Bite-sized fiction

Creative corner

At school, a debate ensues. ‘Whose dad ties the perfect knots?’ Everyone displays their neat ties. I flaunt my perfectly braided hair.” This tiny tale by Joel Thottan from Mumbai on the occasion of Father’s Day speaks volumes about the beautiful relationship between fathers and daughters. Short and sweet, this tale on the Facebook page of ‘Terribly Tiny Tales’ (TTT) is sure to win many hearts.

Similarly, “He told me, ‘You’ll be happier. There are better fish in the pond.’ I stood there as my ocean walked away.” — a micro tale by Parth on ‘The Scribbled Stories’ (TSS), says a lot in limited words and opens up a bag of emotions.

These platforms are among the many collectives where a diverse pool of writers can create really short stories, giving readers interesting, impactful, bite-sized fiction in both English and Hindi. Here, “size matters” and one is expected to say “a lot in a little”.

The idea, they say, is to cater to the shorter attention span of readers at a time when text messaging too is considered exhaustive. “Attention span of a person was definitely one of the reasons. I could not get myself to read the long form. It is then that I realised that we need to capture stories in short and TTT came into being in 2013. We began with 140 characters with the idea to reward attention and value time,” says Anuj Gosalia, founder and curator, TTT.

According to Mohit Kumar, chief curator, TSS, the average attention span of a person is eight seconds and an average person reads about three words in a second.

“So we settled on 23 words. But soon we realised we needed to tell longer stories and other engaging content; thus, snippets and long stories began soon thereafter. In a nutshell, ‘The Scribbled Stories’ is all about everyday emotions, with literature at its core. We don’t make stories, we make relatable stories,” Kumar tells Metrolife.

He continues that less isn’t always more, and bigger isn’t always better and TSS tries to find a balance between the two opposite poles. “We post stories which are over 300 words; at the same time we also post stories which are barely six or seven words. Readers receive both warmly. There is a lot of similar content, but thanks to Facebook and Instagram algorithms, only the content which is good gets into people’s feeds. So yes, only good content survives the rat race,” Kumar adds.

Sharing the idea, Tanvi Lall and Suchetana Sinha from ‘Shorties’ say that people are welcoming towards such platforms because one needs to master the art of writing to pen down longer texts, whereas anybody can easily give away a major story in a line.

Agrees Gosalia and says, “It’s like the IPL and T20 of reading, and people are finding this to be an interesting alternative. In tweet-fiction, one needs to think and write differently. One may not be good at writing a novel, but can be excellent at micro-fiction. The trick is to start with something mundane or regular, but have a nice rewarding twist in the end. And you need to be absolutely judicious with words.”

He says one should first write longer, and then edit and eliminate all that is not useful. “Sometimes it may take a week to write a good tale, and on days you have the perfect one within 30 minutes,” he adds.

But with so many entries pouring in from all over the web, how do they decide what goes on their page? While for Lall and Sinha, the content needs to be in accordance with the format and have a larger message to convey, Kumar points out that if they feel people can relate to the story, or the story arouses some reaction, it is featured.

“If it makes you feel and question about something even for a few seconds, it goes up. Obviously, we try to make sure that we don’t use foul words or slangs just to look edgy in the tales unless the story actually demands it. And no, we don’t refrain from putting up tales and stories even on controversial issues — art is supposed to make you feel and react. If it can’t do that, then it’s just plain words,” says Kumar, who has a core team of 10 writers, who contribute apart from the fans.

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