Buck Off Magazine is proud to present an exclusive interview with T.R. Darling, the creative mastermind behind the wildly popular Twitter microfiction account, QuietPineTrees.
BOM: What inspired the Twitter account and when did you start the account?
Darling: I discovered microfiction in 2014, and it floored me. I followed every account I could find to get those little shots of creativity. At first I thought about expanding them into short stories, but then I began having ideas for my own microfiction. When those ideas didn’t stop, I began writing them down.
I began composing tweets for @QuietPineTrees in June of 2014, six months before I started posting them, in order to build up a stockpile. I was afraid I’d run out of ideas. That fear was, apparently, unfounded.
BOM: What are some of the challenges in telling a story in 140 characters?
Darling: Being brief isn’t enough. You can boil down a story to a sentence or two, but often you need context. If you need to convey a setting, like a fascist dystopia, or characterization, like a reluctant soldier, suddenly one or two sentences won’t fit. I often must resist the temptation to omit punctuation or fall back on abbreviation, like some kind of barbarian. If the story cannot be told correctly in 140 characters, it should be told in a different medium. I’ve given up on some microfiction story ideas because they won’t fit in a tweet.
BOM: Each tweet is a different story. How do you come up with ideas for future tweets?
Darling: Many of my stories are allegorical. Philosophy, faith, literature, and societal ills provide me with a lot of ideas. The imagery I use to convey them is thus metaphorical, and can come from anywhere. Music is a big source of that, and I often invent stories as I listen to new songs. Then again, some of my stories are simple what-ifs. What if frogs kept changing into new creatures? What if stars were alien ships? That sort of thing. Those usually spawn from observation of nature.
BOM: Why the handle @QuietPine Trees?
Darling: When I was young, my family would vacation at a pine forest upstate. Over the years I found things in those woods, secret places which to this day might very well be known only to me. I often think of my time out there, where nature has just enough wildness to fill a little boy’s mind with stories.
BOM: What are some of the failures you’ve had with QPT?
Darling: I do have failures with this account, but you don’t see them. If a post or a series doesn’t get many likes or retweets, that’s not a failure – I’ve just shared something with the small part of my audience that enjoyed it. My failures are the stories or ideas that I can’t quite fit into a tweet, or at least, not to my satisfaction. Time travel is the biggest culprit here, since the interesting hooks for time travel stories often require context that is both physical and temporal. I’m always a little proud when I can post a good time travel story.
BOM: I remember reading something about a book. Can you share details?
Darling: That would be Carbon and Gold. It’s my baby. It’s centered on the idea of a brain implant that lets people reprogram their likes and dislikes, their passions and apathy, their love and hate. The plot is driven by characters (sci-fi writers forget this vital literary component all too often), but the world revolves around theoretical medicine, urban decay, and subtle body-horror.
The book is written, and it’s in the hands of an editor, but I’m still searching for a literary agent interested in representing it. Any author will tell you, that takes time.
BOM: What other creative projects are you working on?
Darling: I’m expanding some of my favorite QPT tweets into short stories. I may bundle them with a bunch of exclusive new microfiction stories into a short book, and put that up for digital purchase. I’m not sure yet.
I’m hard at work thinking up new web content for everyone as well, so watch out for that. I spent years as a radio news anchor, and might start posting readings of my tweets every week.
BOM: How is using social media different from writing in a journal/notepad/word document?
Darling: Feedback! Posting my stories online lets me see what ideas are flops, what phrasing gets people engaged, what topics click with the masses, and so on. I personally struggle with sharing my writing, but regular posting drags me, fighting and screaming, into the spotlight so I can become a better writer. I especially love when people write their reactions, or even extend my tweets with their own microfiction addenda.
BOM: How has your writing style changed because of QPT?
Darling: Put simply, I’ve gotten better. Writers always improve when they keep on writing, especially within the confines of a challenging system like Twitter’s character limit. In addition to churning out new ideas constantly, I’m better at things like controlling the flow of syllables and trimming the fat from fiction. That said, there will always be room for improvement.
BOM: What do you wish you had done differently with QPT?
Darling: I wish I had started sooner.
BOM: Do you have any advice for new writers?
Darling: Stop hiding your work. I know it’s tempting to keep your stories on your laptop, where nobody can criticize them, but you’ll never get better that way. Challenge yourselves, do something you don’t think you can do, then put it out there for people to read. Maybe you’ll only get one like, or maybe you’ll get none, or maybe you’ll get a thousand. That doesn’t matter. You already became a better writer by facing the possibility of rejection, laughing at it, and sharing your words with the world.
Just… proof-read first.