Writing Rudolph

Writer, performer and Bad Language host Fat Roland brings us another Christmas-themed guest blog, about what it takes to write his annual Twitter horror story…

Christmas is a time for families to draw together. A time to argue about Doctor Who over a table strewn with greasy meat. A time to close the curtains and coo at lights on a tree that will soon be shoved star-first into a shredder.

The cultural sledgehammer of yuletide feels like a pressure cooker filled with neon-lit slogans and songs. Without a family unit, without money, without a need to flaunt my low-slung garlands, Christmas is the kind of high-octane emptiness you get in a Fast & Furious movie or a Russell Brand diatribe.

And so December becomes a coping strategy. A self-imposed Mental Health Protection Programme: doctor Fat Roland; patient Fat Roland. I’m not alone in feeling this. That’s why, year after year, I kill Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.


Rudolph Died is an annual Twitter story told throughout advent. It tells a dark tale, over 216 tweets, of a bitter, drunken Santa and his poor, panicky elves. The titular star is indeed dead, and starts 2013’s story as a pile of chewed bones in muddy snow. 2014’s story is well underway: you can find it on Twitter, Tumblr and Storify.

Twitter storytelling is difficult; there cannot be a wasted sentence. Even that pithy sentence took 69 characters, while “Twitter stories can’t waste words” could have sufficed at half the character usage. I make these decisions all the time with Rudolph Died.

Characters have no time to be mysterious or indirect. Action is short-handed sometimes into single words, giving the story a crime-thriller punch. Clarity is tough when it’s so boiled down because you can edit out words that matter. But when I get a phrase that zings, or manage to add echo and rhythm to the pacing, it makes me go all fairy-lit inside.

The darkness is delicious too. A dead elf’s intestines draped from a tree like tinsel. Reindeer going loco, snarling fury at soon-to-be victims. Santa’s fairly hefty drink problem. Like the real Christmas, this is a horror story.

The second best thing about Rudolph Died is the discipline. Long library sessions (a man next to me appears to be photocopying the entire internet as I write this), early-morning editing, frosty walks to shake my brain cogs. The writing structure and tweet schedule is relentless. But, yes, so is Christmas.

The first best thing about Rudolph Died is the readership. I’m writing this in community with a bunch of eager eyeballs. During this so-called festive season, I hope you find your coping strategy in community too. Let’s short-hand the crap; let’s speak to each other more about the things that matter. Embrace the darkness. And if you see a reindeer, there’s no point in running: you’re already dead. Happy Christmas!

Fat Roland performing at First Draft some Christmas past...

Fat Roland performing at First Draft some Christmas past…

What else?

Don’t forget to join us for our Christmas event, The Heathens’ Christmas Party, on Monday night (15 December)!

Read Rudolph Died over on Tumblr and Storify

Follow Fat Roland, Rudolph Died and First Draft on Twitter


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