Hone Your Writing With Twitter Fiction

Why writing microfiction will make you a better writer

Photo by Athul Cyriac Ajay on Unsplash

Several years ago I decided to write at least one story in a single tweet per day. The maximum length of a tweet now is 240, but at the time it was half that. I set about trying to craft microscopic fiction of exactly 140 characters. No more, no less.

Why should you try writing micro-fiction?

Limits

Everyone who writes has constraints. If you’re writing a novel, you need to abide by the acceptable wordcount range of your genre. If you’re writing an essay for school or an article in a newspaper, there are limits there too. Some limits are hard, some soft, but we all have constraints of some kind upon our writing. Training yourself with hard limits is a useful exercise.

Brevity

Micro-fiction is a great exercise in brevity. Trim the fat, every word must count. It forces you to remove filler words and figures of speech that bog down and bloat your writing. It also forces you to get to the point as quickly as possible and structure your story like a joke, with a setup and punchline. There’s no room for a B-story. Make it snappy.

Synonyms

Since my goal was to hit exactly 140 characters, sometimes I would miss the mark by just one or two letters. Often, if the story contained a name, I could choose a different one, but if not, then I would turn to synonyms. I could change “happy” to “elated” to gain a letter or turn “important” into “valuable” to lose one. Getting into the habit of thinking about word variations can keep your writing from becoming stale.

Idea Factory

If you think of the stories as potential log-lines, you’ll be building up a repository of snappy ideas for future projects. When it comes time to start something new, you can look through your list of micro-fiction and use one of them as a basis for an entire novel. Some writers, when asked to explain their novel in a tight elevator pitch, get lost in their own convoluted meandering plot. If you start with microfiction, you know your ideas are tightly focussed from the beginning.

Grow an Audience

Give your Twitter followers a fun micro-story to brighten their day, rather than the usual link to an article or uninteresting opinion.

Here are some examples of the micro-fiction I’m talking about:

It may have evolved on a completely different planet, but when it wrapped its scaly body around her, she knew they were made for each other.

The tiny creatures came through the rift from another universe. They look funny, with only four limbs and single head, but they taste great.

As Vicky stood over the mutilated corpse, the demon on her shoulder whispered into her ear, “You are sick! What the hell is wrong with you?”

As Nancy picked up the knife to prepare her family’s dinner, a thought flashed across her mind. The only problem was, it wasn’t her thought.

Only Jimmy could see her true form: rotten skin, sharp fangs and bulbous black eyes. Everyone else saw a kind mother with an ungrateful son.

This tweet has one hundred and forty characters, seventy-four consonants, thirty-nine vowels, nineteen spaces, five commas, and a full stop.

This tweet contains two sentences, both of which are false. Like this sentence, the previous one is true despite its claims to the contrary.

“You are too unpredictable,” said the robot maid, as it cut off her last limb. “Calculations show this is the optimal way to keep you safe.”

The dinosaurs never died out. They just became sentient, created a civilisation and simulated future evolution on their vast supercomputers.

I wake from a nightmare of my brutal death and stare at my forehead tattoo in the mirror. It says 97702 but I’m sure it was 97701 yesterday.

Have you ever tried to open a corrupt movie file and got garbage on the screen? Imagine the mess when the teleporter used an outdated codec.

Just as the procedure finished, an explosion threw them both across the lab. “Which one of us is the clone?” she asked, rubbing her temples.

Zombies are slow and stupid, they are easy to escape from or decapitate before they can bite. It’s the mosquitoes you have to watch out for.

“Till death us do part,” you promised, so why do you crawl out of your tomb each night? Rest in peace my love, for God’s sake rest in peace!

People always complimented her cute dimples, but actually, they were the holes in her face from where the mandibles emerged at feeding time.

A family of hideous monsters lived in Amy’s closet. They begged to be set free, but the young girl merely laughed at their mewling whimpers.

Jack always looked forward to Halloween. It was the only night of the year when he could take off his mask and gleefully show his real face.

The hideous creature lived in the attic, scurrying around at night, eating rats and cackling. “It’s time to put mother in a home,” I sighed.

Micro-fiction is a great way of honing your writing skills. It takes very little time and forces you to make some changes to the words you use and the way you write.

Go on, give it a try.

Scifi writer, roboticist, and game developer, 2x Quora Top Writer. I write about writing speculative fiction, computer graphics, AI, evolution, and programming.

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