Eight Tiny Stories, Translated From the Emoji

James Hannaham and John W. Bateman turn random emoji into microfiction

Eight Tiny Stories, Translated From the Emoji

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First, an origin story. In October of 2016, my friend John Bateman became obsessed with his iPhone. Of course, this did not make him unique. Specifically, he’d become fascinated with a new texting feature. Now, instead of just autosuggesting the word “bird,” your SMS also gave you the option of texting an emoji of a bird’s head!

When I told John I was doing “just peachy,” he texted, “When I type peaches, it [Peach emoji] shows up,” and then sent a text of a giant peach. I wasn’t sure if John knew that sending a big peach emoji to someone was like showing them a butt, so I tried to discourage him, fearing a barrage of eggplants. This worked not at all. He texted me an apple! A cookie! A snake! A pile of books!

“This is kind of amazing” he wrote. I told him, “Knock yourself out,” and then sent a text consisting of a series of five emoji I had randomly discovered by typing in the words for them. John, who, like me, is a writer with an interest in the interplay of words and images, assumed I’d hidden a cryptic message in the random sequence of little pictures. “Write a package, spider earth cutting?” he asked. I only responded with five more random emoji. “The Cheese running bear got caught in a rainshower looking for diamonds,” he mused. And thus began a game that has continued to this day. One of us texts five random emoji to the other, and the recipient has to write a story (roughly of tweet length) to explain each of the emoji in order.

Below are eight of our collaborative creations.

—James Hannaham

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