Friday, November 6, 2009

Twitter-lit Redux

A few days ago I wrote a post on something called Twitter-lit. Twitter has always been about real-time reality, being in the moment, life in the raw in 140 characters (or less) at a time. Then, one day, someone decided to depart from reality and just make stuff up (like no one ever makes things up on Twitter)—voila, fiction and Twitter meet: Twitter-lit.

Today The Huffington Post (wonderful online newspaper) started a Twitter-lit contest. It invited its readers to submit their version of the great books in literature. In other words, give them a 140-character version of War and Peace. If you know about screenwriting, or have ever worked in the entertainment business in story development, then what you are going to see next will look familiar. Here are some samples of what the Huffpo readers submitted:

Mary Shelley’s Frankinstein by AskMrScreens:
Misunderstood monster only wants a friend in a recycling project run amok, with an ending that goes up in flames! (Huffington Post, 10/06/09)

Bram Stoker’s Dracula by marcywoody:
Creep preys on the veins and sexual desire of eager young women. Despite immortality, his thirst is forever quenched by one heroic doctor. (Huffington Post, 10/06/09)

Jane Austin’s Sense and Sensibility by LolaDanger:
One sister wanting romance, the other craving good chat (both hot for rich brits) outplay a manipulative bitch and an emasculated gigolo. (Huffington Post, 10/06/09)

(Read more at:

Okay screenplay hounds. The Internet culture calls these examples Twitter-lit. But, screenwriters will recognize these as something else, something we use and agonize over for hour, days, sometimes weeks (or more). These little flavor-of-the-month masterpieces above are nothing more than loglines!

A logline is your movie (or book) in a sentence. It is a complicated, complex, and challenging little beastie. The logline has to capture the essence of your story, meaning it has to give a sense of the core relationship driving the story, the high-concept conceit of the story, and a hint of the conclusion without giving too much away. Loglines are essential tools for anyone who works in the movie and/or television business. Anyone who has done script coverage has had to come up with a logline. And any writer pitching a story to an agent has had to get that logline perfect for their elevator pitch. It is also important for novelists, though less so. Loglines get movies made, when they’re good. And when they’re bad—well, you know the rest.

What I find fascinating about this little exercise by Huffpo is that this “new thing” is being touted as a new thing, when it is as old as the hills. This all speaks to an important idea to always keep in mind: nothing about writing on the web or for new media is really “new.” Take away all the SEO (search engine optimization) gibberish, all the IA (interactive architecture) interfaces, and all the Web 2.0 gobbledygook and you are left with words on a page. It’s all “just” writing. You can put all the lipstick you want on that pig; you still have pork. I’m all for repackaging and re-branding ideas, but it is important for writers not to get too caught up in the hype of “the next big thing.”

I’m enjoying all the new formats, platforms and delivery windows that are opening up for writers thanks to the Internet, but I’m taking my own advice. I will just keep my wonder and awe reserved for the simple written word that knows no gimmicks, attention-grabbers, or leaps in the technology zeitgeist. Trust me, I’m no Luddite, I’m a technology champion. I just think it’s important not to lose sight of the fact that so much of what we’re seeing in new media content delivery is really just a variation of the old notion, “What was old is new again.”

1 comment:

syncmitter said...

This is not that innovative at all. I remember some popular books on screenplay writing suggesting to the authors that thye should have the ability to tell the whole story in few words and then breakdown the whole into pieces of detail and have some background behind (that do not show up in the script but completes the universe of the protagonists as their "come from" and "go to").