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twitter fiction
using a first-person tool for a third-person perspective
by erik lars myers (@TopFermented)

Sometimes, useful tools exist where you least expect them to. As I've been working through the process of exploring the amazing world of Web 2.0 applications, I've come to see utility in places that I would not have previously expected. The social tool that I find myself becoming increasingly impressed and attached to is Twitter.

Twitter can be referred to as a micro-blog. As a Twitter user, you have 140 characters to relay your thoughts of the moment to the world. 140 characters is a lot shorter than you might think. Think "25 words or less" and you're just about right. As I've mentioned before, this type of communication isn't for everybody. It is, however, becoming increasingly intertwined with mainstream media in some really interesting ways.

During this year's election it was possible to follow Barack Obama via Twitter and there are a few companies that are performing customer service via Twitter. Here and there, you'll even find fictional characters on Twitter. Most appear to be marketing vehicles, but it's not always easy to say.

You can follow Mia Cross, a character from Showtime's Californication - the feed is definitely sponsored by the network. On the other hand, a group of fans dedicated to A&E's Mad Men have been twittering a sizable portion of the show's characters for a while now. A&E originally shut the Twitter feeds down, but they apparently have somebody smart on their IT staff, because they are back up and running again - though it would appear that at least some of them are run by A&E, now.

Finally there are some fictional Twitters that descend into the realm of the hilarious and absurd. It is possible to follow "Michael Bay" and even Cobra Commander of G.I. Joe fame. These begin to tread a fine line, which I'd like to explore here.

Twitter might be a stronger tool for fiction than it appears at first blush. There is already a Twitter Fiction feed out there, in which someone is using their 25 words to create miniature works of fiction - and it can be pretty brilliant. But, I pose to you, instead, the thought of character development via Tweet.

Certainly, as you can see above, fictional characters can be created in Twitter easily. In fact, it's so easy that fanfic can take on a very personal tone. People move from writing about their favorite characters to writing as their favorite characters. Why not take it a step further and use it for characters that don't already exist out in the world: your characters, from your own work of fiction?

Let's set up a fictional character as an example: Single working mom, Joanna Hart. Take a look at the feed and see how much you can learn about her from just a few simple posts. What a way to develop a character! Here you have a method that allows you to explore a character from first person perspective outside the immediate context of your story. It's common for authors to have a full character profile written including details that will never show up in their work of fiction, but how often do you take the time to step inside the minutiae of a character's life?

Here you have a scratch pad, you have place to explore voice. What are the salient points of their day? What's happening that is worth it, for them, to document? What's more: how do they say it? How much can you communicate about your character in a span of 25 words or less with no narration? Find a willing collaborator and you have a place for a dialogue. If you're ambitious, there's no reason not to have multiple Twitter feeds with your characters interacting.

Finally, you have the possibility of unwitting collaboration and public feedback. Unless you specify them as private, Twitter feeds are searchable. For whatever reason, random people can, and will, find your feed and follow it. They will comment on it and they will interact with you. Reveal the feed as fictional or play it out - it's entirely up to you. Either way, you have another way in which your character can grow - and possibly in directions that you hadn't previously considered.

This is an idea that is waiting to be explored. Twitter, like many other emerging technologies, is a blank canvas for you to use for whatever possibility you see fit. To use it for fiction - your fiction - is to breathe creative life into a new medium while supplementing your own. Go forth and Tweet.


Writer, beer drinker, brewer. Not necessarily in the order. For more, check Top Fermented and Mystery Brewing Company.

more about erik lars myers


when the moon hits your eye
a prologue
by erik lars myers
topic: writing
published: 6.13.07

spelling entropy
confronting the heat-death of spelling knowledge
by erik lars myers
topic: writing
published: 5.16.05


sandra thompson
11.21.08 @ 6:38a

Okay, I just signed up for Twitter and sent six or seven invitations out. I'll keep you posted.

tracey kelley
11.21.08 @ 7:25a

I'm afraid people just won't care enough to follow my Twittering.

erik myers
11.21.08 @ 9:14a

But they don't have to - you can do it for your own development. Or you can ask people to follow and comment.

Hey... I write for Intrepid Media, and I don't always get critiqued.. but I still write.

alex b
11.21.08 @ 4:41p

Hmm. I've never used this. I'm leery of it, especially because there is the possibility that I will succumb to the Tweeting. Facebook has already kicked my ass, so if this is as fun as it sounds, I'm in trouble.

ted byrnes
12.1.08 @ 11:07a

I agree with Alex. I found Facebook such a distracting and colossal waste of time that I took my page down and shunned it. I am now back on it and find it the same distracting and colossal waste of time as I did before. See where I am going with this? By the same token, I find the prospect of creating a fictional character on Twitter (I have not used it yet) absolutely fascinating. I, too, am in trouble.

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