Thursday, 28 January 2010

#FridayFlash A Day In The Life

So here's my attempt to tell a story in tweets. Inspired partly by an, I'm sure, untrue story (which I won't repeat. Also  by my lovely former classmate Catherine Chanter, who showed me you can do this sort of thing . (She's brilliant at it, this is a pale imitation.)

Having seen a few comments, I seem to be baffling people. Not my intent. So, try reading this several times backwards and forwards. Think of it as someone's Twitter page, which shows events in reverse... I've changed a few things, so will be intrigued if it becomes clearer now.


misspiggy Brangelina to split? Do I want them to stay together for the kids or him to get back with Jen? Hmm…
1 minute ago from Tweet Deck

@jollyjenny @laserlight @pirates_ofthecaribbean @second_handman Thanxs for the messages.
2 minutes ago from Tweet Deck

misspiggy So…I'm back...He’s gone…He's really gone...How’s the Twitterverse?
3 minutes ago from Tweet Deck

misspiggy Got to go now. CU L8terxxx
about 9 hours ago from Tweet Deck

misspiggy RT @laserlight Alicia Keys snags fiancee Aah
about 9 hours ago from Tweet Deck

misspiggy @jollyjenny. After scientific test, I admit you’re right. Chocolate spread IS better than honey on toast.
about 9 hours ago from Tweet Deck

misspiggy@ pirates_ofthecaribbean. It’s got to be Britney hasn’t it?
about 9 hours ago from Tweet Deck

misspiggy Really, really must go… but… a couple of burning questions need answering first…
about 9 hours ago from Tweet Dec

misspiggy Looks like flashing lights were necessary. Brother appears to need trip to casualty. Something cardiac (possibly). He could be joking of course.
about 9 hours ago from Tweet Deck

misspiggy Son is knocking VERY LOUDLY. Better go & see what he wants.
about 10 hours ago from Tweet Deck

misspiggy @laserlight. Aww, that's sweet. Wish you were my brother.
about 10 hours ago from Tweet Deck

misspiggy Madonna to conceive one last time?  She wouldn't would she?
about 10 hours ago from Tweet Deck

misspiggy Very strange. Can see flashing lights out there. What has Son done now?
about 10 hours ago from Tweet Deck

misspiggy @ pirates_ofthecaribbean. Absolutely. My Pop Princess of the 90’s? Let me think…
about 10 hours ago from Tweet Deck

misspiggy I'm gonna fight, fight, fight for this love... Perhaps if I sing loud enough, Brother will  Leave of his Own Accord. (Not a fan).
about 10 hours ago from Tweet Deck

misspiggy Listening to Cheryl Cole on my i-pod. This girl has suffered folks… She deserves better than Ashley…
about 10 hours ago from Tweet Deck

misspiggy Son has just got back from school. Does he come up here to kiss his old Mum?Not likely.
about 10 hours ago from Tweet Deck

misspiggy Currently testing important scientific theory. Chocolate spread V honey - which is best on toast?
about 10 hours ago from Tweet Deck

misspiggy Now if he were to buy me an iPad…
about 10 hours ago from Tweet Deck

misspiggy Fact. My brother is a lazy immature 40 something, who is hogging my sofa. In the middle of the afternoon! Why can't he go and sleep on his own?
about 10 hours ago from Tweet Deck

misspiggy Just been downstairs for materials to test @jollyjenny’s theory of chocolate spread v honey on toast. Will report on research soon.
about 10 hours ago from Tweet Deck

misspiggy @jollyjenny All this talk of chocolate spread is making me hungry. I’m off for a snack and to check on Brother, who is suspiciously quiet...
about 11 hours ago from Tweet Deck

misspiggy @laserlight Yeah iPad looks cool. Will be getting one as soon as I’ve got some spare cash ie never...
about 11 hours ago from Tweet Deck

misspiggy  @second_handman Delighted there’s a man out there so enlightened. Why can’t Brother be more like you?
about 11 hours ago from Tweet Deck

misspiggy@jollyjenny I prefer honey myself.
about 12 hours ago from Tweet Deck

misspiggy Even Son is Better Than That. Though he did set the smoke alarm of at 3.30 the other night. Making toast. (So he says).about 12 hours ago from Tweet Deck

misspiggy …socks on the floor, toilet seat permanently up, football on. It’s like my childhood all over again.
about 12 hours ago from Tweet Deck

misspiggy 3 days and Brother is STILL HERE. He's outstayed his welcome by about 35 hours...Time for him to GO HOME.
about 12 hours ago from Tweet Deck

Copyright c Virginia Moffatt 2010


Cat Russell said...

I like the idea of using the tweets in the story, but I found the tweets by themselves hard to follow. Good idea though!

Virginia Moffatt said...

Thanks. I appreciate it takes a bit of work. Try reading from the bottom up!

Cat Russell said...

Yeah, it reads better the other way, but I still think that filling in gaps between the tweets would be helpful. It's a cool idea!

Marisa Birns said...

Yes, I did read from the bottom up so it was easier.

This is an interesting idea, and you've managed to do it well. The tweets about the son were amusing.

I think, however, that using the celebrities as material took a bit away from it. Maybe keeping it to funny bits about family and universal themes.

Virginia Moffatt said...

Thanks Ganymeder. Thanks Marisa. Very useful comments. I'm not sure that you can sustain a story entirely on tweets, but I was attempting to tell it through the tweet page as you see it on the screen. Thus you work out what has happened by scrolling backwards. Hence no other text - I want you to read between the lines. Perhaps I could have made that explicit.

The point of the celebrity comments was to make it real, and to throw some light on this character who is too busy tweeting trivia to notice what is going on under her nose!

David Masters said...

I feel bad for asking this, but what is going on under her nose? Is her son being abused?

Virginia Moffatt said...

Not at all. I must be being a bit obscure. In an attempt not to give it away to early, I didn't make it clear why the ambulance was called... The brother has been sleeping. She's been listening to music. When she returns, he is gone.

Does it make more sense now?

Whatever, having bemused 3 readers shows that this isn't quite plain enough! Doesn't pay to be too clever...

Virginia Moffatt said...

sorry even my last comment may not explain it.

If I said at the point of ambulance, possible cardiac issues, maybe that would make it clearer.

If you go further down, you see she's had her head phones on, not heard her son shout, seen her brother "sleeping" whilst all the while wrapped up in her twitter world...

More work needed obviously!

John Wiswell said...

Not sure if you want feedback, but I thought I'd try to help.

You have an admirable goal in this story: express something horrible from around the peripheries of someone's attention span. I've also used the Twitter form to tell stories and it's tough because each tweet has to serve like a paragraph. If too many tweets aren't directly connected, one to the next, you lose a lot of readers. Establishing a narrative flow is difficult through tweets. You were also true to the Twitter page format by presenting it backwards, which makes it even harder on readers.

I think the biggest problem is your content and format realism. Honey Vs. Chocolate, Britney at it again, you're so much better than my brother - all stuff that people would totally tweet. But it all drowns out the clues about what happened to the brother, and more importantly, takes focus off of what might have happened to him.

The last problem actually shows up first: if he dies, she gets over it way too fast. That seems woefully unrealistic in fiction, and so we figure it doesn't fit. As the punchline to a wacky comedy that could work, but if you read it from "Brangelina to split?" on down, it reads like she has almost no emotional connection so you figure something as big as her brother dying can't have happened.

Especially with the line that "He could be joking" about having a cardiac issue, it's impossible for us to picture what actually happened. The suggestion that he could be joking implies he's conscious, interacting, etc., which I don't think you intended.

If you read it backwards, from the "first" post on up, she doesn't grieve with the force we'd expect in a normal climax. Either way our minds dismiss clues due to the format and lack of emphasis - just by being so faithful to how a Twitter page might look, it distracts people from getting it.

Hope that's helpful. Cheers!

Virginia Moffatt said...

Thanks John,

All very helpful. I'll have to think how I might do this again to capture the points you rightly raise...I realise the multi tweets can lose people, so I did try to have a number of running themes going through them. Probably needed more work to make them explicit.

I changed the line to include "cardiac" to spell it out more, because people didn't get the brother died earlier. I'd had cardiac in my original, but discarded it because I thought it made it to obvious!

Although, I agree, she doesn't appear to be grieving for her brother, that's actually the point of the piece. This terrible thing has happened in her life and she barely mentions it, gets back to tweeting. There is an 8 hour gap in between so who knows what has gone on? You could read my character as being totally selfish and not really caring for her brother (he's outstayed his welcome after an hour) or interested in her son. Or you could see her as an addict to Twitter. Or as someone who is using Twitter to avoid owning up to her feelings...

Obviously didn't pull it off. But have learnt a lesson or two.
Thanks for commenting. Come by again!

Estrella Azul said...

It does read better from the bottom, very interesting idea.
Maybe you could include some storytelling help between the tweets to connect the ones that aren't that close together :)
John's advice is great! :)

Virginia Moffatt said...

Thanks Estrella,

Well I'm going to think about the whole thing. Still think it's possible to do entirely in tweets! Perhaps, her tweeting from her mobile at the hospital would help too. If I was to change one thing it would be to have her wonder whether the brother was faking it and make a comment such as he was good at dead lions as a child...

Genevieve Jack said...

I like to think of Fridayflash as the perfect opportunity to test drive different ideas. You are to be commended for trying something new! Experimentation is important and this is the place to do it. And, I found this interesting because I feel like I need to incorporate more representation of technology into my novel writing. I think I learned something from your piece.

Anonymous said...

I liked your idea of using the twitter format to write this piece. I admit to feeling lost a few times but trying new things is what it's all about.

Christian Bell said...

I like the concept of this, and it was easier to follow in reverse and made sense as a sort of collection of mini-vignettes. I’m not sure I got it entirely, but I think you do a fairly nice job in what is essentially a fairly difficult form to work with (the “tweet”).

I had the same reaction that Marisa had about the celebrities. It makes more sense in light of what you posted in response.

mazzz in Leeds said...

I read it top to bottom, and then bottom to top - the latter was clearer (although of course that is to be expected!)

Good idea, and good effort!

Anonymous said...

Really creative idea here. I thought it worked pretty well. To me it was a nice critique on society's short attention span and preference to focus on superficial things. It actually reminded me a bit of Amanda Palmer's song, "Oasis." Nice work!

Virginia Moffatt said...

Thanks Christian, Mazz and Elizabeth.

Well it's been an experiment. Certainly worth doing and comments given me lots of food for thought!

Mark Kerstetter said...

I read it the way Mazzz read it, and I think John Wiswell is right on. I also think it's very cool that you attempted this. The idea of a story that can (even must) be read forwards and backwards is fascinating. I'll be thinking about this.

Virginia Moffatt said...

Thank you Mark and Katirra, who I seem to have missed.

This has been a really interesting exercise for me. It's challenged me and readers, and it's gratifying it's made us all think!