Wednesday, 29 October 2014

The Wonderful World of Friday Phrases

In a corner of the Twitterverse, there is a wondrous galaxy called Friday Phrases. 

I stumbled onto it in the first half of 2014 and became quickly smitten. You see, Friday Phrases is all about micro-fiction - creating, doing, playing and celebrating it. 

FridayPhrases is the inspired idea of the fabulous Amy Good (@amicgood). In brief, what happens is that, on Fridays, people post, share, favourite, and re-tweet micro-fiction stories using the #FP or #FridayPhrases hashtag. 

When I first started playing FP, it was enough just to have the challenge of crafting an idea or an image into the 140-character limit (minus of course the #FP hashtag). 

As I confessed in a recent post, I tend to be a slow writer who re-writes and re-edits before I've even finished writing, second-guesses and questions whatever I'm writing so much, I frequently write myself into a dead end. Now, I've quickly found it is the very limitations of the tweet format that make FP attempts so freeing! You can't expand your story in one tweet. You can only hope to convey a tiny ghost of the essence of the image in your head. Nothing more.  

And you know what? Usually, that's more than enough. 

This means that little ideas and whimsies that might have otherwise been left to lie fallow, can instead find a potential home in Friday Phrases. My story, The Sun and the Moon, evolved out of exactly such a situation. 

There is a different optional theme for FP each week, meant to provoke and inspire. I'm finding nowadays that the theme tends to be my starting point. The themes are usually something outside your headspace. They force you to think and can add an extra layer of difficulty and challenge. 

Often, whenever I see the theme, my usual reaction is a dropped jaw, wide eyes, at least three cartoon question marks over my head, and the initial thought, 'what is anyone expected to do with that??!'

The most perfect example of this was the  theme 'quandary of the inebriated mariner' a few months ago. I laughed incredulously and tossed that theme straight into my too-hard basket. Without me realising, it percolated. 

Several hours later, organically and almost without trying, I combined it with a HeartSoup prompt (of "Dreams Collide") and came up with this:

I'm still very proud of this effort. With more than 20 stars (hey, that's very good by my standards!), I know it reasonated with others too. 

That was when I learnt to embrace the themes - especially those that make my jaw drop. I love starting to think furiously, to try and push the limits of the theme, flip it sideways, turn it inside-out to see if I can come up with something different...

I'd like to think my theme suggestion around end-of-Sept 2014 of 'The Secret of Eggs' had a similar effect on other FP-ers! :-)

And this is the other huge appeal of FP - the generous, genius community which takes part every week. A big part of the fun is in re-tweeting, commenting, applauding in awe at the genius of some stories. And in laughing at the sly humour or creepy schlockiness of others! 

I have read stories which still stay with me; months later, I could almost quote them verbatim. They contain any combination of exquisite descriptions, wordplay, insights or emotions, or a glimpse into fictional worlds that haven't yet been written. They are a joy to read - little treasures to admire. 

There are others who play with the micro-fiction genre, extending it into chain stories: stories which are connected and continue a narrative thread, but which also have to be able to be stand-alone tweets. This has its own particular skill, because each tweet has to hint at bits of the story while being stand-alone-worthy and while letting you fill in the gaps in between. I've had a go at this, but have found it a challenge to get the balance right. For now, I just admire and envy those who do it brilliantly. 

Other folk have regular themes/ characters/ scenarios that they adapt to the different FP themes each week. Often comical, many of these regular settings have me snickering out loud. Knowing there may be new shenanigans or insights from these characters becomes something else to look forward to every week. 

Yet others can take a tweet, write a teasing response which extends the story and if the original author responds in kind, you can end up with a dialogued, back-and-forth, story-esque thing which careens all over the place - a bit like one of those out-of-control-downhill-go-cart-rides Calvin and Hobbes take... usually ending up in a lake - or some other kind of chaos!

It is interesting also to see what strikes a chord with people. Some stories where I thought I did a great job conveying the image in my head have had polite responses, while others dashed off in a hurry have received more feedback than I ever thought they could get. 

This is my second story which cracked the 20-star mark:

I wasn't sure whether people connected with the humour or the pathos of this attempt. As an aside, I wrote it immediately after having overdone a plateful of home-made samosas. For the FP story, I changed samosas to cupcakes even though I'm not so keen on cupcakes... Not quite sure why: Because there's an existing narrative about the temptation and struggle around sweet desserts? Because you can't possibly feel as bad about overdoing samosas, as you would cupcakes? Or because regret is easier to convey through crumbs and icing than oily fingers and samosa crumbs? Probably a little of all the above...

As you can see, it's also easy to spend more space & time analysing the stories than it takes to write said stories!! This is part of the fun of the micro-fiction genre - there's no room for this kind of analysis in the stories themselves (thank goodness!)

Friday Phrases - a fabulous world and community still in the making...

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