Robert Swartwood was intrigued by Hemingway's possibly apocryphal six-word story: "For sale: Baby shoes. Never worn." After trying his hand with this format, he decided to explore it further by holding a web-based writing contest for stories of 25 (or fewer) words. The 125 stories here were gleaned from the entries to this contest. They are organized into three groups: life & death, love & hate, and this & that.
Swartwood introduces the collection by defining hint fiction as "a story of 25 words or fewer that suggests a larger, more complex story." Such stories don't have the space for beginning, middle and end. Nor for character or plot development. Each is a single brush stroke; each can be read in a single breath.
Here are some of my favorites. In their entirety.
- Joe Lansdale's "The Return" -- The buried him deep. Again.
- Nicky Drayden's "Pushover" -- He shoves me aside to get a better view. I never fight back. He's worn me down, weaker than the railing at the canyon's rim.
- Joyce Carol Oates' "The Widow's First Year" -- "I kept myself alive."
- Don Lee's "Trust" -- At the party, he tells her he's a painter, meaning of houses. She misunderstands, assumes he's an artist. Harmless, he thinks.
- Stuart Dybek's "Ransom" -- 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.
- Peter Straub's "The Endless Mystery" -- When on his deathbed, he last saw her, she had not aged by so much as a day.
This is an excellent collection, filled with clever and thought-provoking stories. They work as hints, suggesting a larger story. Sometimes the reader must struggle to choose between several possible larger stories. It won't take long to read these snippets. You may spend some extra think time on a few of them, though.