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Atomic Lit and Quantum Lit – Literature for Facebook and Twitter

I accidentally invented a new literary form the other day: Atomic Lit. (Surely, this has been done before, but I don’t know of it or its name.)

I wanted to write a story that would fit in a Facebook post. That’s 420 characters. And so I wrote the story “The Invention of Night.”

While writing it and trying to fit the title and story into the 420 characters, I had thought about using “1” for “one” and “1st” for “first” to save on character space. However, I thought that was cheating, so I made an additional rule: no abbreviations. You cannot use “1” or “1st” unless it’s grammatically correct to use “1” or “1st.”  There will be no using abbreviations like “w/” for “with,” or “b/c” for “because”, especially the latter because that’s a stupid abbreviation.

So the two rules in full are:

1. You are allowed 420 characters for the story or poem and the title.

2. You  must use the natural word. No abbreviations.

Here’s my first Atomic Lit story.

The Invention of Night

This was in the days of giants, when mountains were molehills. It was a very hot day, & a giant was looking for shade, but the trees were too small. The giant grew angry under the hot sun. He needed a cool spot to rest. The heat got to him. He punched the sky right in the cloud. The sky blacked out & filled with stars. This pleased the giant. Soon he fell asleep under the first cool night sky.

As you can see, I broke rule two twice by using “&” for “and”, but I have long held that the ampersand is a word. You can make your own decision.

Now that I think about it. Rule three.

3. No semicolons.

That’ll also reduce cheating. So use “, and” or “, but” or “, or” instead of the semicolon. You shouldn’t be using semicolons anyway.

You could use this Atomic Lit form to write poems, too. Somehow, I think it works better as prose because of the visible tension for the reader – “How will this story end? There’s not enough room to end.” And the writer gets tension by trying to fit the story into 420 characters. Poetry already has enough tensions, so it doesn’t need this one, but go ahead and do it anyway, if you want.

I’d like to see a good Atomic Lit story. One that is better than this one, anyway. For me, my first draft, which was far too long, was better than the final Atomic Lit piece above. The first draft had more detail that contributed to the story’s tone, movement, and feel. Plus, it had a good rhythm. A fairy tale-like rhythm. That rhythm is now lost. This current Atomic Lit story  can be expanded so much. I imagine they all can.

For now it’s a good exercise in condensing.

But by writing more of these, you or I can figure out what the new form wants to do and how it can be a successful way to tell a story.

So why Atomic Lit? Because it’s small. It gets down to the constituent parts of writing. If one felt inclined, then one could get into an smaller form, which I’ll call Quantum Lit. That’s a story with the same rule two as above, but rule one is limited to 140 characters. Quantum Lit is for Twitter. Atomic Lit is for Facebook.

And then let’s add Quark Lit. Quark Lit is a story told in six words like Hemingway’s saddest story ever told: “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.” I think this from already exists under another name.

Please share your Atomic Lit, Quantum Lit, and Quark Lit stories in the comments below this blog entry.

Have fun. Allons-y.//


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