Writing For a Cellphone Audience

Posted on September 28, 2007

Japan's fiction market has been totally reinvigorated by a new art form: cellphone novels. The generation that spends all its time text messaging friends is now writing stories that people can read on their cellphones. The stories are rough, without editing, but their popularity is soaring.

When Satomi Nakamura uses her cellphone, she has to be extra careful to take frequent breaks. That's because she isn't just chatting. The 22-year-old homemaker has recently finished writing a 200-page novel titled "To Love You Again" entirely on her tiny cellphone screen, using her right thumb to tap the keys and her pinkie to hold the phone steady. She got so carried away last month that she broke a blood vessel on her right little finger.

"PCs might be easier to type on, but I've had a cellphone since I was in sixth grade, so it's easier for me to use," says Ms. Nakamura, who has written eight novels on her little phone. More than 2,000 readers followed her latest story, about childhood sweethearts who reunite in high school, as she updated it every day on an Internet site.

In Japan, the cellphone is stirring the nation's staid fiction market. Young amateur writers in their teens and 20s who long ago mastered the art of zapping off emails and blogs on their cellphones, find it a convenient medium in which to loose their creative energies and get their stuff onto the Internet. For readers, mostly teenage girls who use their phones for an increasingly wide range of activities, from writing group diaries to listening to music, the mobile novel, as the genre is called, is the latest form of entertainment on the go.

We absolutely despise typing on our cellphone, requiring a QWERTY keyboard to properly get our (at times voluminous) thoughts across. Writing a novel using a cellphone? Ok, maybe a Blackberry -- at least it has a keyboard you can thumb. What's wrong with a notebook or laptop? We're starting to feel the generational shift here in a big way -- and it's kind of freaking us out.

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