Micro fiction – stories in 140 characters or thereabouts.

“For sale: baby shoes, never worn.

                                               – Ernest Hemingway

Way back in 1920 much, much before the little blue bird began a 140 character fever, Hemingway wrote a raw writhing emotion of a mother to be in just six words.

Today with the advent of social media the concept of micro fiction has become a genre of writing. twitter_fiction

The popularity of this form of writing in few words has soared in recent times. The digital explosion coupled with the intrusion of work and life into our reading time has caused a sudden interest in fiction in the short and micro category. Times have clearly changed. Young writers today are wired to think in terms of bite-sized data.

The classification of micro fiction is in fact a broad one. From writing the stories in Hemingway inspired six words, to Twitter’s prescribed 140 characters to writing in specific number of words from 55 to 99, all come under micro fiction. With mobile-ready quarterlies and weekly updated fiction columns that can fit in your pocket, even the physical dimensions of literature have shrunk to make both writing and reading a way to pass the time during life’s brief commercial breaks.

Personally I love the gradual build up of plot, character, tension and climax of a novel. Frustrating though it is, I even like waiting for the next book of an interesting series to hit the stands.

But the micro stories, they are different. Here is the raw, naked truth without the buffer of many words and oftentimes stays much longer in our hearts and minds than regular 90,000 words novels. It is not the size of the word count in the story, its the story in the word count that matters.

140 characters requires the writer to put down a raw, unflinching emotional honesty. In the words of Philip John, Creative Director of an advertising startup “Its like knocking back a shot of tequila as opposed to nursing a cocktail”

While the number of words may make this craft seem easy, I feel it’s anything but.

A story whether told in a 7 book series, a 700 page novel or in 140 characters needs a plot, character, tension, beginning, middle and an end.

Consider this,

Feet pounding on concrete, sweat pouring, his Nike app read 10 kms. Then the phone rang.

The above description might make a lot more meaning if ended better.

Feet pounding on concrete, sweat pouring, his Nike app read 10 kms. Then the phone rang. He could never run far enough.

The above description still lacks impact, tension and character. Maybe we can modify to,

Feet pounding, sweat pouring, his Nike app pinged at 10kms. Muscles rejoiced while his heart contracted at the memories he would never outrun.

A short story regardless of the number of words is a whole life. In a capsule maybe, but whole nevertheless.

A number of high profile writers have recently dabbled in the burgeoning realm of Twitter fiction.

here are also dozens of Twitter accounts for websites that publish only 140-character stories. Some of the most notable are @OneFortyFiction, @seedpodpub, @sixwordstories, @twitterfiction, @7×20, and @trapezemag, all of which are unpaid markets.

@Nanoism is a paying Twitter fiction market, which publishes three times a week and pays between $1.50 and $1 for stories: not bad, given the brevity of the form.

In 2012, The Guardian challenged well-known writers – from Ian Rankin and Helen Fielding to Jeffrey Archer and Jilly Cooper – to come up with a story of up to 140 characters. This is their stab at Twitter fiction.

Jackie Collins

She smiled, he smiled back, it was lust at first sight, but then she discovered he was married, too bad it couldn’t go anywhere.

Ian Rankin

I opened the door to our flat and you were standing there, cleaver raised. Somehow you’d found out about the photos. My jaw hit the floor.

Jeffrey Archer

“It’s a miracle he survived,” said the doctor. “It was God’s will,” said Mrs Schicklgruber. “What will you call him?” “Adolf,” she replied.

Simon Armitage

Blaise Pascal didn’t tweet and neither did Mark Twain. When it came to writing something short & sweet neither Blaise nor Mark had the time.

The days of full-length manuscripts and short story collections are far, far away, so embrace the attention deficit of the 21st century, because that person who anxiously checks their phone at every red light may just be your newest fan.

Pin it!

I used to remember your birthdays. Those excited afternoons of thinking what to wear for our evening out. The thrill of meeting you all at least once in a while and reminiscing about old times, old friends, wondering how they are moving on. Wishing for friends to be forever and in constant touch.

The devil heard my prayers instead of God. He said you’ll stay in touch always. Just share, pin, post or tweet and your friends will be yours forever. Now I do as he asked, but…. please update your profile dear friends as I need the prompt to wish you on your birthday!

55 word fiction

I watched her as she came up the beautiful stair case. She was tiny but beautiful. Her face held the same shocked look that I generally see on any newcomer’s face and in these last ten years I’ve seen thousands of them. She could not believe she had not been allowed to live. Her hope, dreams and joy had been dashed to the ground in a single surgical procedure.

She came near me perplexed and asked “why? What did I do?”

“You did not have the Y chromosome, so they aborted you” I replied as I was told when I first came up those celestial stairs.

(This is a tribute to those 20,000 daughters have gone ‘missing’ in Tamil Nadu in the last 10 years, according to the Campaign against Sex Selective Abortions (CASA).