It was 2013 and, though Anuj Gosalia had a busy career in a start-up, he found that he rather enjoyed writing. Social media was a space tailor-made for experiments in careers hitherto undreamed of. So, when Gosalia started a page called Terribly Tiny Tales (TTT) on Facebook and tried his hand at micro-fiction, he knew he was on to something good. In less than a year, the page would become one of the most popular crowdsourced collectives on social media, and he and TTT co-founder Chintan Ruparel would be on to an idea whose time had come. Now, four years and an independent digital platform later, an anthology will bring together their most popular stories.
The anthology, called Terribly Tiny Tales (Penguin Random House, Rs 250), which was released by Tanmay Bhatt, co-founder of All India Bakchod, on Facebook Live on October 3, contains 250 short fiction, culled out by Joel Thotan, assistant curator at TTT, in collaboration with the co-founders, from 20,000 entries. “We really tried to build distance between the tale and us. ‘Ten years from today, will this tale stay?’ was the one question we asked ourselves all the time and that became the filter for curation. Every tale is a world in itself. Instead of bunching them together in themes and genres we’ve let every tale delight the reader,” says Gosalia, 31. His story, ‘Then, I used a feather to write poems on your back, you wouldn’t stop moving. Now I use it as a quill, not once have my words moved you.’ was the first ever on the TTT page.
The format is not new. A bet among friends apparently led to Nobel Laureate Ernest Hemingway write the world’s shortest story: “For Sale. Baby shoes. Never been Worn.” The haiku distills poetic thought in three lines while flash fiction allows for no more than 1,000 words. Before Gosalia and Ruparel launched TTT, there had been @TalesonTweet in 2011, a Twitter handle run by Manoj Pandey, who worked at a Gurugram-based news agency, that had seen writers such as Salman Rushdie and Shashi Tharoor try their hands at narratives in 140 characters. What TTT has done is to democratise the process and push the model into multiple social media platforms to successful ends (They have an average of 12 million weekly hits).
“From the onset, TTT’s powerful short stories packaged as images found a small but organically growing audience. Although, tweet fiction had a niche, with TTT, we made tiny stories accessible on more popular platforms like Facebook and Instagram. After over two years of slow and steady growth, brands reached out to us in the hope of creating meaningful partnerships. We sensed then, that if we spent all our time and effort building TTT, we could unlock real value for readers, writers and brands,” says Ruparel, 30. The Mumbai-based duo gave up their respective jobs in mid-2015 to focus on building TTT as an independent digital platform. They have also launched Terribly Tiny Talkies, a related platform for short films.
Online pre-order sales figures, say the two, already point at the anthology becoming a bestseller. “In the last two years, we’ve explored many exciting writing formats like open letters, short stories and poems, among others. While the first book is a compilation of 140 character tales, we hope to publish books which explore other formats going ahead,” says Ruparel.