British novelist David Mitchell is an expert when it comes to characters, but not writing 140 characters at a time. Nevertheless, he’s written his latest work for Twitter, publishing the short story in 140-character tweets because that’s how he wants you to read it.
Mitchell, whose novels “number9dream” and “Cloud Atlas” were shortlisted for The Man Booker Prize, admitted he’s not a huge fan of Twitter. “I’m not really a social media animal,” he told the BBC World Service radio station. “I like my privacy. Post Snowden we know that there’s enough people to want to take our privacy away without voluntarily helping them. I don’t want to add to this ocean of trivia and irrelevance.”
Mitchell only created a Twitter account in the first place after his publicist convinced him that it would help promote his upcoming novel “The Bone Clocks.” But he wanted to offer his Twitter followers something more. “It still kind of bothered me a little bit that I was using this Arab Spring-sized technology just to basically say, ‘Hi, I’m going off on the road, come and see me, buy my book.’ It just seemed a bit cheesy, really, so I thought, ‘How can I find a use for it?'”
The story, “The Right Sort,” is narrated by a teen tripping on his mother’s Valium pills for the first time. The boy’s experience of the world on Valium is “a sequence of nice little throbs and pulses,” which he likes because it’s more orderly, Mitchell said. “Those are the tweets. He’s basically thinking in tweets because of the Valium.”
He admits publishing his short story on Twitter is a clever marketing tool for his unrelated upcoming novel. But Mitchell also hopes his short bursts of tweets will provide a stronger reading experience than the traditional method.
“With Twitter it’s less like a balloon flight where you look down and see the text and more like sort of a train ride with a very narrow window through rapidly changing landscapes and tunnels,” he said. “You can’t see it all at once.”
“The Right Sort” will be comprised of 280 tweets over the course of a week, The Guardian reports. Mitchell has been tweeting since early this week and will continue posting bursts of 20 tweets each day through the weekend.
Here’s one of his recent tweets.
I wait. Silence. Just my breaths, the empty passage, running down the side. The brambles move like hungry underwater things.
— David Mitchell (@david_mitchell) July 18, 2014
Mitchell admitted writing his short story for a Twitter audience was challenging. He compared the narrow confines of a 140-character tweet to a straight jacket, but acknowledged that it helped him write a story that was new for him.
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