Twittering through Time

What is Twitter?

Twitter is a free social networking and micro-blogging service that allows users to send “updates” (or “tweets”; text-based posts, up to 140 characters long) to the Twitter website, via short message service (e.g. on a cell phone), instant messaging, or a third-party application such as Twitterrific or Facebook.

You’ll have noticed that I include my Twitter feed in the footer text of this website. So, when I’m drinking a coffee and feel that the world needs to know; or I’m stuck on a train outside Basingstoke; or I’m watching Dr Who…then I can tweet.

Twitter is one of those technologies that gives Web 2.0 a bad name. That is, whenever I explain it to people who don’t use social networking thingies, they look at me like I’m a complete idiot.

Just like you’re looking at your web browser right now, very probably.

For a long while, I’ve been interested in somehow capturing – live – the process of creating a novel. I’d like to put together a form of parallel art that mirrors the insertion, deletion and movement of words around the manuscript, and perhaps make a time-lapse film of it. I’m still a long way from being able to do this. Some species of screen capture technology pointed at my word processor might do the trick, but the bandwidth implication makes me dizzy.

So, as part of this experimentation with reflecting the ongoing development of a novel, I have created a Twitter account for my heroine, Saskia Brandt. The current novel (my third in this series; the first was published as Déjà Vu) is set in 1907. That’s where my time traveller has wound up.

Who is Saskia Brandt? (If you haven’t read Déjà Vu and think you might, look away now.) Saskia is physically fit, about 30 years old – nobody is quite sure of her age – and a former detective with the European Föderatives Investigationsbüro, a specialist organisation set up in 2019 to address EU-wide computer crime. She was forcibly put through an experimental procedure that left her with a small, glass-covered chip at the back of her brain. It contains a digital copy of a murdered woman’s mind. It contains what is, essentially, Saskia’s personality. The original personality of her physical brain is suppressed; though it can usurp control in her dreams and moments of stress. Various skills were flashed onto the chip before insertion, including weapons handling, language competency (she understands more than 6000 languages), and special programs that post-process sensory information. In 2023, she travelled backwards in time and is currently being hunted by her former employers. Now she’s in St Petersburg in 1907.

Saskia Brandt is going to tweet her ‘status’ as the current novel is being written. You’re very welcome to add Saskia to your Twitter friends, if you have an account. She’ll add you straight back. Her Twitter address is: http://twitter.com/saskiabrandt You don’t, by the way, need an account to follow her. Her status updates are now included in the page footer, and you can visit the above address manually.

Here are some rules:

  • She will update her status about once a day; her time frame is ‘live’ in the sense that she will tweet about things happening to her in that day’s writing session
  • Her statuses will contain teasers, not spoilers
  • Though she is updating her status as though she had a mobile phone in 1907, the character in the final novel will not be stopping every few pages to send a tweet
  • Saskia will reply to your questions if you ask them, but will not spoil the story

Interested? Then make Saskia a Twitter friend. I’m currently 4400 words into the manuscript (which will total around 100,000), so Saskia will be tweeting for the next few months. Here’s the latest tweet. For her, it’s November 1907 and she’s travelling into St Petersburg on behalf of a criminal organisation which (I think) she’s just betrayed.

Published by

Ian Hocking

Writer and psychologist.

6 thoughts on “Twittering through Time”

  1. Sincerely great idea, Ian. I’ve set up a Twitter account for my own main character too — although he’s yet to Tweet about anything. Given that he’s a time-traveller too I’m sure he’d be most happy saying hello to Saskia.

  2. Hello, I will add Saskia to my twitter right now. I was looking to cases of people using twitter in interesting ways (specially with fiction) and Maxine Clarke suggested your blog. Nice to meet you.

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