If you see something strange floating through your Twitter feed over the next few days, don’t be alarmed. The Twitter Fiction Festival kicked off Monday and is to include an amnesiac Lemony Snicket, a cut-up tale by science fiction writer Margaret Atwood, and “Star Wars” couples rendered in Shakespearean couplets.
The first story is by Celeste Ng, whose debut novel, “Everything I Never Told You,” was one of last year’s most celebrated books. In her Twitter fiction story, Ng unearths a love story left in library books --- told 140 characters at a time, of course.
Later in the day, novelist Jonathan Evison is previewing his upcoming book “This is Your Life, Harriet Chance!” by letting one of its characters, Kurt Pickens, take over his feed. “I drink too much, have a slight gambling problem, and suffer from social anxiety,” Pickens explains. “On the upside, I’m on this Alaskan cruise ...”
Other bestselling writers who are set to take part are Jackie Collins (with a love triangle), Maggie Stiefvater (with gods debating ending the Earth) and Eric Jerome Dickey (who revisits his novel “Tempted by Trouble” from a new point of view).
But there are also several lesser-known authors -- 24 of them -- who are included in the festival, which can be found with the hashtag #twitterfiction. Twitter held a contest and allowed anyone to submit entries. Some of those takeovers will include poetry to order, love stories and a user channeling Edgar Allen Poe.
The Twitter Fiction Festival began in the fall of 2012. Most participants told a single-threaded story using prose from a single account, but others pushed the form more. Writer Scott Hutchins enhanced his noir story with black-and-white photographs, using Twitter’s then-new photo feature. Novelist Elliott Holt told a murder mystery in real time from three separate witness accounts.
By creating the festival, Twitter was amplifying work that was already being done. In 2009, Rick Moody told a fictional story on Twitter via Electric Literature and a number of other literary journals. In the spring of 2012, Pulitzer Prize winner Jennifer Egan tweeted a serialized short story for the New Yorker that later appeared in print.
One of the most challenging projects in this year’s Twitter Fiction Festival is being undertaken by Lauren Beukes. The South African author known for her genre-bending thrillers is inviting people to suggest genre mashups -- i.e., “Muppet prison drama,” “Cold War fairy tale” -- for which she’ll then create Twitter-length stories on the fly. Beukes is scheduled to be on Thursday at 9 a.m. EDT.
In addition to keeping up with the hashtag #twitterfiction, all the stories can be read by following @twfictionfest. The Twitter Fiction Festival continues through Friday.
Book news and more; I’m @paperhaus on Twitter