130 Tales

Today, I am digging around the old files on my computer (a strange expression, or combination of words, as the file dates back to 2009 yet I’ve only had this computer since last summer, so they were never really old to this computer and every time I open them they become new, or, at least, recent) to unearth a project I started when I started using twitter in order to make the service a bit more interesting for me.

130 Tales became a way to challenge myself as a writer to write a full story, the beginning of a longer story, or a complete image in a single tweet.

My limitations were thus:

  • Each tale had to be no more than 130 characters,
  • It had to include the hashtag #130tales at the end,
  • And I had to write 130 tales in 130 days.

My challenge began on November 4th, 2009. Meaning, one hundred and thirty days later, my projected end date was going to be March 11th, 2010. The idea was to write one tale a day. Not too tough. But I never really set that idea in stone. I allowed myself to write a couple each day, and then take a break for the few days following. For a while there, leading up to March, it was looking like my projection was nothing more than a fantasy; I had fallen too far behind and the ensuing pile-up never seemed to be clearing. As March hit, I thought it was hopeless; my experiment would fail and I would fall into utter self-loathing. But some inspiring words from my then-girlfriend in the last few days of the project lifted my spirits, and I began posting upwards of 10 a day. When March 11th rolled around, I was proud to be able to cross out “Projected” and write “Actual” with the following exclamation: “And it’s complete! March 11th baby!”

As I tweeted these tales to the world wide web, I kept this file not just to track how far along I was but to compile them in one central location with the idea that I could turn to them at any moment, choose a number and begin something anew.

I always intended for other people to read them. I know not all of them are perfect, and some of them simply don’t work, but that isn’t what this is about. This is about just writing something and then moving on to the next one. This is about struggling against the constraints of 130 characters. This is about not having time to think. As the project burst forward one month at a time, I started imagining these tales as tools for myself and other writers. I decided to keep some tales poetically vague, so if anyone was ever facing the demon of Writer’s Block, they could look at one of these and let their mind beat it back. I tried to write others as a possible story’s beginning, or catch line. Why not find one and continue writing after it ends? It might take you someplace you enjoy. You might meet people you never would have otherwise.

Who knows?

I certainly didn’t, and still feel like I don’t.

And here I am again, rifling through this document, unwilling to just let it stagnate. My plan now, in keeping with the theme, is to post 10 of these each week for the next 13 weeks. They will show up here, on the blog, as individual posts but I’ll also make a Page for them in the left link column where you can find every one posted to date. Let’s hope I don’t fall behind and let these posts pile up over the next 13 weeks. You’d think a person would learn over time, but you’d also be amazed at how surprising people can be…

So go ahead, I implore you to come along with me on this journey of 2009-writer-Andrew and if any of them inspire you, please, use it to produce something wonderful. If none of them inspire you, don’t tell me; I don’t need to know that. Come on, don’t be a troll.

And if the very idea of 130 Tales in inspiring to you, use it! Challenge yourself. You won’t regret it.

130 Tales

# 1 – 10

  1. “Why does a cat open its mouth as it dies?” Her life a puzzle, cryptic since I was born, how could her last words be different?
  2. We passed two girls, blurred in whispers. “Do you think we should tell them?” I turned and their eyes vanished. Tell them? Us?
  3. As the register closed Scot felt a long, wisp-like tug in the middle of his chest. Though the store was real he’d never remember it.
  4. Out of my head! Flee!
  5. Lying amongst dandelions, red against yellow and white and green, she’d offer them to the winds in return for his gentle voice.
  6. He’s returned from the trip, his face hard, unshaven. As he looks through the mirror to his briefcase a smile carves through stone.
  7. The lamp flickers. A blur rustles the grass. “Now we are three.”
  8. In another time they could have been sisters. Their movements precisely synchronized, conjoined. They would have lived forever.
  9. A yellow ponytail. A foreign cafe, sun-bathed and film-grained. She takes a deep breath as a milky work of art warms her fingers.
  10. Diligent, grabbing stomach, chest, neck. Always neck. She kneads, every night; it’s her only job and she always shows up. Always.