Told exclusively in online content - instant messages, social media posts, e-mails, fanfiction, and more - 4 to 16 Characters examines the role that online friends, fandom, and fantasy play in helping one teenage girl to survive unbearable realities. When fifteen-year-old Jane Shilling's mother died and her father turned to drinking, Jane had to find a way to escape. So she devised a number of online personas, each with a distinct personality, life history, and set of friends. Together with her involvement in the online fan circle for her favorite TV show, Look to Tomorrow, Jane thought she'd found the perfect way to cope forever. But as she draws closer to her online friends, she struggles to find a way to maintain real friendships with people who don't even know her real name. Soon Jane is forced to begin to sift through her issues... but that involves taking a hard look at what her life's like when the computer is shut off, and that's a reality she's been fighting for years.