Telling a story 140 characters at a time

The Brisbane Writers Festival has assembled an all-star line-up of authors for its latest venture, Many Writers One Story.

In the 50 days leading up to the opening of the festival on September 5, a cast of writers - ranging from columnists to journalists and fiction authors to erotica writers - will add a new piece to an ongoing story composed entirely on Twitter.

Conceived by public relations company The Hoopla Family, the project involves well-known Australian authors Marieke Hardy and Tara Moss, as well as overseas-based writers such as Chris Cleave.

Brisbane author Nick Earls kicked off the story with this composition posted on Monday July 17:

"It had been coriander between her teeth or maybe rocket. It was his mother who had told him you should always point those things out. #bwf50"

From there, the novel took a quick turn into thriller territory, with the protagonist pledging revenge against his mother.

Tuesday's post from John Boyne saw the story going into particularly dark territory:

"He cried out, deafened in his left ear by the sound of the gun shot. Through the pain he wondered how Magda had become such a violent creature. After all, when they were children there was nothing she enjoyed more than..."

Local author Benjamin Law is scheduled to take part in the latter stages of the writing process.

Describing the process as democratic and fun, Law admits that it is also a daunting prospect jumping on to a story that has morphed into something wild and unpredictable.

But he is pleased to be a part of the "grand experiment," and to get a chance to see how other authors contribute to the evolution of the plot.

"We've got some people just offering a description and some people just offering a thought," he said.

"I think everyone at the moment is trying to out funny each other which is a beautiful thing to see because its like 'how silly can get this story get' which I think when you are trying to write a story on twitter that's essentially what's going to happen. It's not going to be a grand magnum opus of literary work."

Law has a plan in case the plot gets too difficult to rein in by the time his turn comes around.

"I hope it doesn't come to this but if it really goes off the rails maybe everyone will wake up by the end of it and it was all a dream!" he joked.

"If there's too many characters and too many plot twists and I just read it and shake my head I am warning my fellow writers this is an option if they don't keep it on track."

The concept of the Twitter novel isn't new, but nor has it had great success.

Even in the social media platform's infancy there was talk of utilising the medium for long-form stories.

New York Times technology writer Matt Richtel invented the term Twiller in 2008. Brandon J. Mendelson composed his novel The Falcon can hear the Falconer online the same year, separately publishing a list of seven tips for writers looking to follow his lead.

A year later comic book writer and acclaimed author Neil Gaiman started what he called a "Twovel" in conjunction with BBC America Audiobooks. Thousands of responses were posted but a separately published work still hasn't been produced.

While the Twitter novel hasn't caught in the past earlier this year Pulitzer prize winning author Jennifer Egan began to write her new short story Black Box on the platform, publishing a new piece of the story every minute.

To view the complete story, go to this BWF website.

To follow the progression of the story on twitter use hashtag #BWF50

The Brisbane Writers Festival runs from September 5 to 9.

This story Telling a story 140 characters at a time first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.