moment, but will up and running before @TemporalTales begins tweeting in anger.

In the meantime we are looking for submissions for new and imaginative stories to deliver when broadcasting begins. Please email stories in .doc or .pages format including a brief outline of what it is about to:

muse (at)
(I’ve used (at) instead of @ to defeat the bots. I’m sure you can figure out how to reassemble it). 

As a guide, stories should be from one day to two weeks in output duration. Please bear in mind the constraints of the medium when submitting stories, @BadHairDaze is an existing example of how a real-time story has worked. More details about @HoBloodyHo can be found here.