Current Issue
This Month's Print Issue

Follow Fast Company

We’ll come to you.

Neil Gaiman, the BBC, and 124 Twitterers Make Fiction

hearts, keys, and puppetry Award-winning writer Neil Gaiman (one of our Most-Creative People) started a new fairy tale on Twitter—and the world wrote the rest of it. Users tweeted lines for the story, helping it unfold on BBC Audiobooks America's twitter feed. The now-finished story has been edited and released as a free audiobook available at the BBC's site and iTunes.

How did the Twitter story, "Hearts, Keys, and Puppetry," come about? The plan for the crowdsourced project was inspired by the Royal Opera House's Twitter experiment. BBCAA sought out a twitter-savvy author to kick the thing off, and found it in Gaiman. "Neil very generously embraced the idea right away," says the project's moderator for BBCAA, Tara Gelsomino. "He crafted a doozy of a sentence and agreed to tweet it at our selected start time, despite the fact that he would be en route to China."

neil gaimanAfter Gaiman's start, users tweeted lines marked with a certain hash tag. Those were reviewed and the next bit was chosen. This continued, tweet by tweet, scene by scene, from 9 to 5 over eight days, until the story reached its conclusion. The BBCAA received about 10,000 tweets, with the final story including 874 tweets and a total of 14,374 words. There were 124 contributors (including this writer). "It was thrilling and a tiny bit overwhelming," says Gelsomino.

But is the final result of this experiment, "Hearts," a good read? Decide for yourself.

This is not the first case of user-generated Twitter art. Besides the fore-mentioned Opera, twitter fiction is being turned into a film, The New York Times' writer Matt Richtel wrote a "Twiller," there are various twitter fiction online magazines like Smith and Thaumatrope, and someone tweeted a whole musical. But this may be the first twitter fiction with such a caliber of producers (Gaiman, BBC) and such a large turn out of participants. BBCAA is planning to do another Twitter story soon.