- Alexander the Great – @AlexanderIII
- Hephaestion – @HephaestionThH
- Ptolemy – @Ptolemy_I_Soter
- Thaïs – @Thais_of_Athens
In 2007 a very good friend ‘introduced’ me to Alexander the Great.
In January 2009 I discovered Twitter, and thought what a super idea it would be to create an account in Alexander’s name. I could then use it to record his expedition as if he was writing the tweets himself.
This was an entirely natural idea for me as I have always enjoyed creative writing.
In retrospect, it was also an unwise idea, as I didn’t know nearly enough enough about Alexander to properly tweet it. Even today, I am learning so many things every time I read about him.
However, in January ’09 I took the plunge and have enjoyed writing the account ever since.
To begin with, I had no linear structure in mind for the account in mind. In other words, before sending Alexander’s first tweet, I didn’t pick a starting point, e.g. when Alexander ascended to Philip II’s throne, and proceed to tell his story from there.
In fact, the early tweets were sent from whichever point of his eleven year expedition I was interested in at the time. One minute they could have been sent from Greece in 335 B.C., the next in Egypt four years later, and so forth.
It was only after a couple of years (give or take one or two) that I decided to settle down, pick a point to ‘starting point’ and then proceed accordingly. I can’t remember why but I chose Alexander’s time in Egypt as that starting point.
In writing @AlexanderIII I am not seeking to give either a day-by-day account of his journeying or even an absolutely realistic one.
Day-to-day? I fast forward through Alexander’s journey sometimes. There are various reasons why I might do this. One of them is that I can’t think of anything interesting to say about wherever he is at that moment. Rather than bore myself – and as writers are told, if you are bored, then your reader will probably be – I just move the narrative on.
Realistic? Right from the beginning humour has been a part of my Twitter-Alexander story. I don’t think it was a conscious decision to write it that way, it just happened like that.
Having said that, while I am very fond of surreal (i.e. Pythonesque) humour, I do have one test for everything I write: is it plausible? If I am writing something that the real Alexander never said or did, I want the reader to believe that it is in accordance with what we know of his character. It has to be believable humour. If it isn’t, then the reader’s suspension of disbelief is broken and the spell fails.
I also write the @Ptolemy_I_Soter, @Chiliarch and @Thais_of_Athens accounts.
I started the Twitter-Ptolemy account in February 2011 as I wanted to start exploring Alexander’s journey from a different angle. This is why I started the Twitter-Hephaestion and Thaïs accounts as well. As I said above, I have always enjoyed creative writing.
As time as passed, the four accounts have settled down in different ways.
@AlexanderIII is less humorous than he was. He speaks in a more dignified fashion.
@Chiliarch is, of course, Alexander’s faithful friend. I also try to write him a little ‘darker’ in the sense of him being a little more weighed down by the physical and mental cost of the expedition than the others.
@Ptolemy_I_Soter He is now the humorous character although not, I hope, to the extent that when he talks about things going on within the world of the story, he is no longer a credible witness.
@Thais_of_Athens Even though I have been written Thaïs since May 2011 I have to admit that as of the time of writing (August 2014) I don’t think I have yet found her voice. Too often I seem only to write her when she speaks to Ptolemy & co. I don’t want her to be a reactive character, though, so she is someone I need to work on.
Role Playing is a popular sub-section of Twitter. I follow a few RP accounts and greatly enjoy them. At the risk of sounding pretentious, though, I don’t consider my ‘Twitter Macedonians’ to be R.P. accounts. For me, they are characters that – had I not discovered Twitter – whose story I might have told on a blog or fan fiction site.
In a way, the Twitter Macedonians are also a kind of literary exercise – an attempt to answer the question I posed myself at the start of 2009 ‘Is it possible to tell a story in 140 characters or less?’. My experience since leads me to say that the answer is ‘yes’. How well I have told and am telling that story is for the reader to decide.
If you would like to know more about The Second Achilles, click here