The objective remains the same as always, namely to help build a readership base, keep them engaged and, hopefully, buying my David Good books. Along the way, I also hope to have some fun.
My question to you here is, do you think tweeting as a character from my books like this will work? If so, what should I be doing to make success more likely and what should I avoid doing?
I think it will help to explain why using Twitter in this way struck me as a viable proposition in the first place. To begin with, I write these stories in the first person, which I feel makes it easier to deliver content via Twitter that is consistent with the novels and short stories. Readers are already used to hearing David Good talk to them in the books, so doing the same thing via Twitter is simply a continuation of this. Apart from the obvious restriction of sticking to the 140 character limit each time I tweet, I've not felt the need to make any changes at all to the way I approach my writing when I'm tweeting.
Another reason this seems to work is that David Good has, in the writing jargon, a strong POV. Because he is such a straightforward and strongly defined character, it has been a pretty straightforward task reflecting this in his tweets. If anything, I am conscious of the need not to be too simple and predictable for fear of the tweets becoming uninteresting and even irritating, although that is something I was already aware of with the books.
A further advantage with tweeting Good is that, in the books, he already has a very chatty and open personality, which again seems to make the transition to Twitter a pretty straightforward affair. It's not as if I'm having to get chatty with a character who is shy and retiring in the books, which might seem odd to any reader who signs up for the tweets.
In fact, I've found it quite easy putting together strings of short updates that run together in series. Setting up scenes and incidents that are plausible, fit into the world of David Good PI and look like they at least have a chance of piquing someone's interest has not been a problem. I've found myself writing potential tweets in little batches that I can then bank and call down later, as needs be. Occasionally, I get carried away and end up with too much material for a particular situation, which would need a dozen or more tweets to complete, but better that than an empty page.
To be honest, the biggest challenge for me, apart from time, has been that I am not myself the chattiest of people, so making that commitment to post often enough to get and keep people engaged was a toughie. For the same reason, I actually find it easier to post 'in character' than I do as me, the author, on my own Twitter account, which must often feel abandoned it's so lightly used. But now I'm up-and-running the material is presenting itself readily enough.
I haven't yet stumbled upon anyone else doing the same thing with characters from their stories (would be fascinated to know if there are others out there, so do let me know of any you have encountered), but it seems to me that for the right type of character and with a little thought paid to the role you are playing this has real potential.
The one aspect of these tweets by David Good that I am really keen to see pan out is how readers react to receiving tweets that are supposedly from the past. Will it cause confusion? Will they realise they're supposed to be from the past? Will they care? Will I manage to stay true to the period and avoid references to mobile phones, ipads and the like?
Interestingly, I had already launched a separate website for Mr Good before heading for Twitter and I had been feeling that the site was too static, not really doing enough to stand a decent chance of actually engaging with visitors in the way I intended it to. Now, I see the two almost as one, pulling the Twitter feed into the website as something akin to an often updated diary or case file. In fact, I'm aiming to present it in just such a way in future, once I've worked out how to get the form of presentation right.
It's still early days for me and my current task is to build up the number of followers; after all, that is the objective of all this (fun) work. I have already realised that, in order to keep things manageable, I need to invest in software that will allow me to bank tweets that are then submitted automatically at prescribed times; I know this sort of thing exists, I just need to find the time to track it down. But in the round, although I'm not counting any chickens just yet, I do see serious scope for this to work and I intend to nurture and grow it over time.
What do you think? Am I wasting my time, on to a good thing, or just deluded? I would be delighted to hear what you have to say on tweeting fictional characters.
Ben Westerham is a UK based author and occasional blogger, who predominantly writes crime fiction, much of that with a strong element of humour. His South London based PI, David Good, currently appears in the short story 'The Strawberry Girl', with the first full-length novel 'Good Investigations' due out on 14/10/2015.
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