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Exploring Visual Flash Fiction with Commaful

Commaful

A few months ago, I wrote a post about writing micro fiction through an app called Talehunt.com. Since then, I’ve also experimented with Tap by Wattpad, an app that lets you write stories in a chat format. A few weeks ago, I accidentally ran into Commaful, yet another entry in the alternative fiction scene.

While Talehunt and Tap both limit stories to text, the major feature of Commaful is that your text is also illustrated by images of animated GIFs. This allows a storyteller to craft a story that is meant to be read a sentence or two at a time, accompanied by an appropriate image. Each click takes the reader to the next sentence and image. If matched up appropriately, you can end up with a story that you not only read but that also is visually stimulating.

The best way to illustrate how this all works is by checking out how I translated my flash fiction story The Shadow of the Beast to Commaful. The video below, a product of a handy export feature of Commaful, will take you through the story, slide by slide, text and image.

As you can see, in effect your story has been turned into PowerPoint slides with fancy images (to clarify, I don’t see that as a bad thing).

How Commaful Works

Creating a story with Commaful consists of two stages: writing and picking out the images. The process itself is simple. Each page of the story contains a box where you can type a limited number of characters, 195 to be precise. A little more than a tweet. Use all that space or just a little bit. Then, a search box on the same page lets you search for images by keyword, whether it be a beach, medieval, castle, space station or any other number of words. Once you find an image (or animated GIF)  that you think fits the page, simply click on it and it becomes the background for your page. Repeat for subsequent pages until you’re story is done. If for some reason the images you find are not to your liking, you can upload your own images (I’d strongly recommend sticking with CC0 images) and these become the background instead of the built-in images.

Then, you add a brief description to your story and publish away. Your story can be directly shared on Facebook and Twitter. The sharing option also allows for the creation of a downloadable MP4 video file that easily can be uploaded to YouTube or shared on Facebook or other social media sites.

Besides creating stories, Commaful also has social features, not unlike other social sites out there. You can follow other users, like their stories or add comments to the stories that you read.

Conclusion

I have yet to fully explore Commaful but I see some interesting potential. From my perspective, Commaful is mostly useful for visualizing flash fiction. Short and sweet with imagery. It’s also the most effective for these stories, I think, since adding hundreds of images to a longer story would be cumbersome. This also brings me to the one feature that I feel is missing: I couldn’t find an easy way to reuse images I uploaded previously. It would be convenient to not have to re-upload an image in case I wanted to use it again. Beyond that, as I said, I still need to explore it further.

Commaful is yet another option for those that are looking for a quick fiction fix throughout the day. Just like services like Tap and TaleHunt, it feels like it’s geared towards those that just don’t have time to read a book or simply don’t want to but still wants to read something. In other words, perfect for our society addicted to their mobile devices.

If you’re a writer of flash fiction in particular, I’d say at least give Commaful a shot. In just about a week I’ve had 180 reads of the above story. Granted, this is not a lot but for publishing something as an unknown on a new platform, it’s not too bad. Anyway, check it out and if you end up publishing a story, add it to the comments below. I’d love to read it!

You can find Commaful here: http://www.commaful.com.

You can find The Shadow of the Beast on Commaful here: https://commaful.com/play/techieinak/the-shadow-of-the-beast (if you like it, add a comment to the story 😉 )

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mattias.ahlvin@gmail.com

I'm just one of those guys that like technology...as well as drawing, writing, reading, coding and a whole bunch of other things I rarely have time for.

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