Keitai is Japenese for cell-phone, shōsetsu for novel; so keitai shōsetsu is “cellphone novel” (also “thumb novel”): a new lit genre started by young .jp girls. Their novels are posted to a media-sharing site as a series of text messages, which millions of .jp-teens download and read on their mobile phones.
Readers rapidly respond, and sometimes suggest. Some authors have used the best suggestions to alter their plots. Quite a few of these cell-phone serials have evolved into successful paper novels, selling 100K’s and even 1M’s of copies. Readers often purchase not the paperback but the hardcover as a momento of their literary interactivity. Half of the Japan’s half the top 10 fiction bestsellers of late have started as keitai shōsetsu.
The New Yorker interviewed author Mone:
Mone started posting her novel straight from her phone to a media-sharing site called Maho i-Land (Magic Island), never looking over what she wrote or contemplating plot. “I had no idea how to do that, and I did not have the energy to think about it,” she says. She gave her tale a title, “Eternal Dream,” and invented, as a proxy for her adolescent self, a narrator named Saki, who is in her second year of high school and lives in a hazily described provincial town. “Where me and my friends live, in the country, there aren’t any universities,” Mone wrote. “If you ride half an hour or so on the train, there’s a small junior college, that’s all.” Saki has a little brother, Yudai, and a close-knit family, a portrait that Mone painted in short, broad strokes: “Daddy / Mom / Yudai / I love you all so much.” Before long, however, Saki, walking home from school, is abducted by three strange men in a white car: “—Clatter, clatter — / The sound of a door opening. / At that moment . . . / —Thud— / A really dull blunt sound. / The pain that shoots through my head.” The men rape her and leave her by the side of the road, where an older boy from school, Hijiri, discovers her. He offers her his jersey, and love is born. More…