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Tweet, You're Dead

Local adman writes a crime novel 140 characters at a time.


What did he know about this case? Bass Johnson, dead pimp and dealer; shot in the head; gator bit the arm off his corpse; fired his 9mm once. Gus needed a ballistic match. — June 22, 2:31 p.m.

Bloodthirsty reptiles, dead pimps and automatic weapons make for spicier-than-average Twitter posts, but unlike the rest of Richmond, Terry Taylor isn't updating the world on his 9-to-5 life. He's writing a novel. On Twitter, 140 characters at a time.

Taylor, an Alabama-born Richmond resident, is a self-proclaimed storyteller, and he feeds a wild tale into his social-networking sphere.

Taylor (handle: @ttaylordude) is tweeting up a full-length novel — a gritty, violent, dark-humored saga set in rural Alabama — from his office desk at Big River Advertising, where he works as creative director. He's one of many writers across the country experimenting with this art through Twitter, whose conventional purpose is to allow users to follow each others' real-time chats and referrals.

On the dock in Panama City, 6 men unloaded 530 kilos of heroin that was wedged inside the walls of the fishing boat. — June 25, 2:41 p.m.

It flows out “thought-by-thought,” Taylor says, emerging on his Twitter account at a steady clip of 10 to 20 posts per day.

“It's addictive. It's enjoyable,” he says. “I literally sit in [company] meetings thinking about what's going to happen to Gus.”

Taylor's idea formulated when he got wind of Iranian students using Twitter for political activism rather than personal blogging. “It struck me that there could be a totally new way to use this thing,” he says, “and I'm always looking for a new way to tell a story.”

Tajo Vega sat in a Porsche in the parking lot of a golf course. He was waiting for two calls. One about the boat. One about Gus. — June 25, 2:42 p.m.

His creation is organic and constantly evolving, much like Twitter itself. And like the jungle habitat of social media, the growth of Taylor's creature is far from finished.

“The plan is to keep telling the story. A lot of [the characters] are going to die,” Taylor says, laughing. “But if there's enough left at the end, I'll tell another story.”

A small audience of Twitter users — fewer than 150 — is signed on to follow the trail of Taylor's novel. But anyone can read it at Be ready to step over all the cigarette butts, blood and shell casings.

“The safety's on,” he said calmly. “You want to kill a man, you better take off the safety.” She hit the button, rolling down his window and fired a round past his face. Powder burned his eyes. His ears rang. Cordite hung in the air. — June 26, 7:42 p.m.

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