The 147 character story?

We’ve heard about micro stories, micro fiction, short shorts and flash fiction, but the 147 character story in a tweet? Is the tweeted story to fiction what steam punk is to technology: the possibility of a wonderful new artefact (the tweet) combining with the old (the narrative). Could a story be written through a series of sets of 147 characters? Is it akin to short prose poetry, or a tanka or haiku with narrative?

This is the writing exercise then: write a story in 147 characters.

But first, what is story?
What is a fictional narrative and how is it different to an essay on fracking in the Hunter Valley or a weather report? Here, a fiction narrative or story, is a succession of fictional events that use a written or spoken language (i.e. not film, or dance or visual art). By succession I mean causally linked. And by fictional  I mean invented or made up. In the limerick below, which fits the 147 character challenge, we read about a young woman who dies after riding on a tiger, the implication being that the tiger killed and ate her.

Notice, that with only 147 characters, some of this story isn’t written explicitly — some of it is implied. So, what is not said, and which doesn’t use up our precious 147 characters, communicates vital parts of the story. Implication, silences and gaps are wonderful tools for the writer:-

There was a young lady of Niger
Who smiled as she rode on a tiger
They returned from the ride
With the lady inside
And the smile on the face of the tiger

For this story to communicate meaning to us as readers, we need to know things about the world. We need to understand that tigers are ferocious carnivores, for instance. As readers, we bring important knowledge to the story to complete the narrative.

I look forward to reading some 147 character (or less) stories!

And, if you’d like to read more about tweeted stories, take a look at the recent Miami Book Fair. Junot Díaz (Pulitzer Prize-winning author) started a crowd-tweeted story, with this first line: “The dogs hadn’t barked all week.” Even that simple, implied question (why hadn’t they barked?) invites us to read on.