When James Joyce wrote his groundbreaking novel, Ulysses, he changed novels forever. His style was wildly experimental and his themes controversial. He threw out beginning, middle and end; he replaced scenes and chapters with a stream of consciousness. Ulysses was bold. It was different. And it set the writers of the 20th century free to push at the boundaries of how stories could be told.
For some time now, I’ve been interested in how social media is changing the way human beings communicate. He tweet instead of speak and Facebook instead of talk face-to-face. Looking back at Joyce’s revolutionary approach to storytelling, I began to wonder — could a series of online interactions carry a compelling narrative? It didn’t seem all that far-fetched that social networks could drive a piece of serious fiction. After all, books written as letters have been around for years and novels as emails are increasingly common (my favorite example being The Book I Will Write by John Henry Fleming). What could be a better reflection of reality than a story that unfolds in the digital world we live in?
So, I decided to take on a new project: a short story where all of the main action happens in tweets, Facebook posts, Instagram photos and the like. So far, it’s the story of estranged siblings who reconnect online after a family tragedy. I’m not entirely sure how it will work (or if it will work), but I like the idea. And sometimes a weird idea is all the motivation you need.
I think James Joyce would approve.
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I’m still in the early stages of this new writing project, but you can follow my thought process on my Twitter feed, @jonnyeberle.