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.