Pulitzer prize winner Jennifer Egan tweeted a short story via the New Yorker earlier this year. Some heralded it as the return of serial fiction. Some pointed out that it seemed disingenuous that Jennifer Egan, a technophobe whose personal Twitter account has a total of seven tweets, was taking on the medium.
The story she tweeted was very New Yorker, and is good on its own, but it really had nothing to do with Twitter aside from the fact that it was dealt in 140 character bursts. It didn’t take advantage of the real time, impulsive nature of Twitter. The best Twitter feeds are a record of spontaneity, and I think the best fiction on Twitter looks similar.
Twitter is the perfect realm for hyperfiction, because you really can't tell the difference between a genuine person's Twitter account and a fake one if it's done well enough. The magic is that we get to see their stories unfold as our own days roll on, getting to know the tweeted character like you might a real person.
Here are two Twitter accounts that hit the mark.
At first glance, @DadBoner is just a bunch of one-liners from Karl Welzein, a divorced, middle-aged Michigan suburbanite man who loves beer, Taco Bell, and the weekend. But as you immerse yourself in his grotesquely personal tweets, he reveals details about his life, like how he’s working on a script for a remake of Patrick Swayze’s Road House (which he’s trying to get picked up by Hollywood via craigslist), or how he often gets in fights with fast food employees. He’s especially adept at carrying on a story over dozens of tweets throughout the evening:
Hit up Starbucks last night to get in the writin' zone, Hollywood style. Wasn't really any babes. Just a couple sad clowns on computers.— Karl Welzein (@DadBoner) September 14, 2012
Brought my sixer to Starbucks. After I already had 2, worker said I "couldn't drink those in here." Told him, it's cool, they're premium.— Karl Welzein (@DadBoner) September 14, 2012
I can understand Starbucks not wantin' you to drink cans of Natty Ice in the store, but I was drinkin' Sam Adams. I'm not some animal.— Karl Welzein (@DadBoner) September 14, 2012
Ordered a small black coffee and poured it out in the trash. Filled it up with Sam Adams. They should just sell those in the first place.— Karl Welzein (@DadBoner) September 14, 2012
Starbucks worker said, "Sir, I can see what you're doing." Told him, "Look the other way then, kimosabe. My Starbucks cup, MY beverage."— Karl Welzein (@DadBoner) September 14, 2012
Starbucks acts like they're so fancy. You sell hot black water and muffins. Calm down.— Karl Welzein (@DadBoner) September 14, 2012
Karl Welzein is one of the most fleshed-out characters I’ve seen on Twitter. He’s a beautiful portrait of debauchery and ignorance that’s neither preachy nor condoning. He’s the kind of person who might be completely insufferable in real life, but when he’s filtered through Twitter, you want him as a constant companion.
A few more gems:
If you think it's "uncool" to love America, why don't you go see how "cool" it is to live in a country that doesn't have toilets or pizza.— Karl Welzein (@DadBoner) September 12, 2012
When you call the Suicide Hotline, they should just say, "Slow down, corncob. Have you tried Chili's? What's your problem?"— Karl Welzein (@DadBoner) July 26, 2012
Any chance Rahm Emanuel had at using Twitter during his campaign for mayor of Chicago was completely destroyed by this bat-shit insane unofficial embodiment. The now defunct parody account @MayorEmanuel covered Emanuel’s inner monologue, starting from the time of rumors of his campaign until his election a year and a half later. It chronicled a rich imagined life of Emanuel raging through the streets of Chicago with advisor David Axelrod and Carl the Intern, all while he commented on the real going-on of his run for mayor.
The account chronicled key moments in Emanuel’s campaign, such as:
When Politico broke the story that he might be running, leaving his position at the white house.
Someone tell those fuckwads at @politico to shut their fucking trap, or I'll fucking END THEM.— Rahm Emanuel (@MayorEmanuel) September 28, 2010
When the Court of Appeals told him he wasn’t eligible to run.
I FUCKING HATE THE MOTHERFUCKING WORLD. LET'S FUCKING GO, ASSHOLES. WHO MOTHERFUCKING WANTS SOME?— Rahm Emanuel (@MayorEmanuel) January 24, 2011
Jesus fucking Christ. I'm just lighting any fucking thing on fire right now. Just to feel fucking something.— Rahm Emanuel (@MayorEmanuel) January 24, 2011
Axelrod's got his Bears helmet on and is just fucking punching gaping fucking holes in the walls with his motherfucking head.— Rahm Emanuel (@MayorEmanuel) January 24, 2011
Every fucking thing in this motherfucking apartment is going through the front fucking window right fucking now.— Rahm Emanuel (@MayorEmanuel) January 24, 2011
shit shit shit shit shit shit shit shit shit shit shit shit shit shit shit shit shit shit shit shit shit shit shit shit shit shit shit shit— Rahm Emanuel (@MayorEmanuel) January 24, 2011
OK, Carl the Intern makes a good point: Appellate courts are for pussies. We're going to motherfucking Supreme this bullshit.— Rahm Emanuel (@MayorEmanuel) January 24, 2011
Just general mayhem.
Supposed to go to a halloween party at Carl the intern's apartment tonight. Word is Schiller's wearing a "sexy can of fruit" outfit. Fuck.— Rahm Emanuel (@MayorEmanuel) October 29, 2010
Last I saw Carl the Intern and Axelrod, they were going to drive the Civic into City Hall. They're probably fucking locked up now.— Rahm Emanuel (@MayorEmanuel) January 25, 2011
And of course, when he eventually won the election.
I can see a thousand fucking skylines, and they are all as motherfucking glorious as the first, and I can feel the touch of my friends.— Rahm Emanuel (@MayorEmanuel) February 24, 2011
And now all I can hear is that music, and suddenly everything just fucking...— Rahm Emanuel (@MayorEmanuel) February 24, 2011
The tweeting ended with those words, and now the whole thing has been put in a book. It's always a bit puzzling when something that is free on the internet gets peddled between hard covers at Urban Outfitters, but this book includes context for everything he is reacting to, so it actually gives these tweets new life.
Now go forth and populate your twitter feed with some colorful characers. Unfortunately, @MayorEmanuel is no longer tweeting, but @DadBoner only seems to be getting stronger, and his fictional ex-wife now has a Twitter as well. Let me know who brightens your Twitter feed below.