Tag Archives: twitter

“The Right Sort” by David Mitchell

"The Right Sort" - David Mitchell

Can you tell a short story on Twitter without going stir-crazy with the 140-character limit?

This week, we’re reading a short story originally published on Twitter by one of my favorite authors. David Mitchell is the award-winning and bestselling author of Slade House, The Bone Clocks, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, Black Swan Green, Cloud Atlas, Number9Dream, and Ghostwritten. Twice shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, Mitchell was named one of the 100 most influential people in the world by Time in 2007.

Mitchell isn’t afraid to cross genres in his novels, and so it wasn’t a big surprise that he made the leap to Twitter. He posted “The Right Sort” in the form of 280 tweets over one week. In the story, a teenage boy named Nathan Bland is dragged to a party at the mysterious posh house of Lady Briggs. He slips one of his mother’s Valium pills to help with his anxiety, and from there the story dives into a strange and suspenseful tale that would give Edgar Allan Poe the shivers.

Here are a few discussion questions:

  • Did the Twitter format change your experience of his story?
  • Although we experienced reading this story in one sitting in a continuous stream, how do you think Twitter fans would have experienced this story in real time?
  • Could this Twitter format have worked if it was a romance or comedy, instead of a suspense story?
  • Did Mitchell leave out any story elements due to space constraints? Did it feel like a full story?
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Twitter Fiction: Wave of the Future?

23lies_11Regarding my recent absence on the MUG blog, forgive me. I’ve just started my MFA at CalArts, and resettling into the mode of school (and, to my great surprise and chagrin, actual homework) has been time-consuming.

Speaking of grad school, one of my first assignments was to write a piece entitled “Self-Portrait in Twenty-Three Rounds.” Because I can’t ever just do as I’m told, I wrote this.

Yeah. That’s something that vaguely qualifies as Twitter Fiction.

I’ve never done Twitter fiction before, but a bunch of poety-type people do it. Authors do it. Satirists do it. Everyone’s doing it. (Come on. You should too. Your parents probably won’t even know you did it.)

As Andrew Fitzgerald says in this TED talk, radio in the 1920s really changed the face of storytelling. With the new medium created a new demand/possibility for episodal stories, told in a theatrical, audio play form, giving rise to what eventually would become the audiobook.

Fitzgerald argues that Twitter’s new constrictive medium really lends itself to stories in a serial format.

Serial stories became immensely popular in the Romantic and Victorian Era. You might have heard of Charles Dickens. Ever wondered why his characters seem to be perpetually on their death beds? That’s what kept readers yearning to read the next chapter. When ships stocked with the newest chapter would arrive in America from Britain, readers would push and shove and crowd the docks, putting Black Friday crowds to shame.

Stories on Twitter can have a beginning, middle, and end, just like more traditional narrative. They can involve Twitter feeds from characters within the story, who take turns butting in on the narrative and therefore inform the story. They can be satires on existing stories or on current events.

There are even paying markets for Twitter fiction. You heard me. Paying.

I’m fascinated by this art form, especially because it’s main feature is accessibility (and, of course, brevity). Some people may say that it’s fleeting, as millions of tweets get flushed down the feed every second in favor of new material, but actually, it may not be so ephemeral. The Library of Congress has begun a project, which some have termed Herculean, to archive all of America’s tweets. Who knows? Our great-grand-children might even be able to search for a filtered instagramed picture of what we had for lunch on this day, fifty years into the future.

What are your thoughts? I would love to explore this medium more thoroughly. If you were to write a Twitter story, what would it be about?

(P.S. On an unrelated note, I’m giving away books in my October Newsletter. Sign up to find out how you can win some.)

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