Twitter Fiction, if it can be described as a single entity, derives its uniqueness as being a subset of electronic literature delivered specifically via the Twitter platform. It affords the author the advantage of the platform: an opportunity to connect with some of the 330 million users who visit monthly and (presumably? hopefully? potentially?) consume content.
The base material of Twitter Fiction is the Tweet which is limited to 140 characters and may consist of text, links, images, and (now) polls. Users may interact with the Tweet via likes, poll voting, retweets, or comments. Underlying it all is a global network. A 140 character tweet can represent a complete work or can be the building block – the ‘page’ – of a larger work. Unlike the page of a book, the tweets more closely resemble looseleaf pages that may be seen in isolation or become lost among unrelated material, requiring rework by the reader to assemble or sequence them back into something meaningful.
The staccato delivery of tweets can afford the author to adjust the narrative as it progresses, either implicitly through audience reaction as likes, retweets, or comments, or explicitly via polls.
This contrasts with print narrative which is usually more substantial, more rigid, and necessitates a physical presence to connect with a reader. Putting books in readers hands becomes a production and distribution problem and adds an economic aspect to narrative production. It is not enough to have a story, it must be one worth printing.
Osbourne Cox: Some clown, or two clowns, have gotten a hold of my memoirs.
Katie Cox: Your what?
Osbourne Cox: Stolen it, or I don't know...
Katie Cox: Your what?
Osbourne Cox: My memoirs, the book I'm writing.
Katie Cox: Well why in God's name would anyone think that's worth anything?From "Burn After Reading" (Coen, 2008).
To reach audience, a story destined for print has had to have a certain value (perceived or demonstrated) to justify cost of production and distribution of a given print run. Systems would develop around the economics of book production and market factors would inform editorial decisions. Stories perceived to be marketable were printed, others were not (see a glimpse of the modern calculus of print production here). In short, a published work was not just the output of an author, but the work of an industry (Darnton, 2007). In traditional print media, that meant authors (among others) were paid.
Twitter Fiction pays its authors in likes, attention, and visibility. If there is a single beneficiary of Twitter Fiction it would seem to be Twitter itself, a reminder to authors and users alike that something interesting is happening on Twitter. User growth and activity are the metrics by which shareholders hold the publicly traded company accountable and any and all activity that feeds the aggregate is welcome.
Twitter Fiction is short fiction that directly and immediately connects authors with a global audience. It will not produce the next Great American Novel, but that's not the point. Diminutive and global, it plays a different angle. And yet…
Even in the shortest of form, good fiction retains the ability to capture the spirit of its time.
Company | About. (n.d.). Retrieved January 31, 2016, from https://about.twitter.com/company
Crum, M. (2016, January 20). How One Author Used Twitter To Write A Thrilling Choose Your Own Adventure Story. Retrieved January 31, 2016, from http://www.lctabus.com/new.asp?2016/01/19/twitter-choose-your-own-adventure_n_9027592.html
Darnton, R. (2007). WHAT IS THE HISTORY OF BOOKS?" REVISITED. Modern Intellectual History, 4(3), 495-508.
Friedman, J. (2015, July 08). How Publishers Make Decisions About What to Publish: The Book P&L | Jane Friedman. Retrieved January 31, 2016, from https://janefriedman.com/book-pl/