Image via TaleHunt

Few characters, but characters

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By Justus Flair | justus-flair@uiowa.edu | @justus_flair

Chatter fills the air all day: small snippets of interjections, rambling recounts of rowdy nights, hushed secrets whispered behind hands.

In a bind, how quickly can you tell a tale, passing it along before rushing away? Can you boil a story down to its essential elements?

Users of the new free app TaleHunt, turning 1 month old this week, will have to master the skill. Created by a team of three software engineers and writers in India, TaleHunt allows users to post their original stories, so long as they stay within a 250-character limit.

“What we’re trying to do is create a new category in literature: the very short story,” said cofounder Aby Mathew. “We are trying to help people to read more, write more, whether they’re a writer or not.”

Thus far, around 3,000 people have downloaded the app and more than 500 stories have been posted. Creations range from fiction to romance to sci-fi to nonfiction. This diversity, Mathew said, gives users exposure to material they wouldn’t usually find on their own. A reader may not be interested in longer works across all categories but is willing to read tiny tales across genres.

“It’s like hunting stories daily for our users,” said cofounder and CEO Ameen Rashad.

The emerald and cream home screen of the app displays the day’s top stories, laid out neatly in descending order, fading into the previous day’s best hits. The tiny icons and usernames give just a glimpse into the lives of these writers, glowing next to a hashtag they’ve created to categorize and title each work. If a work strikes you, there are options to “like” the story (the universally recognized thumbs-up), share it on other social media, and, now, comment.

“Most of our writers were asking for this [comment] feature, because writers need feedback,” Mathew said. “It lets them know what their readers think about these stories. This platform helps them sharpen their work and build an audience.”

TaleHunt user Azulagart has shared several stories and plans to continuing using the app.

“I think it’s good exercise because you need to make the most of such limited extension,” Azulagart said. “I often have to find my way around the wording in order to express what I wish to say in as few characters as possible without sacrificing style.”

It’s important, Azulagart said, to rationalize how and why a word is selected for such precise storytelling, as well as why this mode of communication is being used. Why create a very short story instead of a short story, poem, or novel? The app can help improve intention.

It is not a guaranteed fix-all solution, though. While entertaining and sometimes challenging, other users will not suddenly open your eyes to your shortcomings.

“I don’t think I’ve gotten much actually useful feedback yet, but I made a ‘friend’ — we seem to be kindred spirits or, at least, we have similar sensitivity,” Azulagart said. “Maybe in time the feature will really take off.”

Until then, there is plenty to keep one occupied.

“I’ve posted a few stories, but I mostly use the app to read,” Azulagart said. “In those few minutes while I wait for someone, for example, they’re nice, entertaining, very varied. There are some very creative people out there.”

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