Lessons from Janey Godley: How to Tweet Overheard Dialog Like a Master

Traveling by train from Glasgow to London can be such a bore - but not when you're sitting next to fascinating people like Tim and Freya. Scottish comic and writer Janey Godley overheard the soon-to-be-ex lovers squabbling and seized the opportunity to live-tweet the event. Analyzing Godley’s technique, we’ve uncovered some tips to help you, dear reader, better share other peoples' business with the Internet at large. 

Along the way, Godley demonstrated that live-tweeting an overheard conversation is an excellent conversation starter about privacy and technology in the modern era - but no one would have paid attention if Godley hadn't so brilliantly condensed the unhappy couple's trauma into a gripping, illustrated, 100-tweet drama.

Not only that, she managed to serve both the Internet audience and her subjects, who, though they weren't aware that they were providing entertainment for a global audience, will be able to look back on a difficult moment and laugh heartily at their foibles.

Study the master's work, and learn.

 Determine that you are actually going to live-tweet this lovers' quarrel, or friendship brawl, whatever it might be. 

“There is another watcher to this story just spotted a man watching me watching them he has raised an eyebrow at me.”

Godley noticed another observer in the course of her eavesdropping, but he foolishly kept the incident to himself. Had he posted it on Twitter or Reddit, he would have captured a portion of Godley's notoriety as the latest “Internet sensation,” thus amassing new followers and press mentions.

• Avoid making your activity known to those about whom you are tweeting. 

“Tim is back he is looking at me suspiciously hope he can't see me tweeting.”

Godley recognized this important rule. Don't risk eye contact with your subjects, as it could reduce your resolve or, worse, cause the observed parties to move beyond earshot. 

• Render dialog accurately. 

"'Am pregnant' Freya just said to Tim. Oh My FUCKING god isn't she is going to take morning after pill DO I STEP in?"

"Freya just said 'well I might not be pregnant but am thinking of not taking the morning after pill which is same thing'."

"Tim 'you pretended to be pregnant Freya'"

 "'I didn't pretend I said I might be you always make me the liar Tim' says Freya 'I wish I recorded what u said' says Tim."

Godley was careful to transcribe everything the couple said, word by miserable word. Did Freya say she was pregnant, or didn't she? Both, as it happened. Her subjects will thank her later, when her record will serve to remind them both of exactly what they said.

• Attend to subtle details that may reveal your subjects' identities.

“He said a mate follows me on twitter and he recognised the names and description.”

Here, Godley commented on Tim’s email to her (“a bit embarrassed”) three days after she live-tweeted his breakup. The maestro's lesson is clear: Report any clues about your subjects' identities that you derive from their statements. That way, their friends and family can recognize them and notify them of your generous sharing.

• Use humor! 

“Freya 'Debra needs grooming' please oh fuck please let Debra be a horse and not a child."

Godley is no Louis C.K., but she sure knows how to deliver a zinger. Jokes or banter will keep painful tales light enough for enjoyment by the broader Internet audience.

• Describe the setting, actions, and especially subjective impressions of your characters.  

"He (Tim) is staring at floor Freya is eating a sandwich in a furious chompy manner as if it was his limp cock (am guessing)."

There's more to the scene than dialog. If you're having trouble coming up with words that adequately describe the poetry of the situation, always remember that you can simply snap a picture.