“Very Short Stories”: Composing and Prose on Twitter

By February 7, 2012Writing about Writing

Comedian Sean Hill is bringing new meaning to the term “short story.”  His tiny tales (all of them under the 140-character limit imposed by Twitter) are strangely charming and quite possibly the future of prose and composing.  Collected in a new book, his stories are getting a lot of attention – and he’s not the only one taking advantage of the mini-format.  Novels are great but a few writers are choosing minimalism over quantity, and you can too.

I love editing and reading, but I’ve never composed a creative writing work of any length.  It’s hard to get started on such a thing.  If you’re anything like me, you might find composing anything of length a bit daunting – and totally mystifying.  You’re not sure how to construct an opening, how to advance a plot or communicate character development.

I think of the new trend for Twitter micro-stories as a good thing for baffled aspiring writers, though.  Mini-stories like the ones featured above might be a good start to writing a longer work, or at least a fun exercise.  Think of the mini-story as a starting point, an outline, or even just a tiny work of art, in and of itself.  These stories are like the prose equivalent of a haiku; they intrigue and entice a reader, challenge the writer to compose in miniature, and pack a serious punch.

Consider Hill’s stories, like the few below:

Nana rocked in her old wooden rocking chair. “Timmy, you have always been my favorite,” she said. He looked at her. “Nana, I’m Bobby.”

Read your diary, discovered your secret. I thought I loved you, but now I’m not sure. Don’t know what to do, you look so human.

Clowning was Daryl’s profession, cooking was his passion. Stella thought he was perfect. She liked to laugh and never learned to cook.

Alex bought Sharon a ring for Valentine’s Day, which she sold to buy the gun that stopped him from loving her.

Each of them makes sense, but also leaves the reader with a lot of questions.  We demand expansion, explanation, but there’s just this tiny sentence or two of plot.  Mini-stories give the writer the choice of expanding or polishing, or simply of starting over if that particular mini-story doesn’t charm you.  Sure, we could worry about what shorthand and technology means for the writer, but isn’t all fiction writing a form of shorthand?  I’d rather think of the possibilities – for writing novices and pros.