Five dares in and I am already making literary judgements about the Fourth Fiction contestants based on their tweeted responses to the Host’s literary challenges. Some have made me smile, some have irritated me with their style, some have impressed me with their clever use of language or ideas. In fact, it has been interesting to see just how much you can glean about a writer based on a handful of 140 character tweets.

Tuck has stayed true to form, producing work you might expect from someone who describes himself as a ‘proud working American not afraid to fight the bad fight……My writing may piss you off but it won’t bore you.’ While we have yet to see anything in his responses to the dares that would piss us off, they have certainly not been boring. The fact that he produced two responses well below the 140 character limit allowed by the Host shows evidence of a terseness to his writing. Here’s hoping we see some paired down, vibrant prose when the real writing starts. If anyone is going to give us that, it will probably be Tuck.

His response to Dare 4 is his best so far, redrafting Isis’ lovey-dovey reworking of the ending of ‘The Three Little Pigs’ to provide the best evidence of his compassionless conservative persona:

‘Pig opened the door, arms outstretched. “Peace brother.” Wolf paused then tore him to pieces. There was just no challenge with hippies.’

Here’s hoping Tuck will provide the hard nosed fiction he has promised when the competition proper begins.

In direct contrast to Tuck we have Nora, a ‘happily-married Christian mother of four’ and the voice of reason and fairplay in the pre-Dare twitterings. In her response to Dare 3 (Write a story from the point of view of a sperm), there is a tenderness and soft touch when addressing character that is endearing:

‘He squiggled shyly outside her chambers, unsure if he should knock or barge in. He never really thought this part through.’

Nora’s voice is altogether more sensitive than those of her competitors, capable of making a black widow spider seem remorseful:

‘The black widow stared bleakly at the mangled remains of her husband. It was not the trial seperation she had envisioned.’

I’d like to see Nora utilise her ability to create sympathetic characters in her fuller fiction later in the contest.

In the space of a few tweets, a couple of contestants have actually managed to turn me off their writing already. Isis, who has yet to provide a bio (though what’s the bet, when it arrives, it describes her in the image of some new age version of an old style goddess ), has festooned her dare tweets with images of Shiva and Vishnu, while touching on Tantric sex rituals. Let’s face it, Tuck’s reworking of her Three Pig’s task improved it no end. Her biggest crime though would be selecting the most pompous and overblown pop song ever written (Earth Song) in the Michael Jackson title dare. All her decorative imagery just distracts the reader and alienates anyone not interested in that kind of thing. There seems very little to relate to if you don’t burn incense and pretend to be spiritual. Maybe its the juice fast taking and in the competition proper she’ll produce something with a little more solidity .

The other competitor who has produced the ‘meh’ response in me has to be Igor. I was hoping for good things from him after reading his bio:

‘A 19th-century flaneur misplaced in a 21st-century techno-dystopia. Awaiting the invention of the time machine. Short bios offend me.’

Sad to say, his first three dare tweets were mired in vague imagery and supposedly impressive vocabulary. However, Dare 5 did see Igor redeem himself somewhat with his much snappier take on the Michael Jackson song title inspired sex scene:

‘One morning, after listening to “Beat It”, young Edmund decided it was time to overcome his fear of onanism.’

Here the word choice fits the theme and the tone and the whole thing gives a sense of character. More of this please Igor and maybe we can forget the slow start.

The first of Utah’s dare tweets saw her playing with words, just as she had in her vegetable tweet fiction of the competition’s first ten days, to describe an act of cannibalism:

‘Stranded in the Arctic, he killed himself so she wouldn’t starve. “I ate you,” she sobbed over his gleaming bones. “I ate your guts.”‘

Unfortunately her subsequent tweets haven’t been as clever. Utah has shown she is able to play about with language, creating engaging and imaginative flights of fancy in the space of a tweet. Whether she can turn this into engaging fiction is yet to be seen.

Omar, in a past life ‘a sunny womanising troubadour,’ has produced some servicable responses, though nothing truly stand out. I did like his sperm’s eye view campfire tales:

‘They stared at him wide-eyed around the campfire. “Ay, me lads. Some died from the collision, spermicide fried the rest.”‘

Other than this though, his dare tweets have lacked any distinctive voice. Perhaps the competiton real will show us the real Omar. Same goes for Olaf. His most intriguing piece of writing so far has been his bio:

‘Gulf of Maine fisherman. Surly bastard with a sentimental streak. I date like I fish: further offshore than I should be and always looking for the one that got away.’

And Coco completes the trio of unremarkable contestants for me. Coco presented us with her dream self in her bio:

‘a young Sophia Lauren, dressed in Coco Chanel, jet-setting the world with a thousand lovers feeding from her hand.’

It would be good to see some of this glamour in her fiction. So far her dare tweets have done the job required and nothing more.

Fido is one contestant who has me a little undecided. While I can understand a need to condense language in the tweets, Fido’s use of abbreviations and free approach to punctuation in his dare fiction has left me a little irritated, not least because the others have managed to tell their stories without resorting to this. This could just be his literary voice though, so I’ll give the benefit of the doubt here. Fido’s biography, ‘Reformed pickpocket; unreformed hellion; poker con man; savvy dumpster diver; NYC bike messenger,’ leads me to believe he may have interesting story or two to tell. Here’s hoping he has an interesting way to tell it too.

I’m afraid that Tess switched me off the minute she mentioned ‘chick lit’ in her bio. I was expecting to be underwhelmed by her competition fiction. Happy to say, her dare tweets have turned this around a bit. Her cheeky take on the Michael Jackson dare is her high point so far:

‘They were into creative role play. Today he was The Man in the Mirror. He wore one white glove and it wasn’t on his hand.’

Her tweet fiction is starting to suggest her longer fiction might actually be interesting.

Which, of the contestants to post responses to the non-compulsory dares, leaves us with Rhae. It seems, from at least two of Rhae’s dares and a few of her pre-dare tweets, that she is presenting herself as some sort of social commentator. If so, she better be a bloody good writer or her longer pieces will be at best half-baked political diatribe and at worst downright boring. In the absence of a bio it is hard to put Rhae’s dare tweets in context. If she is to be the competitions political and social conscience then she needs to make the politics serve the story rather than the story serve the politics.

And through all of this Fyor’s silence continues. Just when we will hear from the enigma wrapped in a mystery cloaked in a conundrum remains to be seen.

With a few more days of dares left we should see the competitor’s continue to develop their twitterfiction voices. On the 24th July, Fourth Fiction host, Constantine Markides, has promised more changes prior to the 4th August kick off for the competition proper. Keep checking out the @fourthfiction twitter feed for the latest from the competition.

Fourth Fiction is the world’s first blog based reality TV show currently streaming on Twitter.