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Scribe thoughts on Cell Phone Novels?

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Creed, Sep 21, 2016.

  1. Creed

    Creed Sage

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    Many Scribes have probably never heard of these. In fact, I just learned what they were two days ago, but apparently they're huge in Japan and they have a large market, and the concept is so simple and so accessible I wonder why they're not bigger in North America (or at least Canada).

    What are cell phone novels? They take your average novel-writing process and run it through blogger live-feeds with Twitter character/word counts with the portable and hyper-accessible smart phone platform. So basically writers publish online book chapters (that are short in length, I don't think they really get past like 200 words) with relatively high frequency, and they form a coherent story. Those novels then get voted on and stuff, and might get translated or print published or turned into a tv show.

    This video will explain it way better but that's the basic premise: Intro to Cell Phone Novels.

    So.... How do you feel about them? Are you tempted to start one? Do you think they're too different from your own process?

    My first concern was quality control. And yeah, a lot of what I've glimpsed at textnovel.com reminded me of high school creative writing class, and it was definitely a very teen-fiction-y vibe (which isn't my thing but obviously that doesn't matter). The format's perfect for teenage readers, though, isn't it? And hey, if some Scribes who write more "adult" fantasy are interested in writing a cell phone novel, then that's great because there's definitely a market for that too! I'd love to see some of these CPN's written with more Cook/Erikson/Sapkowski influences, and I'm definitely tempted to start one for myself, if only as an experiment and as an experience.

    What about you, Scribes?
     
  2. Saigonnus

    Saigonnus Auror

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    I found an app "Werdsmith" for writing stories on my tablet or cell, or I have Microsoft office for it as well.

    I personally don't think the idea of tweeting a story sentence by sentence is anything I want to do, but I can definitely see the appeal. I guess I equate that with a short attention span, and don't want to cater to people too lazy to read.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
     
  3. Creed

    Creed Sage

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    It's not so much the fact that you're writing it on a smartphone or tablet, it's the fact that the device is changing how you write it. Earlier models of cell phones forced the user to send sms messages in small packages, and that's what defines the limit.

    While I definitely respect the "short attention span" viewpoint, I also challenge the Scribes to try to reconsider this moving forward in the thread. Instead of lazy readers, or those with a short attention span, try to think of readers that may only have time to read for pleasure on the subway, while eating lunch, or between classes. This is a reality for tens of millions, if not hundreds of millions. If writers don't adapt to the change in pace, then these readers will be scanning Facebook articles and Buzzfeed lists instead of reading our books.
     
  4. Saigonnus

    Saigonnus Auror

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    I can definitely keep an open mind and consider other points of view beyond my own. As I said, I can see the appeal in that situation, when time is limited, having only a few hundred words to read instead of an entire novel and having that satisfaction of finishing a story everyday potentially. Or more than one. The level of satisfaction of finishing a few pages wouldn't be as intense as a whole story.

    On the other side of the coin. With only a few hundred words, I think that it would limit the amount of world-building you could do, and possibly limit the descriptive elements you could introduce. Maybe it could force authors to be more selective about what they describe and how they describe it.

    Perhaps it could be a good practice for bare-bones writing instead of worrying about most of the conventions you have to address writing a novel.




    Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk
     
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  5. First of all, I would like to caution against (I feel like this will come up, so I'm saying ahead of time) demeaning this idea as an example of the dumbing down of literature and examples of our cell phone addictions, short attention spans...I mean, those are some of the thoughts I have, but I want to keep an open mind.

    It's a new and different medium for storytelling. Not necessarily bad or inferior, but different.

    And it does sound interesting and fun, requiring a different set of skills than novel writing. You'd have to learn to pack a lot of meaning into a few words. You'd have to keep your audience going with every sentence; you couldn't waste a word. But I do like the idea. I'm wondering too why it isn't a bigger thing.
     
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  6. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

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    This sounds similar to Drabbles. Jake Bible wrote is novel Dead Mech as a collection of Drabbles, 100 word segments.

    Maybe this can work. Maybe it can't. For me, the thing about being able to read long chunks of text is immersion. Sometimes it takes a while to immerse yourself into the story. But if the story kicks you out the door after 200 words, it makes it a lot more difficult to get into the story.

    I mean think about it. Imagine while reading a novel, you had to stop every 200 words and take a five minute break before continuing on. You better be a gosh darn genius with those 200 words to keep them coming back.
     
    Creed likes this.
  7. That's why it comes across to me as a unique and challenging medium. You couldn't just write a novel and break it up into pieces. It would require a different skill set. Each segment would have to hook you and keep you going.
     
  8. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    I liked the point made in the video that this form lends itself to poetic expression. I would break away from world building and traditional fantasy, and regard this almost like a story told in blank verse. It has a certain appeal.
     
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  9. cydare

    cydare Minstrel

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    I think it could be a fun format to write humorous fantasy in. Something I wouldn't take too seriously so I can keep moving forward. Or, like skip.knox mentioned, a focus on poetic expression. I was looking through the site and found a cell-phone novel about a firefighter and a djinn written in freeform poetry.
     
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  10. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Istar

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    My short answer is: aahhh, hell no. Not that it doesn't sound interesting on an experimental intellectual challenge level, but that's about the extent of my curiosity.
     
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  11. Chessie

    Chessie Guest

    For reals. Not my thing, not my market readers. They can surely go read Buzzfeed (which I totally love btw).
     
  12. Creed

    Creed Sage

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    skip.knox hits the nail on the head: the restrictions turn prose into something hybrid with poetry. In the video, for example, Takatsu says that he uses line breaks in a way that mimics poetry. His word count is unaffected, but suddenly he's drawing attention to certain words in a way that regular prose inhibits. Poetry is a great exercise for learning how to be concise, which I always still have issues with. You just gotta to be brutal.

    I'd also like to point out that the idea isn't new at all. Some capital L literature was produced in a similar fashion with different technology. Charles Dickens, anyone? How about Rudyard Kipling? Maybe Oscar Wilde? They all wrote in serial segments. Newspapers and magazines were all the rage, and I'd bet good money any Scribe would recognize one of the many serial writers from the period.

    Don't be too quick to dismiss something that reaches the masses. Even if you just use it for humour writing, like cydare says, or to try a project with more emergent worldbuilding, like in skip.knox's example.
     
  13. psychotick

    psychotick Auror

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    Hi,

    I may just be too old for this, but even if I was interested in it, I couldn't do it. Two hundred words? My blurbs are two hundred words!

    Cheers, Greg.
     
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  14. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    Just to keep the conversation going a bit, for some reason this approach snagged me. Not deeply serious, but just in the sense of what's that thing over there? Little half-baked ideas keep dashing across my brain screen. Here's one. I might help indicate what is meant by other approaches.

    Premise is, a typical angsty teen. His dad was just made castellan of an isolated castle and the family had to move. They are hardly more than settled when the castle is besieged by orcs. Eventually a relief army shows up and the siege is lifted.

    Here's the twist: the whole thing is told as tweets. I wrote a few, as proof of concept. Some examples:

    Thirty knights and one stinking pile of peasants. I'm going out of my mind. #noGirls

    Earl Bigdeal coming for a week. feasts. hunting. Plan to hide in my room in the north tower. #drunkDadsWeek

    mom is going around putting curtains in the arrow slits. omfg

    Orcs!!! OORRCCSS!!!

    Orc army attacking castle right now w/scaling ladders n sh*t. can see all from my room. AWESOME

    big f-n walls, big f-n gate. stoopid orcs dont stand a chance but they got us surrounded. d*cks

    three wks & no relief. eating gruel brkf lnch dnr. gag. Anyone out there have a good recipe for rat?


    And so on. The point here is that this pseudo-tweeting lends itself quite well to the cell phone novel format. Notice that we aren't trying to tell a story in the usual way, but also there's no way in the world something like this gets "published" in the usual way. Even self-pubbed. And in actual Twitter feeds it would just get lost.

    Certainly not for everyone. Probably not even for me. But, like looking at post-modern art for an afternoon, I can admit it has potential.
     
  15. Creed

    Creed Sage

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    Actually, it's interesting you bring that up! This definitely is something that follows a similar vein as cell phone novels.

    Check out the Twitter Fiction Festival archive. Some very interesting (often multi-media) narratives are played out on Twitter for it, including actors and YouTube clips, and jpgs and hashtags. One I started reading was a detective story, with Twitter accounts for the detective and the murderer. Followers could see how the investigation played out, and what the murderer was doing in the background. Your example could be perfectly translated into it!

    Here's an entry from Patrick Rothfuss.

    I know, again, many Scribes wouldn't be into it, and that's a-okay. But listening to fantasy authors talk about their self-/publishing experiences, they often indicate that Twitter is an incredibly powerful tool that they wished they'd used to the fullest effect. Something like this Twit-Lit could be used to give a fantasy author's Twitter account a little hype boost, or a loyal, engaged group of followers.

    It could also lend itself to the collaborative nature of Twitter, making a fun little experiment for a community of writers like MS. Hopefully this generates some far-out ideas, if nothing else.
     
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