The Case of the White Phoenix Feather

Right-o. So, day one of my attempt to write a story on my cellphone has taught me some things. First of all, though my cellphone will let me key in 1000 character message, it breaks it into 160 character messages to send. It just doesn’t necessarily send them in the correct order. I rewrote it to fit into three 160 character blocks, rather than rely on technology.

Second, specificity of word choice buys me a lot of room. You always hear that one specific word can replace a dozen vague ones, but until you are fighting for space you don’t realize exactly how much that gets you.

Third. SMS sucks for formatting dialogue.

Here is the first installment, sent in three texts, for those of you who are curious. You can also follow along on twitter, BUT twitter only allows 140 characters, so you have to click through to see the remaining 20. Deeply annoying, but what’s a girl to do?

Virginia leaned across the white tablecloth. “When I said the ninjas were no match for us, I meant it. Lou will have the White Phoenix Feather by dessert.”

She polished her fish knife. “Quit gaping and finish your soup.”

Parker stirred his habanero spinach bisque. “I don’t doubt your skills.”

“With our fees, we’d better be good.” A dark shape scuttled past the wall of tinted glass. “Crap,” she said. “More ninjas. Give me your soup.”

Rob, by the way, finds the whole experiment offensive because of its inefficiency. I can tell you now that I am unlikely to do this again, but I am interested in how function influences form. This will become quite telegraphic, I suspect.

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12 Responses

  1. Julia

    At the risk of angering my cellphone’s memory card, I am, at present, saving all the WPF texts. For review purposes. 🙂

    1. Mary Robinette Kowal

      Oh dear…

      Though you have anticipated the abbreviation of names, which will be heavily featured in future installments. And everyone else will get really, really short names, things like Sid and Bo.

  2. Mike F

    Mine came through good enough to follow but I can see how it would be difficult. I probably would have given up on day one. 🙂

    1. Mary Robinette Kowal

      Well, the point of experimenting isn’t to take the easy route, it’s to see what happens if.

      Plus, I adore serials and there’s not really a market for an adventure serial.

  3. Mike F

    Your right, there isn’t. Though you’d think there could be a way to do that online. Not that you don’t have enough to do.

    1. Mary Robinette Kowal

      I think the point about the Japanese novels being written in, well, Japanese is a good one. Sending 160 words at a time instead of 160 characters would make a big difference. Plus, my understanding is that the cell phones over there are much more advanced than ours. I imagine it’s more like writing one on a blackberry than a phone.

  4. Zoid

    Since allmost all of my text messages come from my wife (half good news or flirting and the other half “the other shoe”) I’ve been looking forward to these little snippets of story.

    I wish it was working better for you. It is a good mental/writing exercise.

  5. Mike F

    You know, it reminds me of those old text based computer games. I think it has to do with the limited text in each message. I loved those games, so that is a compliment. Just in case you weren’t sure. 🙂