Twillers: the Literary Equivalent of Gamma Rays

Whole Foods uses it to update product information;
The L. A. Fire Department uses it to alert firefighters to blazes;
NASA uses it to break news of Mars Lander discoveries;
And a certain presidential candidate used it to update voters on his political activities.

Now Twitter is being used by would-be novelists to blast installments of their books in progress to friends. Twitter is the social networking service that enables users to blog in microbursts of no more than 140 characters. To give you some sense of what that means, the previous two sentences are 187 characters long, meaning that if they were a scene in my novel I would have to trim 47 characters to bring it down to the length of an acceptable “tweet,” as Twitter posts are called. If you tend to logorrhea, Twitter is an excellent antidote. I have revised the above two verbose sentences and pared them down to a 139-character miracle of concision:

Pre-Twitter:

Now Twitter is being used by would-be novelists to blast installments of their books in progress to friends. Twitter is the social networking service that enables users to blog in microbursts of no more than 140 characters.

Post-Twitter:

Now Twitter, the social networking service, is being used by novelists to blast installments of books in progress to friends. Blogs must be less than 141 characters.

It’s possible that, at 140 characters per installment, a work of Jamesian length and quality is achievable, but don’t count on it. In fact, authors are loath to dignify their creations with the term “novel”. Even “novelette” may be far too grandiose. Teeny-Weeny Novelini? Actually, there is a word for the new genre, according to Matt Richtel, writing about the phenomenon in the New York Times. It’s called a Twiller – that is, Twitter-thriller. The author – or perhaps tweeter, to avoid confusion with such practitioners as Tolstoy and Balzac – delivers blasts to other users signed up to receive them, and voila! – in three or four centuries, you have a full-length book! Here’s the plot of Richtel’s story:

It’s about a man who wakes up in the mountains of Colorado, suffering from amnesia, with a haunting feeling he is a murderer. In possession of only a cellphone that lets him Twitter, he uses the phone to tell his story of self-discovery, 140 characters at a time. Think “Memento” on a mobile phone, with the occasional emoticon.

Where can I sign up? Here.

We’ve been updating you on the Japanese proclivity for cellphone fiction, but it would seem that our Asian counterparts are far too long-winded for American twiller tweeters impatient to claim their Nobel Prize for Literature.

So, tweeters, work on discarding those adjectives and adverbs. And while you’re at it, cut down on those character-bloating verbs and nouns. And I’ve always wondered just what the hell we need pronouns for, anyway.

Richard

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