50 Shades of Storytelling

When my company Twitter account gets new followers, I get notifications. And sometimes I look across the names to see just who is following us, and why.

The twitter bio for this account piqued my curiosity:

Apparently, she is connected to a bunch of other accounts related to 50 Shades of Grey. Some of them carry warnings that they are for people 21 and up, or 18 and up, and whatever.

I have no idea who is behind this, but there is an elaborate web of accounts that all tie into @50ShadesExposed. That account has not updated, but you can see from the list of Following that there are at least 32 accounts involved.

I haven’t read the book, so I can’t immediately determine if these accounts are attempting a real-time reenactment, or if this is sequel material from E.L. James. I do know that attempting to carry out a narrative through all of those accounts would become tedious and challenging.

Not a Canvas, but a Gem with Facets

In a book, you typically have someone anchoring the narrative, and there will be characters who appear only briefly to advance the plot in some way. But trying to write for 30 different point-of-view and keeping them all interesting and consistent would drive me crazy.

That’s not to say that somehow we end up with a very different genre of literature and storytelling. The immersive real-time novel. The implications for publishing are intriguing. Could such an effort sustain itself through ads in the timeline? Or is the game simply to keep a community engaged while working on additional books? Quite possibly, the author could use these Twitter accounts to test some ideas and get instant feedback from the most-engaged fans.

I know it’s been done with an entire universe (or two, Marvel and DC) where the characters carry on with their non-heroic responsibilities. @RealTonyStark comes to mind. Could be fun to watch, even if you like your literature less “adult,” if only to see how our definition of storytelling changes with technology.

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  1. Makes sense, since the 50 Shades books were, themselves, fan fiction (Twilight, re-imagined as, um…less Mormon) that the author workshopped via message boards. Perhaps this is just an extension of that process.

    • Very true — but it would give me headaches to come up with backstories for that many ancillary characters, with motives and all the drudgery that Foursquare checkins and Instagrammed lunch photos can provide.

      • Tedious indeed, unless each character was assigned to a different ‘twactor’ who then would be responsible for creating their own character’s depth and monotonous (not monogamous) interactions with others. It would be interesting to see a sponsored ‘Twitter Drama’ much like the soap companies initial ‘soap opera’ productions in the golden age of television.

        • A lot of work for a very small monetization — unless you’re driving people to a traditionally-priced product.

  2. I remember a few years back, there were suddenly a bunch of Mad Men characters with their own Twitter accounts (http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2009/feb/07/mad-men-twitter). The characters all talked with one another — not that it was sanctioned by AMC. What was interesting is that it grew organically, and was kind of fun to watch — crowdsourcing by some clever people with the same mindset. Would certainly lighten the workload!

    This effort seems a little more orchestrated, given the profile you show here. But with proper trust, it could be spread over several people and would become much, much more manageable to execute.

    • I recall that as well, and certainly it would be fun to put your characters in the hands of amateurs. It can also be scary as hell for a creator.

      I agree, this seems to be a more tightly-knit operation, and it’s interesting to see what they’ll do with a controlled story in a very dispersed format.