Seen the #TapbyWattpad hashtag floating around social media?
Heard about chat stories and wondering what all the fuss is about?
Downloaded Tap but don’t know where to begin?
Tap is a storytelling app that focuses on the emerging short-story-fiction style dubbed chat stories. Chat stories tell an entire story via text messages, usually between two characters. Think of it like you’re spying on someone’s text message exchange, whether it be funny, romantic or scary!
In general, chat stories rely heavily on dialogue and can be read in minutes. Dedicated chat story apps have only been around for a couple of years and include the notable Hooked, as well as the child-focused Amazon Rapids (yet to see a global rollout) and a slew of others. Tap is the latest app by Wattpad to throw its hat into the ring and already it has made a huge impact on the app store charts.
For most writers, chat stories are unexplored territory. So if you’re thinking of taking the plunge into the unchartered waters of Tap, I have compiled three handy tips (that I wish I had known!) to help you get started.
1. YOU HAVE TO WRITE THE STORY ON YOUR PHONE
The entire Tap experience is built around your smart phone (or other smart device). So your Tap story, including text and images, must be written in the app itself. The drawback of this method is obvious – the inability to copy and paste the entire story in one big chunk.
There is an amazing upside, though – no formatting! The Tap interface is very intuitive and the process of transcribing texts is very straight forward. Your entire story is formatted for you in the signature chat-story-style, right before your very eyes.
TIP: Type your entire chat story in a word processing program or scriptwriting program. Then edit, edit, edit! Once you have your final draft – retype your story into the Tap app!
You can, of course, test your entire chat story as if you were the reader in preview mode – use this to spot any errors. Assigning text to the wrong character (or even no character at all) is a big one to look out for!
2. CHAT STORIES ARE SHORT – BUT “SHORT” IS RELATIVE
As already mentioned, Tap is built around smart phones and the entire story plays out like a series of messages sent between two (or more) people. Only so much can be conveyed through text and image messaging.
Unlike conventional novel writing, there is no official word length. While you can write whatever length chat story you wish, I do have some guidelines you may follow based on a random sampling of 20 chat stories (all from the Top Picks list) on the Tap app.
- The shortest Tap story from the sample was 63 taps
- The longest Tap story from the sample was 192 taps
- Exactly half of the stories were over 100 taps but under 140 taps
- The exact average amount of taps worked out to be 132
- The most popular chat story on the app Hide by Dinah comes in at 82 taps.
So there are a few numbers there to get an idea of reader expectations in terms of length. That said, as with any emerging new platform, there is no real playbook yet.
TIP: As with all storytelling, the shortest way to tell your story, is the best way. The most popular chat story on the app is also one of the shortest. There is no need to stretch a story out to accumulate more taps. Telling your story properly, whatever length it may be, is all that matters!
If you’ve got a chat story of Gone with the Wind proportions brewing, by all means give it a go. Don’t let the short length of these chat stories put you off – maybe your long chat story will be the one to break the mould!
3. IMAGES – YOU’LL NEED AT LEAST TWO
You will need one image for your cover and one image for the wallpaper/background of your chat story. In terms of dimensions, using the Wattpad book cover sizing (256×400 pixels) did the trick for me. If images aren’t your friend, you could possibly get away with no wallpaper/background image, especially if it works in well with your story.
The images for chat stories tend to be quite different from book covers, focusing on an image with no writing whatsoever (your title and author name appear as an overlay at the bottom of the image). Check out the app and see what other writers have used to get some ideas.
Another feature of note is that images can be inserted into the text exchange – just like a picture message or snap! Keep this in mind when planning your chat story – it could be a very useful story device. There are size parameters for how the image will be displayed in the messages, so make sure you check it out during a preview.
Keep in mind: you do not need to put images into your chat story! Of the 20 sample stories I referenced earlier, zero had images included in the chat exchanges.
TIP: Find a really striking image, resize it, throw on a filter or two – and you’ve got your cover and/or wallpaper/background. Try an app like Canva to make your image, if you want to keep the entire chat story creation process confined to your phone.
BONUS TIP: YOU DON’T HAVE TO TAP TO TAP!
If you’re concerned that users won’t want to tap the screen two hundred times to read your story – never fear! Instead of tapping the screen, a reader can press down for a moment and the chat story will auto play. There are even three speeds of auto play to choose from.
Note: This feature also works in preview mode.
So in short:
- Write your chat story on a computer first and do all the editing before you rewrite it into Tap.
- Make your chat story whatever length in needs to be (and no longer!).
- Make your chat story images on a computer (or phone app).
- Auto play is your friend.
And one last parting tip: don’t be afraid to experiment! This app is in its infancy and chat stories are still an emerging medium – now is the perfect time to take storytelling risks.
What are you waiting for? Go and download Tap now and start writing your first chat story!
Don’t forget to check out my first Tap story The Break Up Files.
My author name is N. W. Burgess but I go by @AtomicNicky pretty much everywhere. I have a Film and Screen Media degree and graduated with First Class Honors and I’m an early career Screenwriter and Author. I’m from Australia and I have been on Wattpad just over two years. My first Wattpad book, Snow White and The Blood Queen, was featured on the site and was selected by ABC’s Once Upon a Time to be added to their Twisted Fairytales list.
Find @AtomicNicky here: