Twitter just concluded its 2014 #TwitterFiction Festival (@TWfictionfest) this past Sunday. It ran from March 12-16, and I had a hell of a lot of fun with it. If you missed this one or are unfamiliar with it, the object is to write a “very short story” (#vss) within Twitter’s 140 character limit, adding the aforementioned hashtags. I love this kind of thing and will sometimes use similar activities with my Creative Writing students. Of course, this isn’t entirely new and is reminiscent of Hemingway’s six-word-story, but, for my purposes as a writer, I think it’s some of the best practice. It forces prose that is both terse and suggestive, allowing the reader to formulate the larger story from the minimal. I also, for many of them, rely on dialogue. I’m always telling my students to let what characters say tell the story, and this kind of practice helps me follow my own advice. I enjoyed it so much, actually, that I had considered creating an entirely new and additional Twitter account devoted to this—micro-fiction?—nano-fiction? I think I’ll go with “nano-fiction” for this. But the last thing I need is another social network to distract me from, well, everything else, including my writing. So, I thought that perhaps once a month I would devote a post here to nano-fiction. I’ll start with those I wrote and tweeted for the #TwitterFiction Festival (two were featured on the #TwitterFiction website and are indicated by an asterisk).
* * *
“I think we’re out,” he said—out of breath, hands dirty.
“It’s okay,” she said. “We’ll be okay.”
“You think she hears us, Dad—I mean, knows we’re here?”
I held his mother’s still hand. “Yes,” I lied. *
He checked his phone to discover he’d been blocked on every social network. What did I say? he thought.
“What time you think it is?”
“Don’t matter no more,” he said. “Now help me get this fire started.”
“Think she’s okay?” I asked.
“Yeah, she’s got it,” he said.
She wasn’t okay—not at all. We kept walking.
“Remember the time she took us to that bar—for our first drink?”
“I miss her.”
“Think we should tell the kids now?”
“We have to.”
It wasn’t supposed to be like this.
She held the old shirt to her face and inhaled. It didn’t smell like him anymore, but she pretended it did. *
“You think you know the way?” She asked him, pulling over.
“I don’t know the way to anything.”
“That’s the damn truth.”
“I keep wondering which of us will ask first,” he said.
“Neither,” she said. “I think we’re just going to stay like this.”
Dad handed me my first car keys. “You’re just a foot from death out there.”
“Ain’t that always true?” I asked.
“You want to come in? You can, you know,” she said.
“No—I know,” he said
“When I know I won’t want to leave.”
Dad came home from Afghanistan and wasn’t Dad. I’ve often wondered how he might have been—hell, how I might have been.
* * *
Like I said, I love doing this and it’s great practice, but it also does not take away from my current writing projects. As a writer I’ve never aspired to be prolific, but I do want to be persistent and productive. The brief time it takes me to produce one of these is a moment well spent; each piece of nano-fiction is a seed for a possibly larger project in the future.