Twitter Fiction

I hate twitter. I make no secret about that. I have no desire whatsoever to read inane posts about the minute details of people’s lives. I deal with that sort of thing enough when I live through the more boring parts of my own life. I can’t stand the fact that people can now export their twitters into their blogs because it means that to find the meandering, thought-provoking posts I love I have to wade through lists of mindless tweets. For similar reasons, I also hate facebook status feeds. If I want to know the minutiae of someone’s life, I ask them. I don’t want it popping up on my screen in feeds and blogs where I didn’t expect or desire it. The entire thing seems very hollow to me. I could follow someone’s tweets for an entire year without feeling even remotely close to them, whereas having one deep conversation with someone or following their (thoughtful) blog can foster a much more substantial connection than seeing them every day.

I read a New York Times Magazine article that explains how twitter, facebook feeds etc. can create a state of ambient awareness that makes people more connected to each other. I’m skeptical, but here’s the article:

NY Times Magazine Article

However, that’s not the point of this post. In the Jan 16-22 issue of The Boston Phoenix, there is an article titled “Novel Idea: Twitter Fiction, Post-Modernism, Post by 140-Character Post” that I found interesting. In the article, Mike Miliard talks about people who are writing novels with twitter. Some of those people are writing novels together, one tweet at a time. Now this is an idea I actually like. When I was a child I used to love telling group stories. My friends and I would sit around and make up a story together, each person contributing a chunk and then passing the job to the next, until we had reached the (usually crazy) ending. In recent years, I’ve tried doing this in livejournal comments and the results were similarly entertaining. I don’t anticipate joining twitter anytime soon, but perhaps my next blog post will be a group story…

Boston Phoenix Article

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Published in: on January 18, 2009 at 10:30 pm  Comments (4)  

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4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Yea I don’t really understand the point of Twitter, very annoying stuff. I can’t seem to get the NY Times link to work so I can see what I’m missing… But I do like the idea of group stories! I’m in!

  2. I think I fixed the link.

    In theory, having minute updates about your friends all the time so you always know what’s going on with them sounds cool. In practice I wouldn’t want it. I can call or email people when I want to know what’s going on with them. If I call or email them frequently enough, I’ll get the minute updates.

    Group stories sound good to me. Now I just have to think of a good opener…

  3. Great post Anthony. I opened a twitter account several months ago but could never post anything because of a gut-level repulsion similar to what you noted above. My aversion wasn’t just at the silliness of people describing their underwear or how they waited in line for a sandwich, but more the seemingly endless and gleeful fiesta of self-promotion, marketing, and consumerism (although there are those out there advancing really good feeds / threads. . .if you can wade through all the other tripe.)

    Anyway, the point of all this was that a month ago I began a literary experiment, in essence a reaction to what I felt was the vapidity of your average tweet. Why not take it in the opposite direction, go for something soulful?

    My concept was simple–I’d write a fictional work only in “real-time” just like other tweets. In other words, no preexisting manuscript. Everything began and continues to be composed and published on the spot. It sets up an interesting dynamic as current events, the time of day, weather, etc. play into the story.

    After a month I’m up to 6,000+ words and feel like I’m going strong. I’ve done quite a bit of scouting online and found, surprisingly, that this is the first real literary novel going on twitter right now, at least written this way. There are those out there (god knows why?) breaking down Ulysses into 140 character fragments, others writing micro-stories, and still others writing sci-fi / fantasy style pieces. . . and at least one published author working on a novel (Small Places) although his is from an already written manuscript. There’s also one guy I’m trying to follow (and vice versa) doing something similar, but in French.

    I mention this not to blow my own horn but merely to emphasize how fresh and new all this is. Fiction / Poetry, new forms of writing–it’s all just on the brink of being delivered in microformat, perfect for the generations of diminishing attention span.

    And for me, as someone not quite in the new school or the old school, (mainly just the overly-busy, trying-to-raise-a-family-school)I’m finding the form is perfect. I don’t really have time to sit down and dedicate day after day to perfecting a manuscript. This way I just get the words down, the story down, as it comes. It’s liberating.

    As much as you hate twitter, I hope you’ll take a shot at following me (well, my narrator) — http://twitter.com/dahveed_miller

    david

  4. @David

    Sorry it took me a long time to respond. The spam filter caught your comment!

    I like the idea of a twitter novel, but still can’t seem to get over my aversion to the point where I can join the site. Anyway, if I ever end up on twitter I’ll start following you and your novel idea 😉


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