Home Quillpill: Cell Phone Novels Escape Japan

Quillpill: Cell Phone Novels Escape Japan

For better or for worse the concept of the cell phone novel is making a splash in Western countries via a Twitter-like app called Quillpill. Quillpill handles all the heavy lifting — i.e., aggregating each post and displaying them in the correct order. Essentially, Quillpill is a mobile writing application that imposes a Twitter-style 140 character limit on each entry.

Novels written and delivered on cell phones have been a huge fad in Japan, with 5 of the 10 bestselling novels of 2007 in the island nation originally composed on cell phones. My critique of the trend last December drew the ire of many commenters here, who accused me of being antediluvian for saying that the idea of cell phone novels “made me wince.”

Having read some of the stories on Quillpill my initial assessment may have been a bit harsh. While Pulitzer material they are not, many of these are not as bad as the images that the term “cell phone novel” evokes. Quillpill writers have so far found a way to embrace the 140 character constraint without resorting to emoticons and chat acronyms, even if punctuation and grammar in some of the stories leaves something to be desired.

A couple of weeks ago we wrote about a competition that challenged people to write an entire story in just 140 characters. “Being constrained to exactly 140 characters will spark your creative juices and force you to focus stringently on word choice, sentence structure, and even punctuation,” said Copyblogger’s Brian Clark in introducing the contest, and the results were quite awesome. Quillpill expands on the idea that constraints have the potential to lead to more creative and innovative output. While I still cringe at calling anything written in this manner a novel — even if it is of novel length — and I’d certainly not care to read a novel on my phone, I have changed my mind on the potential for the cell phone as a creative writing medium.

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