I’m currently reading a very long book. In fact I feel like I’ve been reading it for most of my life, and I’ve only just hit the halfway point. Don’t get me wrong, it is good… But in my opinion there is definitely such a thing as a book that is too long. But can a story ever be too short?
I really enjoyed David Mitchell’s Twitter short stories, told over a series of tweets of which several were published each day (follow him @david_mitchell). It feels like this method of writing shouldn’t work, but it really did. A quick look on Twitter had me completely sucked in to reading all the #twitterfiction, #microfiction, #flashfiction that’s happening out there. I find it interesting how a writer can build suspense, create interesting characters, and end up with an engaging narrative under such restricted conditions. But perhaps it can actually make some stories better.
Some points I have been thinking about when writing such a short story are:
- Each 140 character section of the story seems to work better when it is complete, rather than ending with an ellipsis and needing to be read with multiple other tweets before it can be understood (unless the sentence or concept is strung out over more than one tweet for a specific reason, such as because the character is hallucinating, and their disjointed thoughts are highlighted in this way).
- More than one tweet needs to be published at a time. One tweet from a story per day, for example, certainly wouldn’t be enough for me to keep me engaged and allow me to build a memorable picture in my head, before waiting for the next instalment.
- However it is good to spread the total number of tweets out over a few days rather than publish them all at once – this can build suspense and leave readers wanting more.
- There isn’t, in my opinion, an optimum number of tweets for a story. However, as with the book I’m currently reading, there can be such a thing as too many tweets. The beauty of this type of story telling is that it is short and succinct.
To be honest, although I have a Twitter account, I rarely use it. I don’t have many followers, and for some reason I always think that no one will be interested in what I have to say in only 140 characters (though clearly that doesn’t seem to stop anyone else). It always seems to feel a little forced when writing a tweet – like it needs to be composed, rather than just flowing. But writing this short story seemed like an interesting challenge, and it really did flow – hopefully it is something that my small number of followers will actually enjoy reading.
The inspiration for this story came from a dream. And the reason why I thought it would be best told in this way? I guess I thought that the idea of a narrow point of view from one individual, who desperately wants to understand the experience of another person but probably never will, was a good starting point for a story that was to be told in short bursts.
The story is called The Other Side of the Glass. Here is the first tweet… You can read more @w_notebook.
I was already in love with Megan before she left for Jupiter.