From the Director…If Birds Wrote: The Twitterstory.
Let’s start with a couple of stories.
Your Pain Will Set You Free
He sat in the car, waves crashing over the frozen railing. If she was home, he didn’t want to see her leave. He’d drive permanently south.
‘X’ Marks The Spot
We had dug twelve holes before we realized the map was wrong. How to dispose of the shovels before Mom used them on us was now the question.
If I asked you to name a literary form that is tiny, elegant, and defined by a very strict numeric structure, you might say haiku, that Japanese poetic form, which is centuries old.
But if I required that the literary form be new and rapidly gaining in popularity, you would have to say Twitterstory.
What the heck is a Twitterstory?
Like the examples above, a Twitterstory is limited to 140 characters, the size of a Tweet on the popular social media site, Twitter.
Can one really tell a story in 140 characters?
Certainly, a lot must be implied. But look at the examples above. We imagine the passage of time and see the heightening drama. We even know something of the characters involved. And what’s most important, we feel their emotion.
Even if you don’t tweet and never want a Twitter account, there’s something wonderful and challenging about attempting a story in 140 characters. Anybody can use reams of paper to tell a story—but to tell a tale in a tiny form? Well, that takes patience, careful selections of words, and lots of revision: good practice for any writer. And it’s fun, too!
Writing Twitter stories provides excellent practice in two areas.
- It forces you to be succinct. Southern speakers in particular use many extra words. If you don’t believe me, write down what you say and then see how many words you can cut out and still have the same meaning. I once wrote what I thought was a beautiful first sentence to my novel. My friend cut out eleven words. Whether in poetry, fiction or nonfiction, every word must be on trial for its life. If every word is the best word for its job, then we don’t need a bunch of extras. Extra words are boring. In writing, one plus one equals half.
- Seeing life as a continual series of Twitter stories makes us think deeply, like writers. We see the tips of the icebergs of emotion.
Here’s one of my favorites stories by Lauri Griffin, published on the One Forty Fiction website:
He dropped the last box onto the dorm room floor, and watched his parents drive away. He’d never belong in just one place, ever again.
And by a local writer:
She took off her ring when he took off his. He wears his now, but hers is lost.
I think that’s 79 characters, but it speaks volumes about these people, their lives, their pain.
So give Twitter stories a try. We might see your story on one of the websites mentioned above.