A year long Twitter story, a month in

by Randall Snare

In December, Elizabeth spotted a post from Jonathan Gibbs, a writer who wrote a story over a year via Twitter, and wanted to pass the account to someone new. Lucky for us, he chose Mapped. Starting January 1st, we took over 365daystory. And we warned you all to be afraid.



Episodic narratives

Writing something episodic means the narrative has many paths; we can follow some and control others. That’s been a great joy at the same time that it’s been a frustration. What we can’t figure out still chugs along, and tells us what’s happening.

So, what has been happening?

We decided early on for an epistolary narrative, with two characters L and S. S gives L instructions, which seem to consist of a location and a victim. L travels around Europe following said instructions. But not without argument.

This is where L has been so far:

We’ve been dropping clues about S & L’s relationship, which vacillates between boss/employee, protector/protected and corporate/personal (with as much sexual tension as we can muster).

We think the episodic nature of this kind of mystery suits Twitter well. Each communication must be pieced together - perfect for a medium spread over time and space.

Sustained collaboration

This is the biggest challenge. Elizabeth’s in London, and I’m in Dublin. Both of us are really busy, and most importantly, we’re really opinionated. We decided in the beginning that we’d work together like the writing staff of a television show. We’d use each location (and characters’ backstory) as an “episode” and brainstorm the plot outline. Then one of us would own each episode and write the “script”, while the other person would add to it here and there once it was finished.

That was the plan anyway.

But our natural tendency as writers is solitude. It’s hard to brainstorm when all you want to do is be alone and work it out in your own way. That’s been a struggle, but it’s been really interesting.

Bossy narratives

Sometimes, the narrative controls you. EL Doctorow described how he started writing his latest novel, Andrew’s Brain. I love it because it doesn’t disregard that tiny bit of magic that is writing a story:

I also had the image in my mind, and I don’t know where it came from, of a girl with colored pencils, drawing on a pad. She sees an adult trying to see what she’s done, and so she takes the pencil in her hand and scribbles over what she’s been so carefully doing. And those two images somehow combined in some sort of evocative way, and got me writing this book.

The images that took us on journeys were the ones in which the characters let something slip, when they lose control a little bit. They’re revealing themselves to us too.

Another great thing about publishing on Twitter is that we can take audience reaction into account - see what they respond to and use that to make the story even better. This is also hard to do when you’re trying to map out a mystery, but ultimately we think it will make the story better.

So what’s next, you ask?


Written by
Randall Snare
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About Mapped.

We're two writers who make web things. We're interested in what makes stories go: in our brains, online, in design, fiction, culture and everywhere.

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