July 2014 | Nate Pedersen

David Mitchell Publishes Twitter Story

Yesterday the novelist David Mitchell, author of "The Cloud Atlas," began publishing a new 6,000 word short story via Twitter entitled "The Right Sort." (@david_mitchell)  The story, set in 1978, will grow by about 20 tweets each day with postings in the morning and afternoon.  Each segment is limited by Twitter's parameters to 140 characters in length, a limitation that Mitchell described as a "diabolical treble-strapped textual straitjacket."  The story, which will comprise 280 tweets, is about a boy tripping on his mother's Valium pills.

The experience of writing the story for Twitter inspired some interesting commentary on the medium by Mitchell, who said to The Guardian that the structure of the tweets alters how the text is read. 

"Reading off a page is like looking down at a landscape from a balloon - your eye 'sees' the story as well as reads it, its layout, its paragraphs and structure, and 'remembers' what it just read because it's still there, on the page, simultaneously. If you want to, you can reread any line instantly; or linger; or speed up; or optically 'flinch'. Reading a series of tweets is more like looking through a narrow window from a train speeding through a landscape full of tunnels and bands of light and dark. Each tweet erases its predecessor."

"The Right Sort" will tie-in to the novelist's upcoming novel "The Bone Clocks," which will be published in September.  If you don't have a Twitter account, you can keep up with the action at The Guardian's dedicated page for the story, where the tweets are assembling in sequential order.

Mitchell collectors, meanwhile, will have an interesting dilemma in front of them.  What's the best way to include a Twitter story in your Mitchell collection?

[Image from Wikipedia]