by Bob Minzesheimer)
R.L. Stine, who scared millions of kids with his Goosebumps series, plans to tell a "true ghost story I made up."
Novelist Anthony Marra will reveal "the erotic inner life of Mr. Bates," poking fun at Downton Abbey's repressed valet.
And authors Brad Meltzer and A.J. Jacobs will take turns writing about two men arguing about what their final words should be.
Each of their stories will be told in bursts of 140 characters or less in an emerging form of episodic short stories: twitter fiction or twitterature.
All are part of the second Twitter Fiction Festival (#twitterfiction), opening Wednesday night at a staged event in New York, followed by four days and nights of online storytelling.
Twitter, home to 500 million tweets a day, organized its first fiction festival in November 2012 to show off the literary uses of the social networking site, more commonly used to share news, opinions, gossip and self-promotion.
For the second festival, Twitter is teaming up with publishing giant Penguin Random House and the Association of American Publishers. USA TODAY is the official media sponsor, helping to promote and publicize the festival.
MORE: #TwitterFiction Festival 2014 Schedule
"Our users are engaging in all kinds of interesting experiments with creative storytelling," says Twitter's Andrew Fitzgerald. "It's a wide-open frontier. We want to share that and invite other to participate."
Among the examples he cities is Jennifer Egan's short story Black Box, about a futurist spy, first told in more than 600 tweets, then published in The New Yorker in 2012.
Twitter fiction, Fitzgerald notes, isn't limited to a "micro story" told in 140 characters, although he adds that would have worked for Hemingway's famous six-word short story: "For Sale: baby shoes – never worn."
The festival invited 27 authors, including comedian Jim Gaffigan and novelist Alexander McCall Smith, to share stories online. Stine and six others will perform on stage as their stories are tweeted and streamed online (twitterfictionfestival.com).
In an online audition, the festival also invited anyone to propose ideas. Of 700 submissions, about 25 were chosen to be scheduled "showcases," including a father-to-be tweeting from his daughter's point of view in the womb and the account of a blizzard paralyzing a fictional airport told through fictional weather maps.
McCall Smith (The No. 1 Ladies Detectives series) calls Twitter fiction "a legitimate form of literature," and compares it to "painting on a very small canvas, or a series of small canvases."
Stine likes the idea that his ghost story will be "instantly shared with my 113,000 followers on Twitter."
He has found his followers are mostly readers in their 20s and 30s who read Goosebumps when they were kids. "It's a great way to connect with them. It's also a delicious distraction, but it can be fun and we need fun in our lives."
(Readers can follow USA TODAY's live coverage of the Twitter Fiction Festival @usatodaybooks.)