How long?
by Jessa Slade on June 22nd, 2009

Currently working on: Staring into the abyss without blinking
Mood: Abysmal

March Hare: “Start at the beginning!”
Mad Hatter: “Yes, yes. And when you come to the end… STOP!”

I’ve always written long.  I write long words in long sentences to make long paragraphs that end up as long stories.  ALICE IN WONDERLAND’s Mad Hatter would be an even madder hatter after reading my first drafts.  I live in a place formerly nicknamed Stumptown for the love of logging, and even the hard-pressed papermills around here wouldn’t approve of the number of reams I could burn through.  Luckily, editors invented revisions.

I think writing short is harder.  I’m always impressed with art that compesses idea and expression into the smallest space possible.  Think of haiku and Faberge eggs and lolcats.

The modern equivalent is Twitter stories.  Twitter is the microblogging site that allows you to post, at most, 140 characters.  Not words, characters.  Yeah, I know, 140 pages barely gets me out of Act I.

But I’ve been toying around with the form.  Well, mostly I’ve been reading other people’s stuff and secretly suspecting they fleshed it out later to Facebook status update length.  The trick is, how do you fit character, plot, conflict and resolution — or at least the suggestion of all four — into 140 characters?

Brain strain time.  It’s actually kind of fun.  I can write a Twitter story in my head while I’m walking the dog and have a half-decent chance of still remembering it by the time I get home.  Here’s what I came up with on this morning’s walk:

She waited behind the door. Patiently, as a lady should. Soft sand crept in, but nothing else. She feared all along he had wanted the tiger.

Deathless prose to equal Lewis Carroll?  No.  But I think I got the four elements in, plus (to my mind) a touch of pathos.  Okay, sure, I used up every single one of those 140 characters.  Like any good papermill, I’ll let nothing go to waste.

Go ahead and try it.  Never fancied yourself a writer?  This is a quick and relatively painless way to join the fun.  To the first 10 people who take a shot (and remember, quality is not an issue in first drafts, which these are) I’ll send a SEDUCED BY SHADOWS bookmark.  (I should add, this is for residents of the U.S. since I plan to use up old stamps on ya.)  Just like words, you can never have too many bookmarks!


8 comments to “How long?”

  1. 1

    Great idea, Jessa! I’ll put my thinking cap on.

    Is there a hashtag for flash fiction on twitter? I’d love to know what it is!

  2. 2

    Love this, Jessa — I’ll be thinking about it today. Don’t we all worry he was hoping he’d get the tiger??

  3. 3

    Okay, I think I’ve got one…

    It no longer fit. Meg slowly hung up the $500 silk dress she’d worn to every fancy party since high school. Then she grinned.

  4. 4

    Okay, here goes.

    The costly battle was won. He shed his sword and the memory of death at the door. He slid between the sheets and into her arms.

  5. 5

    Nice one, Annette. I cheered for Meg!

    Aw, Joey. What simple words to capture his story so completely.

    Good work, you two.

    There are a bunch of hashtags on Twitter I’ve seen: #flash-fiction, #micro-fiction. But what’s annoying about those is they suck up your 140 characters!

  6. 6

    Dark hair brushed her fair flesh. This wasn’t the end she expected to their fiery duel. His demon kin and her vamp friends wouldn’t approve.

  7. 7

    Bear barked at the pool. He jumped in and grabbed the boy’s hand. He dragged him to safety. The parents wondered why both were dripping wet.

  8. 8

    Woo! Awesome Twitter stories!

    I’m so coming back to try and attempt that once I’m past my deadline. Until then, I have no spare brain cells!

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