FLASH FICTION and TWITTERATURE


Although far from new, the flash format is certainly trending, in large part because of advances in technology, social media and the resulting "immediate" culture. A well known example, widely called the "shortest story ever written," comes from Ernest Hemingway: "For sale: baby shoes, never worn." The Daily Beast proposes that Hemingway's story idea may have originated with William R. Kane in 1917 ("Little Shoes, Never Worn") or Roy K. Mouton in 1921 ("Baby carriage for sale, never used"). The meaning of the condensed language lies in the spaces between words, the unsaid, the suggested, much like in poetry. The story immediately invites reader collaboration, to fill in the blanks surrounding the evoked image. The result can be a very personal, psychologically and emotionally charged story.

I ask my Intro to Humanities students to refashion The Epic of Gilgamesh and Sophocles' Antigone using social media. Working in small groups and using either a text message or Twitter format, they have the choice of restricting their entire story to one single post (no one's succeeded in that challenge thus far), or of composing successive texts (190 characters/message) or tweets (140 characters/tweet). Even those with little interest in the age-old tales take up the gauntlet in the spirit of community, fun and creative learning.

Some choose to recount the tales in an elevated style, using language reflective of the original stories and the more traditional epic or tragic genre. Some opt for a more relaxed style, incorporating abbreviations, jargon, hashtags and symbols commonly used by avid 21st century texters and tweeters. The resulting stories are diverse, well-thought-out and enthusiastically shared. They represent a successful creative experience as well as a fruitful learning experience. The students leave class owning the main points of Gilgamesh and Antigone, and the insights both works give us into the human experience.

Annenberg Learner on The Epic of Gilgamesh


Below is a list of several flash fiction sites, s
ome of which offer specifics about the genre, including teaching ideas (some invite submissions): 

Flash fiction story by Trinidadian writer Earl Lovelace, "A Story in Which I Look Good"









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