I don’t own a mobile phone. I have never bought an app. When I read, my preference is for a hardcover first edition, which I will handle with the care and reverence most people would reserve for a museum object. However, I know that not everyone is like me. I know that a lot of people are reading chat fiction. It is particularly popular with the teenage demographic.
Chat fiction stories tend to be relatively short accounts in the form of SMS text messages. The narrative builds up through a series of rapid, dialogue-like exchanges, and the reader is cast in the position of an external observer, who has stumbled upon the conversation. Instead of turning a page, the reader taps a screen for the story to continue.
Genres of chat fiction typically include tales of horror and suspense; humour; romance; crime; and, slightly perversely, imaginary conversations with celebrities.
Tap is a mobile app from Wattpad, a social publishing platform for authors, which publishes over 250 million stories online. Tap features a ‘create’ function, which allows readers not only to access other people’s chat fiction, but to attempt to create something original of their own.
The ‘form’ of the novel has long been experimented with by successive generations and with varying degrees of success and, whilst acknowledging that it is not intending to replace mainstream fiction, chat fiction is exploring a new approach to story-telling, which has the potential to be both exciting and contemporary.
© Fergus Longfellow
Book expert, Fergus Longfellow, cuts some shapes with the kids.