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

Electric Lit relies on contributions from our readers to help make literature more exciting, relevant, and inclusive. Please support our work by becoming a member today, or making a one-time donation here.
.

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

More Like This

What 2020 Booker Nominee Should You Read, Based on Your Quarantine Habits?

Are you solving puzzles on repeat or working in bed? Let us tell you what to read next

Jul 30 - Jae-Yeon Yoo

The Bear That Stole My Identity

"If I Had a 3D Printer" and "The Charming Bear," two poems by Gary Leising

Jul 6 - Gary Leising

Everybody Ejaculates

"Climactic Literature," a literary supercut by Tom Comitta

Jun 29 - Tom Comitta
Thank You!