Books

Terribly Tiny Tales have now jumped from Facebook into an actual book! t2 chats with the founders of the micro-fiction platform

By Karishma Upadhyay
  • Published 2.12.17
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We’ve all found their little black posters on our Facebook timelines and stopped to read a good story told smartly. However busy you are, you always have time for Terribly Tiny Tales! 

About four years ago, Chintan Ruparel, 30, came up with the idea of micro-fiction called Terribly Tiny Tales (TTT) — stories written within 140 characters, including spaces. A year later, the former copywriter was joined by Anuj Gosalia, 31, a close friend who had start-up experience. Today, they have over a million subscribers who get regular doses of TTT on their website and social media, TTT merchandise, an app, writing workshops and more. Penguin Random House India recently published a book called Terribly Tiny Tales with 250 of their bite-sized stories. t2 sat down with Chintan and Anuj in their book-lined corner office in Andheri East, Mumbai, to chat about their first book and the future of micro-fiction. 

How did the book come about?

Anuj: It was about time actually (smiles)! Wherever we conduct writing workshops, we do small polls asking people what form they would like to see more of TTT in — a web series, an app, a book, short films… and the book trumps everything. I could give you a more emotional answer but everybody said we should do a book. Before social media and digital happened, we all grew up reading books. So, it was also romantic in a way, to have a book.

Over the past few years, you’ve probably collected a gazillion stories. How did you pick the 250 for this book? 

Chintan: That was a brutal process. It was a nightmare. We’ve had over 3 lakh submissions till now, which in itself is a monster to tame. Outside of that, we had 6,000 published stories. These are stories that we’ve approved, believed in them and shared them with our community. To then whittle them from 6,000 to 250 was really hard. So, we’d hypothesise five years into the future and keep asking ourselves, “Which one will stay?” We’d come back to our shortlist two weeks later and ask ourselves, “Does this tale stay?” And if it didn’t, it would go out. That way the ones that are in the book will be as nice to read five years from today and hopefully, a lot later as well.

It’s interesting that though you started on the Internet, you have gone back to a more tangible medium with this book.... 

Chintan: We’ve all grown up with books. When Penguin came along, we saw this as an extension of the TTT brand. Also, people think we are “legit” now, because we have a book. Having a book with your name is still the ultimate symbol of being a writer. 

When you started TTT, did you imagine that this is where you’d be?

Anuj: Not in these exact specifics but we knew that we wanted to be a repository of stories. 

The TTT format of storytelling originated from the Internet, a medium that many use as an excuse for why they don’t read anymore. How did TTT start?

Anuj: Everything from our WhatsApp forwards to Facebook status updates are text, so we are reading all the time. What we realised is how that text is packaged changes things. 

Chintan: Attention spans are declining and unless the content is phenomenal, brevity is important. We thought there was room for meaningful entertainment that could potentially replace books and in the short term, complement books. Books are great if you can make the time or have the attention for it but, if you can’t, here is a shorter but hopefully as meaningful a story that you can read anywhere. 

How do you explain the success of TTT?

Anuj: In short, I think it’s problem-solving. As much as I love books, there are just so many distractions in our daily lives. I look forward to a long flight or a vacation to read a book. 
Chintan: TTT is easily consumable stories that get delivered to the reader on a regular basis free of cost. Over the years, I think we have become used to the idea of micro-stories. 

Apart from all the in-house writers, you also have people sending in stories. Are there recurrent themes?

Chintan: Heartbreak and love. It’s a millennial thing, but we try to cater to as many genres as possible. Among millennials, another important theme is self-care. People increasingly want to talk about mental health issues and what they are going through. People also talk about all kinds of relationships — sibling, romantic, parents; and also how technology like Tinder affects relationships.
  
Anuj: It’s interesting that these youngsters would earlier only consume stories from books or films but now they can tell their own stories. This inclusiveness is another reason for TTT’s success. 

Both within India and abroad, there are newer players in the space of micro-stories. What do you see as the future?

Chintan: Stories will always be there. It’s just about adapting to the times and giving people what they want. We started with stories in 140 characters and then expanded to 2,000 characters. Brevity is the key for us but we are evolving by listening to our audience. Initially we only published the works of in-house writers. We are now talking about an app where more people can send in their works.