A story with 140 characters

Fiction on Twitter: From short short story to endless stream

It is said that Ernest Hemingway once bet that he could write a complete short story in six words. He was Twitter-ready a half century before anyone conceived of tweeting.

Last week Twitter announced that at the end of November the company will host a five-day Twitter Fiction Festival (#twitterfiction), “a virtual storytelling celebration held entirely on Twitter,” inviting creative experiments in storytelling from authors around the world.

According to Twitter, it has hosted great experiments in fiction already, from Jennifer Egan’s “Black Box” to Teju Cole’s “Small Fates” to Dan Sinker’s @mayoremanuel. And Twitter notes it has even inspired some literary criticism.

To get into the spirit of things, and without getting into the whole business of streaming and interaction as components of twitter-fiction (working within the limitations of the classic tweet, you could say), I came up with this tweet-length short short story:

On the desiccated, recalescent planet, barren at last, the desolated creature, a cockroach, grief-maddened, devoured the corpse of its mate.

Hemingway won the bet, by the way. As the story goes (and the anecdote itself may be fiction), he scribbled “For sale: baby shoes, never used” to take home the pot.

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