IVP - Addenda & Errata - 420 Characters, All in a Row

August 5, 2011

420 Characters, All in a Row

What can you say in 420 characters? In my previous blog I spoke of storytelling. And that reminded me that I’m finding Facebook an interesting medium for writing experiments. For instance, can you write a mini-story in a Facebook posting? It’s fun to try. Last October I gave it a spin:

Three years he’d been at sea, fulfilling his destiny, consuming his inheritance and barely escaping the jaws of death. But now the hour had come, and he set his course for home. His wizened flesh bore the wounds of his wanderings as he beat his course up the Strait. But his heart was strong with resolve, and a strange joy infected his will. He would not—could not—rest ‘til he’d broached his natal waters.

That evening I’d been watching the salmon entering the mouth of a creek that empties into a salt-water bay a short distance from my house. The salmon were returning to spawn. The scene inspired me to try that mini-story, but I think I only got as far as a first chapter. Nevertheless, the exercise in making it concise—enforced by Facebook—is a good one. I had to keep paring away until it was under the limit yet still interesting. And I gave myself a time limit too. You gotta just do it. And then gather up the courage to put it out there. As I read it now, I want to tinker and rewrite. But it’s done.

You can also use Facebook to describe a scene, perhaps humorous or satirical, and get in a writing exercise that forces you to be concise. After seeing a depressingly misguided video by Jesus-seminar types, I wrote this:

The tired looking Jesus-seminar lineup, now in their old liberal dotage, drones on about saving Jesus from the church and points us toward the marvelous experience of the divine that can be discovered in ancient Gospels of all varieties but the Franchise of Four. Shop-worn assertions are paraded in a silly carnival of late-modern doubt and soiled-chiffon spirituality.

I’ve thought it would be fun—surely this is being done—if you had a critical mass of “friends,” to start a story and have people add sentences or paragraphs as “comments.” See where it goes! But for some reason, comments don’t seem to have the 420-character limit, so the discipline of “Be concise!” would need to be enforced.

I must confess that in my writing I’m always breaking through the word limit and then begging for grace. Human editors can be plied and bribed. But Facebook is an austere master who knows no mercy. Submit your creativity to its discipline and your writing will be better for it.

Posted by Dan Reid at August 5, 2011 9:57 AM Bookmark and Share

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