I recently came across an article on NPR.org touting a new fiction anthology called Hint Fiction edited by Robert Swartwood.
So I bought the book, read the entire thing in a single sitting, and loved it. I would have never thought it was possible to condense a story so extremely and it still have the imact, the wrecking-ball moment, where it strikes a chord and lodges itself in your memory. And not every story did that for me, but many of them did. I constantly found myself laughing, groaning, and wincing over their potency.
Hint fiction is all about the power to suggest, the ability to say a thing without having actually said it. The stories are like riddles or "fill in the blank" assignments. The writer says only the necessary, and the reader will assume or puzzle through the rest. It takes talent and precision to choose exactly the right words. It isn't a cheap artform for the attention deficit.
But I said all that to say this: at some point, after my indoctrination into the form, I started to wonder if I was also capable of writing hint fiction. So, for the past week or so, I have been trying it out. My stories don't always fall directly within the 25 word range, but I take that as more of a suggestion than a rule. The main idea is brevity. I would encourage all writers to give this a chance. It's a great brainstorming technique, and sometimes your hints can become the skeleton for a much longer work.
Here are my hints:
Arts and Humanities
With a brush and canvas, she had taught the elephant to be human. Upon realizing this, it thanked her with crushing weight and stabbing tusks.
He left without so much as a whisper, for what he thought had been an invitation had really been a too-subtle goodbye.
The Party Clown
When arrested for possessing enough M-80 to level a laundromat, Fizzo wondered how long it would be before they discovered his secret.
The Unlikely Pair
Hurrying to meet his sleeper cell, Amir was again delayed by the goth girl wishing to talk. It wasn't he that fascinated her, but death.
Through the Cracks
I said, "Wait here," but she did not, and I can't find her. Oh, how I fought for custody.
Catching his own blood in hands, he pounds on the door. Little girl answers, dirty bare feet. No phone. No car. No sign of parents.
Upon hearing the worst news of his life, 86 year old Maxwell overdrew his accounts, maxed his credit cards, and sent the cash to overseas children's charities, no intention of paying back the debt.
Take Me There
They drove through her childhood hometown, stopping to tour the abandoned house. Opening a certain door, she said, "This is where the recordings were made."
It's That Time Again
The young ladies always weave baskets. Except during lunar eclipses (a time reserved for picking flowers). Also during solar eclipses (a time reserved for murderous rampage... and orgies).
The Hard Lessons of Life
Middle of "the talk" dad collapses, pulmonary embolism. Hospital, beeping machines. Through deathbed whispers, leaves me his officer's badge. Not a good time to ask, but there is still some confusion over where to put it.
He decimated the vegetable garden, throwing roots over the neighbor's fence, overturning composts and recycle bins, still wearing the t-shirt she'd given him, the one that said, "Go green, for me."
We're Taking A Shortcut
When he'd told them the quickest route to the hospital and the bickering couple had not taken it, the atlas salesman shrugged.
What All The Fuss Is About
"Oh that's not very good," she said. "No, it isn't," agreed her husband, "At all." They wore their bathrobes, backlit by red and blue lights.
The NPR Article
The Official Site of Hint Fiction