Tap is a new app created by Wattpad featuring short chat-style stories. Yesterday, I was invited to join the early access of writing for Tap chat stories. I'm always curious about how technology is changing the way we write and read and this looked like a classic example of how new technologies can influence storytelling.
So I logged on last night with my 9-year-old daughter to check out these chat stories. I liked the interactive experience; one taps the screen and a message pops up, taps again, the next message pops up, it's message by message, as if you're actually receiving a text.
The first story we read was great. 'Get a shovel' was literally a message from the grave. In true mystery/horror style, the two of us were feeling tense and hooked by the story. It was short and punchy and an excellent example of how these stories could work.
The next two stories weren't so great; they were too long, meandering and tedious, and didn't work as text messages. Like why, if someone's fleeing from a threat would they stop and send long text messages?!!
But the last one we read in the comedy category was brilliant. In 'Text for a Good Time' someone finds a 'text me for a good time' message on the back of a toilet door and sends a 'wanna have a good time?' message. We see the exchange between these two people, the other saying they're always getting these messages they don't want and where can they take that note down. The twist at the end is unexpected and had us both giggling.
So yeah, the chat stories are a style of their own and authors are going to have to think cleverly about how to use this platform as a story can sink or swim on it. It's microfiction at its best, readers have to be dropped right into the action of the story, there's no time for character development or setting up the plot.
The fact that characters are texting becomes an important feature of the story and needs to be believable. Just like a writer needs to write good dialogue by listening carefully to the intricacies of speech, so does a chat story writer need to write authentic sounding text messages. And of course, we're going to see txt-speak creep into these stories like idk (I don't know), the dreaded lols, 2night, minimal punctuation and a splattering of emojis.
Wattpad will be curating the stories, with many on the home page already receiving hundreds of thousands of taps (see that - taps not reads!). In the coming weeks the writing functionality will be available to all users.
The app is available globally through the App Store and Google Play Store and people can purchase paid weekly, monthly or yearly subscriptions.
It will be interesting to see how this app takes off. Will it be a fad or does it have literary staying power? And will someone be able to come up with the iconic chat story to rival Hemingway's legendary 6-word story - For sale: baby shoes, never worn.
It's yet to be seen. But worth keeping an eye on.
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