Jennifer Egan publishes short story on Twitter

I haven’t been entirely won over by the idea of Twittered fiction yet, but I’m glad to know that good writers are still experimenting with it. Starting today and extending for the next 10 days, The New Yorker will serialize Pulitzer Prize-winner Jennifer Egan’s new short story, written specifically for the Twitter format, at its fiction department account @NYerFiction. (The story in its entirety will be published in an upcoming issue of the magazine.)

Egan, who has explored how format can affect narrative before — one chapter in A Visit from the Goon Squad is “written” entirely in PowerPoint slides — writes that the Twitter project brought together several of her interests:

One involves fiction that takes the form of lists; stories that appear to be told inadvertently, using a narrator’s notes to him or herself. My working title for this story was “Lessons Learned,” and my hope was to tell a story whose shape would emerge from the lessons the narrator derived from each step in the action, rather than from descriptions of the action itself. […] I’d also been wondering about how to write fiction whose structure would lend itself to serialization on Twitter. This is not a new idea, of course, but it’s a rich one—because of the intimacy of reaching people through their phones, and because of the odd poetry that can happen in a hundred and forty characters.

I like that the Twitter element isn’t just a publishing stunt. From the beginning, Egan wrote the story in bite-sized “bulletins” using storyboard style boxes to create a sort of analog Twitter interface. She adds that it took her about a year to condense the manuscript into its present form, which doesn’t surprise me; sometimes it takes me that long just to compose a single tweet, thanks to that 140 character limit.

[Via Quill & Quire]

(Photo: The New Yorker)

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