Wednesday, August 26, 2009

A jolt of raw fear

Kathleen Duey should get a Courageous Author award for writing a novel on Twitter. "What? How can a novel be written in 140-character bursts?" you may well exclaim. But, trust me, it's a grand and wonderful experiment that works.

Duey's written more than 70 books and been a National Book Award finalist, so this is no newbie gimmick. But she can be unconventional, and she chose to tell SKIN HUNGER and SACRED SCARS, the first two books in The Resurrection of Magic trilogy in alternating POVs with the characters centuries apart--one in first person, the other in third. These dark, cryptic tales enthrall me.

But it's what she's doing on Twitter that has knocked my socks off and sent them into the stratosphere. How many of us would commit to writing a novel in tweeted lines, real time, unrevised for all the world to see? Yikes.

Duey has said she did it after speaking at a conference and realizing she wanted a challenge that scared her, gave her a jolt of raw fear. She also realized she had a Twitter account she barely used. Putting the two together propelled her to a place few of us would dare tread. She says of her main character: He talks. I type.

I began reading RUSSET: ONE WING out of curiosity, nothing more. I didn't expect anything of real depth or cohesion. Boy, was I wrong. There was enough scene-setting and character development to settle me in and then I became increasing riveted by the story and concerned for Russet. The possibilities still ahead in this unfinished story are fascinating to imagine.

Duey begins by having Russet tell us he can't ever go back but first he has to find a blanket.

Right away, we know the kid is in trouble, alone and cold. By the fourth tweet, someone is following him. By the eighth entry, he mentions a mysterious letter, unopened, in his pocket, and by the ninth tweet, we know it's from his equally-mysterious missing father.

As a guest blogger on Cynthia Leitich Smith's site, Duey explains the steps that brought her to write Russet: One Wing, establishing its own blog. She's made chapter headings on the blog for the collection of already-written tweets. The story is ongoing on Twitter here. For more about Duey and the process, check her blog.

So how about you? Would you write a novel on Twitter? Would you read it? How far are you willing to push your writing comfort zone?


MeganRebekah said...

I could not do that, at least not in this stage of my writing. My novel is ever evolving and I have the constant need to go back and edit and change and improve things. Add in the little twists and foreshadowing.
But I am in awe of her talent!

Andrea Cremer said...

those are the scariest (and yet so alluring) book covers I've ever laid eyes on. Yowza! I'm now following Duey on Twitter. Thanks for the heads up Tricia!

Yat-Yee said...

I don't think I would. Maybe after publishing 70 novels, I may have the guts and the need for something different.

Like you, others who read this tweeted novel like it and don't find it gimmicky or shallow.

Hooray for her for doing something scary and new, and doing it well.

Donna said...

Thanks, Tricia! I had to stop myself--cold turkey--from reading Duey's twitter novel. I dream of being able to write a first draft that riveting.

I agree with Megan and Yat-Yee. After 70 novels, Duey has an internal connection to fiction. I'm too new, still learning the craft.

Corey Schwartz said...

Wow! That is so cool. And impressive!

Susan B James said...

What an amazing thing to think of!! Nanowrimo, watch out!
I am no following you. Thank you for introducing yourself on the SCBWI yahoo board. I shall look forward to your novel.
Susan J Berger

Unknown said...

Fascinating. What a brave soul. Some of my characters have Twitter accounts and they randomly tweet to each other. My story was written with Aug 2009 forward in mind. So in August they started tweeting in parallel with my story's time line. But its just for fun. Im not sure I could do a whole novel on Twitter.

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Andrea: Woo-hoo for following Russet on Twitter! It is too cool, isn't it?

Megan, Yat-Yee, Donna: Yes, awe-insiring and too scary for me right now, too.

Hi Corey! It's soooooo impressive.

Welcome, Susan: I'm so pleased you came to visit. I checked out your website and had this whole six-degrees of separation thing since I was born in Paris and raised in New York, now live in California and once dreamed of acting. And I was a big fan of Northern Exposure. Truly honored you made yourself a follower. Thanks!

Karen: I love that you incorporated Twitter that way! So do the readers know they are characters when they tweet?

Unknown said...

I think what she's doing here is just so cool. I love it, and can't wait to read the rest of the story!

Karen Denise said...

Wow! I could SO not do that...well, I'll never say never, but I'm pretty sure. I'd definitely read it and will soon. BTW, those covers are beautiful!

Stephanie Faris said...

That sounds oddly fascinating. Hey, if she can make that work, then novels via a series of text messages could work too.

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Beth: I know! I can't wait to see where this is going.

Welcome Rosepddle (love that name!) Yeah, aren't those covers amazing?

Stephanie: Are we soon to read your text-msg novel then? ;)

MG Higgins said...

Way too scary for me! "He talks. I type." Wow. Her level of trust is staggering. What if she writes herself into a corner? How will she get out with so many readers following her every word? Sheesh.

storyqueen said...

I would soooo write a twitter novel!! I write most of my stuff in little spurts anyway.

(The problem is, mine would probably stink.)


(And there's the problem that I don't really twitter....)

PJ Hoover said...

I think it's awesome! It would not surprise me to see more and more of this in the future. And I'd be totally up for it.

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Melissa: Yes, she is brave, but I don't think she'll write herself into a corner. She's got skill on her side, too.

Shelley: Not tweeting would be a problem! But, hey, you could text as Stephanie suggested. :D

PJ: Ms Black Belt, I KNOW you'd be up for it!

Elana Johnson said...

I just finished SKIN HUNGER, and loved it. I've got to get Sacred Scars and follow her on twitter! Thanks!

cleemckenzie said...

I met Kathleen--had dinner with her and other writers--while I was in LA at SCBWI. I am a fan and loved her Skin Hunger. As to writing a novel on Twitter, she has the skill, but I'm not sure I do.

Maybe in the future.

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Elana: I was crazy about SKIN and just got SCARS, so I'm dying to start reading it.

Lee: You lucky thing! It must have been a cool dinner. I'm sorry to have missed that conference, so many fascinating speakers--maybe next year.

Tess said...

I met Kathleen Duey at a conference. She is a hoot! She got all psychic on me and started telling me about my daughter. Wierd thing is, she was right. She is a super neat lady.

Interesting experiment. Probably wouldn't read it, but I bet kids would!

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Tess! You come up with some amazing comments. Psychic advice from Kathleen Duey. Wow. Just wow.
Oh, but you should read it. Sooo fascinating.