The award-winning author David Mitchell is writing a new short story, and you can read his work-in-progress on Twitter.
Over the past four days, Mitchell has intermittently posted tweets from the perspective of his narrator, an obsessive stalker and hacker. The story is told in the style of slang-filled tweets, rather than 140-character snippets of narrative. But the Twitter handle @I_Bombadil is a reference to a Tolkien character, and there are frequent cultural allusions amid the hashtags and emojis.
Ever see GIRL WITH A PEARL EARRING film? Nottalotta action TBH, but v.classy allthesame. Some1 wrote novelisation2. (Like u I like books)xB— I_Bombadil (@I_Bombadil) September 7, 2015
This isn’t Mitchell’s first piece of #TwitterFiction (he’s tweeting this piece to promote his upcoming novel Slade House, which has its origins in a 6,000-word Twitter story, “The Right Sort”). And Mitchell isn’t the only respected writer to take Twitter fiction seriously.
Philip Pullman spent several months tweeting the tale of Jeffrey the housefly, Pulitzer prize-winner Jennifer Egan published Black Box via The New Yorker’s Twitter feed, and Margaret Atwood was one of many established authors who took part in this year’s #TwitterFiction festival.
Jeffrey listless, melancholic. My fault: I left a volume of French verse open on the kitchen table and he’d spent the night on Baudelaire.— Philip Pullman (@PhilipPullman) November 21, 2013
There’s no doubt that writers’ interest in Twitter fiction is partly driven by publishers. Authors are encouraged to use social media to engage with their readers, and a large Twitter following can translate into strong book sales.