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sharpener:

A Little Bird Told Me

Twitter Fiction Takes Off

By Laura Roberts

As Twitter increases in popularity, more writers are signing up daily to tweet about their lives and their writing. Some are even creating 140-character fictional stories-or Twitter fiction-as a way to keep their writing sharp and to the point. This new genre is alternately referred to as nanofiction, micro fiction, picofiction, “twiction,” or über-flash fiction.

Arjun Basu (@arjunbasu), a Montreal writer and editor and author of the fiction collection Squishy, writes Twitter stories that he calls “twisters.” His stories are often cheeky in tone, with an O. Henry-like zinger that will either make you think or laugh out loud. On August 21, for instance, he posted this one: “And when she showed him the nub of a pencil he felt shame and sighed and said, So it has come to this. And she said, At least one of us has.”

Even McGill University has jumped onto the micro fiction bandwagon: their sixwords.mcgill.ca website features six-word stories (inspired by Smith Magazine’s six-word memoirs) about students and faculty members’ fondest McGill memories. It’s not exactly Hemingway (his six word story “For sale. Baby shoes. Never worn,” is cited as inspiration), but it has a certain charm. At least it keeps rambling university students and their profs brief.

Though Twitter fiction may seem easy to do, condensing an entire story into a mere 140 characters is definitely a challenge. Micro fiction writers seem to enjoy this challenge, dreaming up tiny stories on a daily (or even hourly) basis and posting them on Twitter for the immediate gratification of feedback from their followers. Some even seek publication in places like Thaumatrope, Nanoism or the Vestal Review.

Oddly enough, in a world where writers are increasingly being paid less for their work, Twitter fiction offers an opportunity to be paid. Sites like Thaumatrope pay five cents per word for accepted submissions, and a recent “hint fiction” contest held by Robert Swartwood (@robertswartwood) offered payment of $1a word for short stories of 25 words or less. Stories accepted by Swartwood will appear in an anthology that will be published by W. W. Norton in 2010, taking these über-short stories straight to the mainstream.

illustration by Matthew Daley

Got a story you’ve been itching to write, but not enough time to write it? Consider Twitter fiction! Here are some of the top sites for this emerging genre:

Thaumatrope (sci-fi, fantasy and horror) thaumatrope.greententacles.com, @thaumatrope
Nanoism (literary fiction and serials) nanoism.net, @nanoism
Vestal Review (flash fiction) vestalreview.net
Outshine (prose poetry) shineanthology.wordpress.com, @outshine
Tweet the Meat (horror, weird, speculative fiction) tweetthemeat.blogspot.com, @tweetthemeat
50-Word Stories fiftywordstories.com
Six Word Stories sixwordstories.net, @sixwordstories
Two Sentence Stories twosentencestories.com
Smith Magazine (six-word memoirs) smithmag.net, @smithmag

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