Mobile Micro-Blog Novel Writing

texting-mobile-novel-etbscreenwritingThe potential new genres for writers on the Internet are seemingly boundless. The “cell phone novel,” or keitai shosetsu, is a new micro-blog novel form. It’s typically written by young women entirely on their mobile phones.

These text message based formats have become a best-selling genre in Japan. The authors publish under one-word pen names and usually remain anonymous. The stories are about love and loss, tragedy and recovery, betrayal and resolution.

Below is an excerpt from a Time Magazine article about the phenomena of moble-novel writing.

Today, there are a million titles in Maho i-Rando’s online library — one for every six members, who are mostly women in their teens and 20s. That represents a lot of phone time. “Young Japanese access the Internet more from their cell phones than their PCs,” says Misa Matsuda, a professor of literature and sociology at Tokyo’s Chuo University. “Cell phones occupy pockets of spare time in people’s daily lives — especially for exchanging nonurgent e-mails, playing games, visiting fortune-telling sites. Keitai shosetsu fit in that tradition.”

It was a male writer known as Yoshi who had the idea of bringing out the first keitai shosetsu in book form. In doing so, became one of the first to break away from the pack. His self-published Deep Love (2002) was a collection of racy tales about a teenage prostitute in Tokyo that had previously appeared online. As a book, it sold 2.5 million copies and became a manga, a TV series and a film. It was also greeted as a one-off — the product of a quick-thinking writer-entrepreneur. But Maho i-Rando members soon began pleading with the site’s owners to see their favorite stories in hard copy, too, and its first books debuted in 2005. “Mobile novels are created and consumed by a generation of young people in Japan that demands to be heard,” says John Possman, former head of Tokyo entertainment consultancy Dragonfly Revolution. “It is truly pop culture.”

It has also become big business. In major book wholesaler Tohan’s 2007 best-seller list, five out of the top 10 books in the fiction category are keitai shosetsu, including the top three. The new genre is provoking fierce indignation among Japan’s literati, many of whom think that keitai shosetsu should stay on cell-phone screens. But it is undeniably shaking up a publishing industry whose sales have been declining for a decade. A professional author of fiction is lucky to sell more than a few thousand copies of a title. A popular cell-phone novelist sells several hundred thousand, and recruitment for new talent is intense. “Find the novelist in you!” online ads cry. “Make your debut!”

They are written with the participation of the audience. A girl will start posting her “diary” on a site called “Magic Land.” Readers begin to comment, add their own experiences and advice and urge the writer on. U.S. sites devoted to mobile novels are in beta launch here.

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