Neil Fein asked a few writers to try their hand at epistolary flash fiction. I love epistolary novels, but how could anyone replicate the form’s slow unfolding of characters, relationships, and conflict in 500 words or less?

Here’s what I came up with:


Let me know what you think.


About Julie Goldberg

Julie Goldberg has lived a life entirely too entangled with books. She is a school librarian, former English teacher, compulsive reader, occasional jazz singer and the author of Lily in the Light of Halfmoon. You can email her at perfectwhole@gmail.com and follow her on Twitter @juliegoldberg.
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7 Responses to “Following”

  1. I have always felt that epistolary novels fulfill a natural curiosity we have to know what is going on in people’s minds and hearts. This physical casing that contains our identity is very much a barrier to knowing what’s going on in others’ lives. Well, that’s what it is like for me.

    Your choice of social media is perfect. It is so relevant to contemporary culture. It is a more acceptable way of gaining an insight into what that acquaintance of mine gets up to and really thinks. I don’t feel so guilty about reading their tweets because it is there in the open for all and sundry. As flawed as social media may be to gain a complete understanding of someone’s psyche (on account of the subject’s selective posting), it makes for interesting reading.

    Your choice of plot is no less tragic in content because of the concise delivery method. Whilst an epistolary novel would allow for me (the reader) to invest emotionally in the characters’ lives at a slow pace, your use of social media gives it a stark more matter of fact quality. It is much about what’s not being said, the gaps my mind fills, than what the characters say to each other. Excellent work. Thank you.

    • Thanks, Rosalia!
      Social media fascinate me, particularly the way they have disrupted, in a very short period of time, our concepts of public and private. I can’t believe sometimes what people say on Twitter, where anyone can read it, and even on Facebook, where sometimes I think people forget how many people they have given permission to see posts about their health, work, relationships, and inner state. I forget myself, at times.
      I’ve always been interested in secret messages, and Twitter, to me seems ripe for someone to hide private messages in plain sight. And I agree that the 140-character limit makes the unsaid just as important as the text.

  2. Just do it. And, if you don’t mind, please sign my copy. Best wishes, Ugg.

  3. I really didn’t think “epistolary” and “flash fiction” could be in the same sentence and make any sense, but I clicked out of curiosity and I’m glad I did. Kudos for redefining “epistolary” to suit your purposes. Twitter is perfect for this and it becomes not just a sad story, but a comment on the oversharing culture of social media. Even if you don’t have space to let the characters unfold, you’ve captured something about each of them, just as the best short stories always do. It says something about RJ that he opens the conversation on Twitter, and it says something else about Gwen that she keeps it to Twitter.

    I’ve been fascinated by storytelling through internet media ever since reading Jennifer Egan’s “Black Box” and discovering the Lizzie Bennet Diaries. “Following” left me speechless.

    • Thank you, Katie! And I am honored to be mentioned in the same comment with the great Jennifer Egan, whom I went to hear present at a writer’s conference last year. She is phenomenal. “Black Box” had me thinking for weeks. Have you read her novels?

      The narcissism of social media fascinates me, especially since I am so susceptible to it myself. The next novel I’m thinking about writing takes place almost entirely on Twitter and inside the characters’ heads.

      If you liked the idea of epistolary flash fiction, I hope you had time to enjoy the other stories on Magnificent Nose this week, all of which answered that challenge in a different way. Today’s, by Ceil Kessler, used postcards.

      Thanks for reading!

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