Take the Hint

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Try telling a story in 25 words or below. A review of Robert Swartwood's Hint Fiction

"Sleeping Beauty never minded the spindle prick. It was the wake-up call she hated."

Val Gryphin's 14-word story Insomnia implies there's more than meets the eye with the beautiful fairy tale princess. It becomes the responsibility of the reader to fill in the missing details based on the writer's hint.

What is hint fiction?

Robert Swartwood coined the term to describe a story of 25 words or fewer that suggests a larger, more complex story. The story does not need a distinct beginning, middle and end. Rather, the story should stand by itself.

Swartwood assembled 125 gems and ended with a fantastic anthology, Hint Fiction: An Anthology of Stories in 25 Words or Fewer. The collection, published by W.W. Norton & Company, is scheduled for a November 1 release.

In the introduction, Swartwood discusses the emergence of hint fiction. His first example, Ernest Hemingway's six-word story: "For Sale: baby shoes, never worn." Those short words carry a lot of emotion and information, proving less is definitely more.

The compilation is divided into three categories: life and death, love and hate, and this and that. What a delightful group of stories! Each contains a hidden treasure, offering a chance for the reader to contemplate the author's intent and to develop her own theory about the implications and innuendos.

Each piece's title is of as much importance as the tale. For example, Charles Gramlich's title, In A Place Of Light and Reason, creates a whimsical feeling. The text doesn't disappoint:
Sarah watched her son through the window,
as he stood in the garden and bloomed roses with his hands.
Best-selling authors, including Joyce Carol Oates, James Frey and Peter Straub, have work featured in the anthology. Their stories stand side by side to stories by new and emerging writers.
Hint Fiction offers brilliant narratives that fit into Swartwood's basic responsibilities of a story:
  • to tell a story
  • be entertaining
  • provoke thinking
  • invoke an emotional response

It's an anthology worth savoring.

Book review by LuAnn Schindler. Read more of LuAnn's reviews at http://luannschindler.com.


Kathleen A. Ryan said...

Thank you for your wonderful review of the Hint Fiction Anthology. I'm thrilled that you like the book. I am very honored to have a story included in the anthology (it's "Playing with Matches"). I feel the same way ~ that each story is a gem; it's like a piece of candy you unwrap and savor. Some of them I had to read several times, and the title would have more meaning, and it would become clearer. There are so many that evoke an emotional response ~ just what they are designed to do!

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

Thank you for the great review! Like Kathleen - whose story I love, by the way! - I'm in the anthology, too ("The Empty Nest.") One of the things I enjoy about these stories is how they can often go in different directions, how they offer up so much to the reader in so few words.

Charles Gramlich said...

A little something for everyone in this collection for sure.

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