Hint Fiction

Ernest Hemingway is said to have written a six-word short story while at the Algonquin Hotel (at the round table). He made a bet and won with this story: For sale: Baby shoes, never worn.

hint+coverToday, that story is classified as Hint Fiction–a story told in 25 words or fewer.

My favorite book of hint fiction is a compilation gathered by  Robert Swartwood and published by W.W. Norton & Company. Hint fiction tells just enough of a story to allow the reader to know the plot, but not all the details.

The title of the story is always an integral part of the story. It might add detail, hint at a background,  or give context, but the title is important to the story. Consider this contribution to the book by Stuart Dybek, called “Ransom.”

"Ransom," hint fiction by Stuart Dybek.

“Ransom,” hint fiction by Stuart Dybek.

In case you can’t read it, it says:  “Broke and desperate, I kidnapped myself. Ransom notes were sent to interested parties. Later, I sent hair and fingernails, too. They insisted on an ear.”

Like potato chips, one is never enough. Reading them is fun, so I wondered about writing one. Here’s my try:

Street View
“Get therapy,” he’d demanded. “Bastard keeps denying his affair,” Emma thought.  Directions To, she clicked. Saw her driveway, the plate of the mistress’s car visible.

It takes a lot of editing, and you have to depend on the reader to know a lot: What Google Maps is, that Directions To will show a street view of either the destination or the starting point, and that Google updates the images of Street Views of houses randomly and without warning. It’s common enough, but hint fiction is just that–a hint of what’s to come.

Try it, you might get hooked.

--Quinn McDonald is a writer and certified creativity coach. She’s working on a giveaway for tomorrow’s blog.

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19 responses to “Hint Fiction

  1. She opened the mailbox to find her first wedding license and Medicare card, wondering which was the most scary.

  2. Quinn, What fun! Like personals or haiku. I’m happy with limitations. Here are two:
    Happily Ever Hesitant
    Full moon in June. Still over 105 at 6PM. They sat sweating in the car up the street from his parents’ house. A wedding awaiting.

    Plight
    All night she fought the covers. Too hot. Too rough. Too tangled. At dawn the birds sang too loudly. Ugh. Weddings were such a pain.

    I know I will see more come to my pen and write themselves. Thanks!

  3. Paper gown. Starched white sheets. Television bolted to the wall. Sheet hung on shower rod separating space. Waiting on report.

  4. Hint Fiction
    It took an hour of staring at the blank page he had titled “Hint Fiction” until the writer shook his head sadly and pulled the page out of his typewriter. Rolling his eyes at his own obsessive organization, he carefully labeled a new file folder “Hint Fiction” and inserted the page.

    He spun his office chair to the left and opened the file drawer labeled “Writing”. Riffled through the stack to locate the new folder and froze, the backs of his fingers touching the thick bundle of “Jokes”.

    • What’s a “typewriter” and why do you have to pull paper from it?

      • Because, as everybody knows, *pushing* paper is the very definition of a boring, dull, uncreative activity.

      • It’s a particular variety of the more generic “pewriter” hand exercise system used by many writers in the 20th century to uncramp their muscles. It’s full name was originally “physical exercise for writers”, but it turned out that actually writing all that out caused more cramping than the machine eased.

        The TYpewriter variety (which really should, I suppose, be capitalized for clarity) was manufactured by Tyco, a diverse technology conglomerate known for its aggressive acquisitiveness (and that of its one-time CEO, Dennis Kozlowski). The TYpewriter was an early foray into AI that went badly wrong; somehow the circuitry internalized the acquisitive tendencies of its manufacturer and when not engaged in massaging the cramps out of a writer’s hand would use its “light fingers” (which was its oddly apt marketing slogan) to attempt to appropriate any nearby objects. As these units were used by writers, nearby objects were often sheets of paper, which writers would commonly need to pull out of the system’s grasp.

  5. Jain Suckling

    I think I must write a hundred a day…..my brain sort of works like that! Bonkers.
    Here’s one for you.

    Mission accomplished. 12 days to the destination…but the journey just begins. Betrayal accepted. Hopes and desires…encouraging the twist to the tale….what lay ahead.

    Got it all still to tell you…..the year is unravelling!
    Have a great day…xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
    Bugger..that’s 26….well not bad while waiting for kettle to boil,have just woken up!

    • It’s a good challenge, and if you don’t plan on publishing a book of it, it’s a great way to practice vocabulary and editing skills. Like all arts, it takes patience and practice.

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