Purists might turn their nose up at the thought that tweeting can be a literary practice, but more and more people are willing to look at it that way. The Pulitzer Prize winning novelist Jennifer Egan’s short story ‘Black Box’ unfolded as a series of tweets, while Teju Cole’s project ‘Small Fates’, which relayed what he calls “small news” in self-contained tweets, acquired substantial popularity.
From March 12-16, Twitter will be hosting the Twitter Fiction Festival. It is about “embracing, exploring and developing” the art of storytelling on the social media platform. While @thetweetofgod will be writing an entirely new book of the Bible called “The Book of Bieb,” which tells the story of the rise and fall of Justin Bieber, the younger brother of Jesus, Gabrielle Zevin will tweet as Daniel Parish, an author trying to figure out Twitter for the first time.
Meghna Pant, the author of “Happy Birthday!” and “One and a Half Wife”, will tell the story of the Mahabharata over 100 tweets. In an e-mail interview, the writer told us how she plans to go about it. Excerpts:
How do you use twitter normally?
I am your quintessential Twitter cretin. For a person who has to write an entire novel to express a singular emotion, you can well imagine why I see Twitter as my nemesis. Yet, like every well-heeled author today, I try to tweet regularly and unleash my inner Kraken in 140 characters.
The festival is my way of discovering the narrative potential of Twitter and enjoying something other than Justin Bieber trend.
What drew you to the Mahabharata?
It seems like everything is on Twitter nowadays, so why not the Mahabharata? After all, it is India’s greatest and largest epic, stretching over two hundred thousand lines and almost two million words. It is also one of the world’s most perfect and powerful tales ever told, containing all the vital elements that go into a good story: family, betrayal, power struggle, war, love, lust, greed and the superlative win of good over evil.
The Mahabharata has been retold in every which way and I thought it’d be nice for it to make its long overdue international Twitter debut.
How are you going to narrate an epic in 100 tweets?
The tweets will capture the main narrative kernel of the epic and highlight the powerful developments that drive the story forward. It will be challenging to do justice to all the eighteen parvas, or to narrate critical scenes like Draupadi’s disrobing or Krishna’s discourse of the Bhagvad Gita or the Kurukshetra battle in a tweet or two, but that is what will make this rendition interesting.
The Mahabharata is a story that resonates as much with me as it does with anyone who has read it. It would therefore be great to have people involved in this epic’s interpretive recitation. I will be inviting people to contribute their opinion on what they think the next pertinent subplot should be, sort of like a contest within a contest of ‘how well do you know your Mahabharata?’
How are the claims of novel writing, short story writing and tweeting different?
A good story is a good story no matter what its length is. Form does not restrict expression. So you’ll often find me dabbling with different ways to tell a story, whether it’s flash fiction, micro fiction, short stories, a novel or my terrible poems.
I am very studied and orderly in my approach to every form of storytelling. Years of my life go into writing a novel, months go into writing a short story; tweeting, of course, is more reactionary and spontaneous, calling for invested moments rather than planning.
Ankur Thakkar, a U.S.-based writer, will use a collection of screenshots from a variety of films to recreate a Bollywood movie. As in every Bollywood movie, there will be dancing, love, heartbreak, and comedy, he promises. “Twitter, to me, is equal parts newspaper, community salon, and an exciting space for artists to create original work and to tell stories…I've always loved Bollywood films, and even now I watch them to feel closer to my parents (who live in Charlotte). The Indian film industry is present in the novel I'm currently writing, and I expect it will continue to influence my work,” he says.