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Using Social Media Posts in Fiction

Social media is now an ingrained part of life. It is the ‘in your face’ stuff of science fiction - except, it is here today. It is a compelling, all-embracing virtual world that is habit-forming. After sucking us into its vortex, it munches away our precious free time in the blink of an eye. Ever wondered where last week went?

If you are anything like me, you pore over reams of posts on Twitter and Facebook every day. These are platforms that have become marketplaces, soap boxes and shouting arenas. They attract engagement from every walk of life and know no borders. Platforms that enable users to create and post content are addictive. It doesn't matter if you are there to share or lurk. You will end up being hooked in.

Examples of social media posts in books

Because of its stranglehold on our time - and because it provokes a response - social media is becoming an important element in fiction. Recent examples include Close to Home by Cara Hunter and Friend Request by Laura Marshall. In her compelling crime thriller, Cara uses fictional Twitter posts. They illustrate how the public react to unfolding developments in a police inquiry. The posts are believable, many pointing the finger of blame and making spurious assumptions. Others reflect the voice of reason, and humans’ instinct to want to help. Exactly what happens in real life.

Cara’s Twitter posts are a great example of how social media is being utilised to engage book readers. They add a new dimension to the plot and extend the storyline beyond the obvious. Social media further allows the writer to express the views of those looking in on the story. From a fictional perspective, of course.

My specific interest in Cara’s use of social media is her choice of grammar. She decided, quite successfully, to include slang, abbreviations and common spelling mistakes. These serve to authenticate her fictional Twitter posts. I like that. It made Close to Home bang on for validation and ‘realness’.

The social media dilemma

In One Dead Wife, my new release, I use the TripAdvisor rating system. It illustrates how guests at a holiday park react to the disappearance of Tara Swift. Holidaymakers express their concern about the police presence. They also show how inquiries are impacting their holiday and how park staff are coping with extra pressures. The feed especially charts how the holiday park’s management responds to criticism. It is through these responses that the reader can gauge the wider impact of Tara’s disappearance. They can discover how it damages not only the park’s business but the local economy. After all, the story is set in one of the UK’s tourist hot spots.

When I first introduced the TripAdvisor element, I considered using Cara’s approach. It crossed my mind to include all the usual, very believable grammatical errors. I created two versions of the first threads - one with errors and one without. What struck me was that the text containing errors took longer to read and digest. This led me to the conclusion that, in my book, Cara’s approach would slow down the pace of the read. I chose to go with straightforward text.

What works for some…

How you decide to include social media posts in your fiction is up to you. What works? What adds to the story? What takes away from the reading experience?

One Dead Wife is exclusive to Kindle. It costs 99c/p, or you can download it for free with Kindle Unlimited.