My daughter and her friend were laughing raucously in the restaurant at the stream of messages appearing on their phones - nothing unusual in that, you say, except the content seemed very strange... on closer inspection I discovered the messages appeared every time they hit a key. With shock, I realised that these were not messages, but a story. The kids (both aged 14) were reading a story that had been specifically written as a series of text messages - from an app called Hooked [and there are other similar apps out there too, like Tap].

If at this point you are yawning and wondering why I'm talking about an app that topped the Apple downloads a year ago, then you are probably less than 30 years old. Otherwise, let me introduce you to the app that is currently all the rage amongst my daughter and her friends. You can pick stories from a variety of genres; romance, fantasy, sci-fi, and so on. The most popular in my daughter's friend group are the horror stories - remember this is the generation weened on Stranger Things. The stories are told via text message - almost as though you were watching a friends conversation on their phone. Every time you hit a key, another message appears. Here's an example:


If you are not a subscriber, the story pauses and you have to wait before you can continue - nearly always leaving you on a cliffhanger! For subscribers, there are lots of stories to choose from, and also the ability to upload your own story... which makes it an interesting platform for writers.

The numbers of downloads and stories available is quite staggering now, and the format is proving incredibly popular with the 'snapchat' generation. Hooked compare themselves to the classic epistolary novels of the past - such as Bram Stoker's Dracula.

The original stories were commissioned, and while subscribers can add their own tales, there does not appear to be any way an author can gain royalties from the popularity of their stories. Mind you, that's not so different from the 'real' publishing world, so perhaps that is a moot point.

If you have not yet taken a look at the format, I would encourage you to give it a try. Everyone should write at least one message-based story. It feels, to me, very like flash fiction in the early days of that genre - lots of people experimenting, and a genuine new class of writing emerging.

One warning - a fair number of the stories do have adult content - and they can also include images etc. so not surprisingly you will find a fair amount of content that you might not want your teenagers viewing. Just saying. 

I love the fact that it is encouraging reading, and writing, in a new generation that have spent too long 'hooked' on phones and social media. I only wish we'd come up with the idea first :)