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Thanks, But I’ll Stay Hooked on Books

If you read last week’s blog, you know I recently discovered Flipboard. And it was on Flipboard that I learned about Hooked; a new and popular spin on the very short story genre (aka flash-fiction).

Being a short story writer myself, it piqued my interest, so I decided to find out what all the hoo-ha was about. It turns out that Hooked is a hot app for smartphones and other devices that provides “chat stories.” In other words, stories played out in the format of text messages. Intimate dialogues between two people played out in front of a captive (and paying) audience. Sound familiar?

On its surface, it sounds kind of interesting. And let’s face it, everyone loves to snoop. That’s what the bulk of TV entertainment is about these days. Hell, reality TV has built its entire multi-billion-dollar foundation on the fact that people just love to peek in on other people’s private lives. As Yale History Professor Timothy Snyder says in his book On Tyranny: 20 Lessons From the Twentieth Century, people have an inherently salacious interest in other people’s affairs. (Great one hour book by the way, if you haven’t read it yet!)

But it turns out that there’s something wrong with this premise. When it was a bunch of nobodies willing to sell their souls for their fifteen minutes of fame by signing up for Big Brother nearly 20 years ago, it seemed sufficiently surreal that it was good for a laugh and a bit of a distraction at the end of a long day.

It turns out, privacy is important, but not for the obvious reasons. If you’re into politics, regardless of party affiliation, you are probably aware that in the last presidential election cycle Wikileaks hacked the Democratic National Committee’s email account. And one of the most exciting snippets to be gleaned from literally hundreds of thousands of emails was…. Wait for it…… John Podesta’s recipe for creamy risotto. I sh..kid you not. This leads me back to the Hooked app, and the various others available, like Yarn, Readit, Chat Stories and Tap. They’re incredibly BORING!

I only downloaded Hooked, as it is the one getting all of the fanfare at the moment, and I started my first story with a completely open mind. From what I understand, there are novel writers who have switched over to exclusively writing chat stories these days, and as I’ve yet to publish my first novel-length work, I felt I could hardly judge. The one I chose was billed as a thriller, and opened with some promise. A (one assumes) teenage girl called Tiffany (I know, that in itself should have told me something), is home alone and hears crying down in the basement. She texts her mom, and ....the story is off to the races.

From there, as a consumer, I just needed to tap my screen to get the next text in the conversation between the two to learn more about Tiffany's predicament. For some bizarre reason, every now and then a few pictures thrown in the mix. By about the thirtieth text, I was saying, “Oh, for F’s sakes!” and by the fortieth, I was ready to throw my phone across the room.

Unfortunately, although I was done with Hooked, it wasn’t done with me. Just like all good apps, to lure me back, Hooked sent audible alerts when I had been away from its ridiculous story for too long, teasing me with the next line in the conversation, as if it was enough to lure me back to Tiffany’s plight. Unfortunately for Tiffany, her mom, the crying child in the basement, the police that clearly weren’t running lights and sirens, they were going to have to figure it out without me.

I deleted the app without a second thought, because there are real page turners out there just waiting for my attention!

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