Ficlets: Literary Lego

We at WRT have been looking at the use of new technologies (specifically web applications) for storytelling for a while. In particular, here are some of the web technologies we’ve covered here: Diigo Fiction, Snap Fiction, Wiki Fiction, PYOP (pic-your-own-podventure), Google Maps and Earth. Despite all this flurry, it is very rare to find a simple app, or web app, that has been created specifically for storytelling. We’ve covered iStory and of course extensive interactive narrative software such as TADS. Today we’re pleased to share with you a new web app that has been created for storytelling. It is called ‘ficlets’ and was launched just a few months ago at:…

ficlets are shorter than short stories. Well, no, actually, they are short stories, but they’re really short stories. Really short, as in there’s not a maximum word count … there’s actually a maximum character count (1,024). There is also a minimum character count, and the number of that beast is 64.

If you wish, we’ll provide you with inspiration (photos, themes, suggested beginnings and endings, even other ficlets), but you’re completely free to blaze your own trail. Now, here’s where the real fun comes in: Each and every ficlet is modular in that, though you may have written a stand-alone story with a beginning, middle, and ending, your fellow ficleteers may choose to write a prequel or sequel to your story. In this respect, you can think of ficlets as literary Legos.

I really like the idea, particularly because I’m interested in the fragmentation of narrative, and anachronic storytelling. What I don’t like about the setup so far is the layout of the ficlets. Here is a screenshot of a short story, ‘My ex-husband’:




As you can see, the core, trigger or Ur ficlet is on the top and the prequels and sequels are underneath. This is not how I would expect them to be displayed. I expected to have them in a line, in chronological order of entry. So the Ur ficlet is in the center, a square that is a unique colour. The prequels to the left, in squares in a shared colour, in order of beign added (so closest to the ficlet is the first and outside are the most recent). And then the sequels the same on the other side. In other words, I expected to see some spatial relationship to time. At present the presentation doesn’t do that. I think the display of the ficlets, and their discursive relationship needs to be better expressed. But, I love the idea and that you can create or add to ficlets in an ongoing chain.

The designer of the logo talks about that process here.

Blog of the site is here:

Ficlets is here:

6 Responses to “Ficlets: Literary Lego”

  1. 1 Mary O'Connor

    If you are looking for new sites dedicated to storytelling, check out, where storytellers from around the world can post mp3 audio stories for any age or interest. Users can download a story for as low as 49 cents!

  2. 2 Kevin Lawver

    Oh how we argued about how we should display prequels and sequels… We’re still throwing around ideas for better ways to visualize them, but not sure when we’ll have anything ready to show. The reason we went with what we did was mostly just for simplicity, but also to present the single ficlets as prominently as possible. We want the stories to speak for themselves, even if there aren’t any prequels or sequels. Like I said, we’re working on other ways to display them.

    Thanks for the post!

  3. 3 Christy Dena

    Hello Kevin,

    Thanks for dropping by.

    It is interesting that you say you want ‘present the single ficlets as prominently as possible’. This may be an example of your community having a different impression of your project than you. For me, it is the relationships between them, how a narrative is continued that makes it clever. I agree that the Ur-ficlet should be highlighted, and so too the anterior and posterior narratives distinguished. But the Ur-ficlet has status (in my mind) according to how many narrative extensions it inspires, not by its mere presence. So, rather than being about telling a story between 64-1,024 characters (projects like 160 Characters have already trail-blazed this area), ficlets is about how these stories connect. You do call them “Literary Lego”. A single Lego peice is no good on its own. So, if my view is shared by others, perhaps your design should priviledge connections and the radial development of stories, rather than a ficlet?

    Thanks for creating a project that is interesting to talk about! :)

    Also, I’m interested in how many people are behind this and what their names are so I can pat everyone on the back.

  4. 4 Mark Marino


    This post ties in well with some comments we’ve been batting around about the grain of a particular combinatoric form, mentioned briefly
    here. Remember, those discussions on how a small a bit gets combined. Can these literary Legos be recombined or just added onto? Can you also talk a little more about 160 Characters?

  5. 5 severnspoon

    About 6 years ago now, I did a site called Open Source Poetry that was an attempt to create a collaborative platform for poetry writing.

  1. 1 Outside The Square Fiction Workshop. |

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