Monday, November 29, 2010

Hint Fiction

Post by Christina

Ernest Hemingway, on a bet, said that he could write a short story in less than ten words. Here's what he came up with: "For sale: baby shoes, never worn."
Let's set aside the fact that there's a good chance this anecdote about Hemingway never really happened. What's important is the six-word story's function as the inspiration for a new form called Hint Fiction. A few weeks ago I heard this NPR piece. It's an interview with Robert Swartwood, who compiled a collection of short stories, each 25 words max. Despite my initial skepticism, I was surprised by the emotional punch of a few of the stories Swartwood read. Here's my favorite, Golden Years by Edith Pearlman:
"She: Macular. He: Parkinson's. She pushing, he directing, they get down the ramp, across the grass, through the gate. The wheels roll riverwards."
Ah! It's amazing that that really is a complete story in itself. I don't believe that's the case for every story in the collection. Here's one that sounds like a setup or opening for a really great traditional story or novel. Dickie by Minter Krotzer:
"Everyone in town went to the same gynecologist, Dickie. Even Dickie's sister went to Dickie. No one thought this was strange except for the out-of-towners."
See what I mean? I like it, but I think it's a stretch to call it a story in itself. There are also some that are more like jokes than stories, like David Joseph's Polygamy:
"I miss her more than
the others."
Very clever, but is it really a story?
I'm not gonna lie, these teeny tiny stories intrigue me, and I'd like to read more of them. I've got Swartwood's collection on my wishlist. I haven't talked to anyone about this yet- I've just been stewing in my own thoughts. What do you think?
Is hint fiction a symptom of our internet-age urge for immediate satisfaction? Does it have the potential to contribute to this urge?
Is Hint Fiction a brand new art form, or just a glorified writer's exercise?
How is Hint Fiction not poetry?

A couple of related links:
Robert Swartwood himself wrote about the idea behind Hint Fiction here, and here's his Hint Fiction homepage. If you'd like to try your hand at writing a six-word memoir, you can do so here.