Friday, October 5, 2012

Hint Fiction

While I have been an avid reader of fiction for as long as I've been reading,  I really didn't give much thought to things like novels versus novellas, versus novelettes, versus short stories.  And frankly, I'd never even heard of flash fiction, micro fiction, drabble, or dribble.  The length of a story was a non-issue.  However, since my involvement with Nanowrimo began, in 2009, wordcount is now a big deal...  and not just any wordcount, BIG wordcount!

(For those who don't know of nanowrimo, it's an event where hundreds of thousands of people, from all over the world, try to write 50,000 words of fiction, during the 30 days of November.)

So it totally blew my mind when I came across this concept of Hint Fiction.

Whew, let me take a sip of tea (Bewleys, an Irish afternoon tea, this time), and catch my breath.

A few years ago -- actually, the same year I did my first nano -- this guy named Robert Swartwood, came up with this idea of Hint Fiction.   The question was - how short can a story be, before it's no longer a story?  And Mr. Swartwood's answer was that a story of 25 words or less is still a story, if you can make those words be complete, and able to stand by themselves.  So you can't just write the first (or middle, or last) 25 words, and stop, and call it a story.  Mr. Swartwood takes the position that your story has to be entertaining and thought provoking, and ideally it will invoke an emotional response in the reader.  And if you accomplish all of this in 25 words or less, you've created Hint Fiction.

What a concept!  And much, much more difficult than it would appear.  Think about it.  In fewer words than I've used in my  first sentence of this post, you have to have at least one character, and you have to have something happen that makes the reader pause, and think... something that will hint at a really big story, behind the 25 words.  (Probably why he calls it hint fiction!)

Swartwood has run a couple of contests, for the best hint fiction, and he's put out an anthology of over 100 of these odd creatures  (Hint Fiction:  An anthology of stories in 25 words or fewer, Robert Swartwood, ed.).  And I have to say that - while I found some of them very effective -- many left me shrugging my shoulders.

But it's certainly an interesting notion.

Still not convinced?  Check out Swartwood's website
Still don't get it?   Here's the runner-up of the April 2011 competition, the last one he ran:

“Can you contact the dead?”
I pull a photo out of my back pocket.
She stares then hands it back. “He ain’t dead, honeypie.”
Now THAT'S a story!


  1. I liked this post! But way too hard for me to try.

  2. Wow. I've tried flash fic - hard but I succeeded. This? I'll think about it ...

  3. I've tried this several times. It is really difficult, but a good exercise.