Some days ago, Twitter suffered from a revolution created by a story. A story that started on a profile, precisely on Manuel Bartual’s profile. He started to tell the odd circumstances that surrounded his summer trip to the beach for vacations. This storytelling started on the 21st of August. It included mystery, thriller, tension and even photos and videos to document it all. During these days, Manuel told his story tweet by tweet, hour after hour, like if it all was happening at the same time he was writing. I am not sure if there is a proper translation of the whole story into English, and even though you should read it (in any possible language), it is not important for today’s article. At least, not in detail.
As a brief summary of the story, you only need to know that Manuel was on his hotel’s room when a tall, thin man entered the room and started talking, in Spanish. However, he was mixing and altering the proper order of any understandable sentence. Manuel finally got the meaning of what the tall man was trying to say. He was in danger and he must leave the room as soon as possible. Manuel started an amateurish investigation about this tall man. He finally discovered a man who looked exactly as Manuel himself, and this “clone” was even wearing a T-shirt that Manuel lost a few days prior to that encounter. From that on, things twisted and got tangled in a very odd way, including more clones, people that appeared and disappeared and even pseudo portals from Manuel’s real home to the original hotel’s room.
How it started
At the beginning, we all thought the story was real and he was using Twitter to explain the world what was happening. Something like a live news broadcast. However, the story was, SPOILER ALERT, false. I am sorry, but he has already said it out loud: he invented it all, nothing was real. At some point along the way, there were some details of this story that sounded too nice to be real, or even too weird to be acceptable. And, well, if you did a (pretty) little research, you would have noticed that Manuel Bartual was a screenwriter, director of short movies and even his own full-length movie, visual artist and a long creative list that goes on.
Adding this information to the previous one, the story was interesting enough to continue reading it even though we knew it was not real (some people didn’t follow it when they understood it wasn’t real but… that’s like leaving the cinema when you understand Star Wars hasn’t ever happened…). On the morning of the 25th of August, Manuel Bartual wrote on his Twitter’s profile, ensuring that it all was a fictional story, nothing really happened and he was very glad for the humongous repercussion and growth his humble story had had.
Repercussion, you say?
Let’s talk about numbers: Manuel Bartual started this story with 15,000 followers and ended it with roughly 400,000 in total. His name was TT in Spain for several days, and it even turned TT in the whole world for some hours on Saturday. Not only Spanish people were reading that story, but people from all the Spanish-speaking countries around the world, even from Portuguese-speaking countries, like Portugal and Brazil.
There was a hashtag created to ask for the tweets translated into English, and you can still look for it on Twitter. All the Spanish mass media talked about him and his story all through the weekend, and they even posted special articles when the story ended. Spanish celebrities also contributed with their “help” sharing this story through their social networks, mainly through Twitter. Summarizing, it was a total success that held people close to Twitter, refreshing every few minutes, talking about it as if it was, actually, happening.
Why is this so important and interesting?
Because it is a new form of storytelling.
First of all, we have the live narration, since the author chose Twitter to told the story like if it was happening right at the moment. There was no delay in the process from the narrator telling it to the audience/readers and them obtaining the information. Even further, there was some time available for the readers in between tweets to think about what was going to happen next and for the narrator to adjust any possible error, problem or low level of hype in the narration itself.
Then, we have the realism: although we finally discovered that the story wasn’t real, we thought, at the beginning, it was. Why did this happen? There were different factors to make the reader think like this, but the first one was using a media, Twitter, that we understand as a way to announce the world real situations and information, even news. So the narrator used this statement (Twitter only for real info) to make us think his story was, also, real.
Apart from this vital element, the space for the story was incredible (at the beach, we all visit it once in a while or even more times), with a credible background (holidays to relax, mainly during the summer), when something quite odd (but not enough to make us disbelieve him) happened and we fell for it. So when Manuel included new elements, that were more and more weird, we had to doubt ourselves if they were, in fact, real or not, so he made us be more involved within the story and the phenomenon that surrounded it.
How it developed itself
Furthermore, this narration was not under our control. Usually, when reading a book or watching a movie, we are in control of when and how the author develops the story. The moment when we choose to start reading/watching it, it is when the story is going to continue. But not here. Manuel Bartual was the one sending more information, more parts of this story to our feed on Twitter. However, at the same time, it was immediate, which means that whenever the author released a new part, everybody around the world had it available for us to read. This is unlike what happens with movies and books, because then there is a delay in between the release of that information and the arrival of such to the audience, but not here.
We also were able to see the short length of all the elements implied in this story. Only written in tweets, which are short texts of no more that 140 characters, but also there were more things to take into account. Another element would be the precise structure Manuel had to make in order to fit each piece of the “cake” in a tiny message like that, feeding the readers with just the minimum information for them to understand, get stuck with the story and foresee what is to come. This is a really difficult work to make, since each word counts, and there is no room for extra information. This is the real flash fiction.
And last, but not least, we enjoyed the participation and implication this kind of story allows us to have. There is, usually, no room for the audience to talk live with thousands of people that are, at the same time, enjoying the story all together. And not for the author to see how it is evolving, how the audience reacts, and how the people like or dislike it. By doing a live, immediate story through a social network like Twitter, author and audience were connected, sharing their thoughts and receiving them, all at the same time
I think this a great new way to create, post, share and enjoy stories for the future. Sure, authors have to tailor them to fit the platform where the story is going to be published. But it will allow a totally different experience both for the author and the audience, just like Manuel Bartual has created with the story of his crazy “holidays”. And, who knows, maybe I will try it some time in the future 😛
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