“Brevity is the soul of wit” – so says Polonius. And so say I?

I find myself unexpectedly interested in the idea of Twitter fiction – that is, telling a story within the confines of Twitter’s 140 character limit. The Guardian challenged authors to try their hand at this and suggested readers contribute their own, via the Twitter tag #140novel. It’s a good way to use social networking sites such as Twitter – one can’t help but point out that the tag itself eats into the 140 character limit but oh well, the Guardian clearly trying to make things that extra bit trickier for us non-famous author folk! I must admit to quite liking SJ Watson’s: “She thanks me for the drink, but says we’re not suited. I’m a little “intense”. So what? I followed her home. She hasn’t seen anything yet.” Profound? Depends. Amusing? Definitely. Intriguing? For me, yes.

It seems in the same vein as supposedly Hemingway’s shortest story ever written “For sale. Baby shoes. Never worn.”, in turn inspiring the likes of Six-Word Memoirs. Above all, these kind of projects champion the economy of words and as a literature student, who has just spent several hours trying to understand what the hell William Blake’s not-particularly-succinct ‘Marriage of Heaven and Hell’ is about, I appreciate this idea far more than I ought to be willing to openly admit. There’s still a little part of me, the traditional/purist literary fan, that deems it impossible to build a proper narrative in so little words. But is it spelling out a narrative – beginning, middle and end – that is the true job of the author? Or is the author’s aim instead to suggest a story which the reader is then invited to engage with, filling in the blanks? In the case of ‘Hemingway’, we ask ourselves why the baby shoes were never worn. It makes readers engage; they aren’t handed the story on a plate by the author. No one can truly deny that Hemingway failed the bet, even the purist part of me!

Also, as someone who is a terrible creative writer, ideas like six-word memoirs make me think that maybe, just maybe, I could give storytelling a go. It’s all about economy of words (something which has never really been my strong point but hey ho) and balancing the line between ambiguity and brevity. Whatsmore, it doesn’t take hours to crack out 6 words or 140 characters, everyone can spare the time to give it a half-decent go. To create something as haunting as ‘Baby Shoes’ supposedly shouldn’t take hours either but hey we’re not all ‘Hemingway’ now, are we?

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