Micro fiction works are rising steadily in popularity among the new-age digital bibliophiles, says Ketaki Latkar
Whether it is for an enhanced taste for socio-culturally relatable writing, the growing preference for succinctness in narration or the rapidly plummeting attention spans of readers, micro fiction seems like the order of the day. For the uninitiated, flash or micro fiction is a condensed form of story telling, typically involving 300-400 words, or as less as 20-30 words.
The trend began to gain ground on social media, thanks to platforms like Terribly Tiny Tales (TTT), The Anonymous Writer, or The Scribbled Stories that started to strike a chord, especially with the younger, techno-savvy online audience, in the last three-five years. “Micro fiction, of late, is all the rage. Our micro tales have been gaining immense traction digitally, so much so that readers wanted us to take the initiative offline in some form, which is why we have recently started conducting writing workshops in different cities,” explains TTT’s co-founder Chintan Ruparel, while announcing the next TTT tales writing workshop on May 28 in Pune at Kalyani Nagar’s Little Next Door.
Getting it right
“We don’t go into the arms of war anymore
War is inside us now”
Concise, poignant and hard hitting – this is one of flash fiction writer Nilesh Mondal’s micro tale on TTT’s Facebook page, around the theme ‘violence has no face’, grieving the recent Manchester Arena bombing. With a whopping following of more than 9.5 lakh, TTT seems like the hands-down lord of the micro fiction genre. Speaking about what seems to click, Ruparel adds, “First and foremost, the content has a wide range—you could find everything from narrations of unrequited love, romance, rains, to themes like feminism, issues of the marginalised communities, the realities of war-torn nations, to everyday life situations. The stories are relatable, short and to the point and that’s what seems to work.”
Echoing the sentiments of Hamlet’s Polonius, brevity is the soul of wit. The micro fiction platforms not only promise striking story-telling in a jiffy, but also ease the burden of committing to a book, which is a time-consuming and patience testing feat for most of today’s quick-fix seeking ilk of youth. Says psychologist Debasmita Sinha, analysing why flash fiction’s the newest buzz word, “There are multiple reasons why micro stories work. One, there is a growing unwillingness among the younger audience to invest much in reading, not just in terms of money but also in terms of time. These forums solve the investment problem, given that they are free and take less than 30 seconds to read.”
Sinha added how the genre is a better alternative to reading books, since the size of a book can have an intimidating effect on people, and many may simply end up buying and not reading or finishing the book. “Reading reams of pages can sound like a laborious proposition, as opposed to reading micro fiction, as it is quick, and gives readers the desired ‘kick’ from reading. It is all about instant gratification,” she expounds.
Simple, not simplistic
The operative words for the genre are short and snappy, and getting it right is no mean job. The writing is non-formulaic and banks entirely on the element of appeal in the shortest span of time and the choice of the most appropriate set of words, of course, without the loss of emotion and essence.
Abhijit Chakraborty, the man behind India’s first micro fiction social media platform The Anonymous Writer shares, “We started as a platform that welcomed stories ranging between 300-400 words. Subsequently, we diversified and started to welcome a range of literature—from open letters, to poetry, nanotales as also long stories.”
With a following of about 6 lakh and about 100-200 stories coming in daily with a hope to feature on their page, The Anonymous Writer’s team of 50 has its hands full. Spread over different cities of India, and globally across Singapore, UAE, the United States and Pakistan, the team members of The Anonymous Writer, interestingly, spend only 15 minutes a day towards managing the page. “We are full time professionals and for us, The Anonymous Writer is a stress-busting zone of passion. We don’t look at it a business, which is also why we are very strict about the quality of the content that we upload,” elaborates Chakraborty.
The digital flash fiction frenzy surely spells novelty, given its multiple facets of story-telling, poetry, political commentary and unfiltered narration. Nonetheless, offline manifestations of micro fiction in the form of haiku, which is an age-old form of Japanese poetry or through caricatures and cartoon strips, have been excelling at telling a tale, since long.
Kala Ramesh, one of India’s most sought after haiku poets, shares her take on the nuances of micro fiction, “Honestly, like music or theatre, haiku lacks continuity, rhythm and sequence. If I have to present works of haiku to an audience, I usually make sure there’s some time in between the recitals, in order to allow the listeners what I like to call the ‘breathing and dreaming’ space. So you see, micro fiction may be short and concise; but it takes a tasteful audience and readers to experience its delight.”
The way forward
Ask the driving forces behind the micro fiction platforms about what’s in the pipeline, and they are quick to answer. “We have started conducting writing workshops across the country. The objectives are multi-fold—we wish to develop a personal connect with our readers and writing aficionados, and we also get a chance to meet and pick outstanding writers. The workshops are a great platform to talk about our journey, the various aspects of writing, such as sentence formation, creating appeal, overcoming the writer’s block and so on,” stresses Ruparel.
The Anonymous Writer, on the other hand, has not only started with the workshops across schools and a colleges; the platform has created dedicated pages for Hindi and Urdu works. “Tapping the sensitivities and sensibilities of writers, who wish to express in regional language, has been very fulfilling. We will soon launch pages exclusively for flash fiction works in Marathi and Bengali,” signs off Chakraborty.