Hint Fiction: An Anthology of Stories in 25 Words or Fewer debuts in November 2010 from W.W. Norton & Company. Edited by Rober Swartwood, the anthology features short-short stories by authors such as James Frey, Joyce Carol Oates, and Peter Straub.
25 words or fewer. So…flash fiction, right? What is this “hint fiction” label?
Turns out, Robert Swartwood deliberately coined the term “hint fiction” in a post on the Flash Fiction Chronicles blog at EverydayFiction.com back in April of 2009. Swartwood insisted that “those very, very, very, VERY short stories should be called Hint Fiction. Because that’s all the reader is ever given. Just a hint. Not a scene, or a setting, or even a character sketch. They are given a hint, nothing more, and are asked – nay, forced – to fill in the blanks. And believe me, there are a lot of blanks.”
He went on to define hint fiction as being no more than 25 words, with a title (not included in the word count) that is like “the set up to a joke, and the ‘story’ is the punch line. Without the one, the other won’t work.”
Flash fiction, which varies widely in definition, is generally regarded as a short story less than 1,000 words. Flash fiction has gained popularity online as readers seek short, fulfilling prose without drudging through long blocks of text on a computer screen. Some may see rising popularity in such short fiction as a sign of the new generation’s lack of attention span. Nevertheless, online journals publish tons of flash fiction, making the genre popular with writers, too. Working within the boundaries of a certain form can foster creativity-just think of all those writers indulging in sonnets and haikus and villanelles.
The term “hint fiction” caught on, and Swartwood, a writer from Pennsylvania , landed a book deal from Norton for the anthology. Swartwood has published his own hint fiction stories at elimae, Lamination Colony, and-my favorite of his hint fiction stories-at JMWW.
Past contests for hint fiction have been judged by Stewart O’Nan and James Frey, and Swartwood himself will judge the hint fiction contest at SmokeLong Quarterly in November 2010. To submit to the contest, go to their website. The deadline is November 30, 2010.
Swartwood, Robert. “Hint Fiction: When Flash Fiction Becomes Just Too Flashy” http://www.everydayfiction.com/flashfictionblog/hint-fiction-when-flash-fiction-becomes-just-too-flashy/