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The Growth of Micro-Fiction: From Twitfics to Drabbles

10/25/2016
WZ's own Ellie Sutcliffe delves into the rise of a very modern form.
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Drabbles, Dribbles, Twitfics…

You may have spotted these bizarre terms in passing, or may well be versed in them, but what do they mean?

The art of writing short fiction became even shorter with the advent of social media and the Internet.

Over recent years, micro or flash fiction has grown in popularity. Online journals, websites and forums have been popping up for people to tell extremely short stories, and they are using social media, too. 

As a creative writing student, I’ve been using ultra short forms of fiction to help train myself not to overwrite. In the past, I’ve taken words for granted. Played with flowery language, overused adjectives and adverbs, and fallen into the cliché trap far too often. When you are limited to such a small word count, all of these tendencies disappear.

With Twitter, there is the extreme limit of 140 characters. So, the Twitfic was born. Similarly, we have Dribbles at 50 words, Drabbles at a little more forgiving (if only slightly) 100-150 words, and flash fiction at 750–1500 words. At uni, some of our shorter creative writing assignment pieces are in the form of flash fiction or short stories. 

 

These small pieces of fiction not only allow readers to engage with you as a writer, but also give you a chance to display your work in tiny, bitesize pieces, without giving everything away at once. This is particularly relevant as some writers are trying to make a living.

The Twitfic community is small but growing, experimenting with various genres and lengths. Some writers choose to write a piece of flash fiction over the space of an hour, releasing fragments every few minutes. Others choose to make short, stand-alone segments of prose that play with subtle hints, and rely on the imagination of the reader to fill in the blanks.

There’s also space for verse creations: a tweet is the perfect length for a haiku. Writers are beginning to publish collections of their Twitter fiction in book form – check out Twitterature by Alexander Aciman.

Transmedia storytelling - from YouTube web-series to podcasts - uses Twitter in innovative new ways, creating fictional profiles for their characters to have full conversations online.

Twitter has become a great spot for creatives to post short pieces and to push creativity to its limits. Check out the hashtag #Twitfic and maybe give it a go yourself!

Don’t forget to tag Wet Zebra so we can share your twitfics on our feed!

Edit: Eagle-eyed WZ author Tony Judge spotted that the definition of flash fiction is a bit more flexible than just 750-1500 words. It seems the term encompasses a range of short forms, and has no set length. The limits are customarily prescribed by the context, i.e. some competitions will ask for 300-word flash fictions, while others permit longer works of around 2000 words. Thanks for the help, Tony!