Confessions of a Would-be Twitter Novelist
“What could be more practical for a man caught between the Scylla of a literary culture and the Charybdis of post-literate technology to make himself a raft of ad copy?” (169 characters) -Marshall McLuhan, The Gutenberg Galaxy
According to Wikipedia, the Twitter network began is 2006 and as of this writing in 2010 is approaching 200 million users worldwide. (133 characters) By 2009 I realized Twitter was a happening thing and if I didn’t jump on the bandwagon I’d be left behind with my ocarina and tambourine. (137 characters) But how to proceed? I had dabbled in Facebook and MySpace, but this Twitter thing was different. (136 characters) Limited to 140 characters (or less), with no photos, videos or extended links, Twitter conveyed the brief, the inconsequential, the trivial. (140 characters) In other words, the Twitter medium was a perfect vehicle for my literary aspirations. (85 characters)
I conceived a literary experiment: Was it possible to maintain a narrative structure and attract a reading public 140 characters at a time? (139 characters) After 15 months and the more than 800 tweets that make up this Twitter novel, I can say confidently that the answer is “no.” (125 characters)
I adopted the detective genre as the driver for my story because the murder mystery is such a standard part of our popular culture. (131 characters) Would my hero solve the crime? Would he undergo physical and mental trials? Would he get the girl? Would he spawn a publishing franchise? (137 characters) I soon realized that Twitter forced me to adopt the serial techniques of newspaper comic page story telling. (108 characters) To succeed I needed to learn and adopt the narrative strategies of Al Capp or Milton Caniff as well as Raymond Chandler or Mickey Spillane. (139 characters) How did comic strip authors hold their readers’ attention each day and tell a joke while moving the story forward? (114 characters) How did mystery writers plant clues to direct or misdirect their readers while inexorably leading to the revelatory climax? (123 characters)
I created a new Twitter account “RKBs_Twitstery” as a container for my novel and coined a new term for the Twitter mystery genre. (129 characters) Starting on May 6, 2009 I posted a new Executive Severance tweet twice a day every day for 15 months, never missing a deadline. (127 characters) The 140 character limit required intensive wordsmithing, creative editing, the omission of punctuation in some cases and a lot of counting. (139 characters). I cultivated brevity, concision and obsessive-compulsion. Fortunately, once I completed my writing I was able to leave these habits behind. (139 characters) The cumulative result of my Twitter efforts is collected in the volume you hold in your hands. (94 characters).