Regarding Hint Fiction

This is like déjà vu all over again. When something becomes successful or popular, the haters slink out from under their rocks to start their dissing.

It happened months back when this whole thing started, and it's happening again.

And to be honest, I think it's hilarious.

You can't please all the people all the time, and when the haters make their appearance, I always feel like I'm doing something right.

Anyway, I've realized I'm taking for granted the fact that many new visitors to this site don't already know about Hint Fiction and the contest we had a few months back. This is all new to them, and while I don't really expect everyone to go back and read the very first essay (or this post, or this essay, or this interview, all which give insight into Hint Fiction), I figured it would be nice of me to lay out a brief history of the form and the idea behind the anthology.

So here goes:

Ernest Hemingway once wrote a six-word story that went "For sale: baby shoes, never worn." A complete story in just six words.

Only there's a school of thought that doesn't see it as a story. Why? I don't know. People are weird that way. But I was curious at just what point a story stops becoming a story, how short it has to be, and so I wrote an essay about it for Gay Degani at the Flash Fiction Chronicles. I said that these stories only give a hint of a much larger story, and that because of that they should be called Hint Fiction.

Please understand that I said all of this facetiously. I never intended for any of it to catch on. I certainly never intended to get a book deal out of the thing. But hey, I ain't complaining.

Why 25 words? Well, why not? I've always found the classification of stories baffling. From novel to novella to novellete to short story to flash fiction to sudden fiction to micro fiction to nano fiction to drabbles to dribbles to now Hint Fiction. Who came up with the set word counts? Why does being within 1,000 words (or even 100 words) declassify one form from being another form?

Sadly, in this writing world in which we all live, classification and labels are key. People can't just be writers. Oh no. They have to be literary writers or science fiction writers or mystery writers. They must be labeled, oh yes they must, and like the authors, the stories must be labeled too.

Really, it's all very silly when you think about it. Like I've said before, as a rose is a rose is a rose, a story is a story is a story. Only, unfortunately, it's not.

Wait, you say, but isn't this art? Why should we limit art to anything, especially 25 words?

To which I respond: Take a freaking chill pill, okay?

Seriously, some people get uptight about the smallest things. Overthinking and overanalyzing way too much, and this is coming from a guy who overthinks and overanalyzes way more than he should.

Why 25 words? Why not 20? Why not 30? Can't a story of 30 words be considered Hint Fiction? Sure, I don't see why not (this story is 29 words and it definitely suggests a larger, more complex story), but you've gotta put your foot down somewhere, and besides, 25 words seemed like the perfect number (especially since a drabble is 100 words and a dribble is 50 words, making hint fiction 25 words just made sense).

And I'm hesitant to call Hint Fiction art, too, because once you call something art it becomes pretentious. But again, that goes into the whole labeling and categorizing foolishness ...

Then what about this thesis? you say. Why does this anthology have to prove anything?

To which I respond again: Take a freaking chill pill, okay?

Listen, this all goes back to the very start, to the idea that there are people who don't buy these tiny stories as stories. To them they're punchlines or jokes or aphorisms. And that's their opinion, and it's very difficult to change people's opinions. But with this anthology, I didn't want to include a slew of stories 25 words or less for the sake of being 25 words or less. My editor was in agreement. The top 20 finalists of the Hint Fiction contest were not authors just putting 25 words or less on a page. Each of them had to tell a story.

But again, that stubborn school of thought that refuses for whatever reason to see these stories as actual stories.

So I thought -- okay, then let's try to prove that these ARE stories. How? Well, quite simply I came up with four basic principles of what, for me at least, a story should do:

  1. It should obviously tell a story
  2. It should be entertaining
  3. It should be thought provoking
  4. And, if done just right, it should evoke some kind of emotional response from the reader

So I ask you -- if a story of 2,500 words or more can do all that, why can't a story 25 words or less?

Admittedly not everybody is going to see it that way. There are those who get the idea of this book and like it, others who don't and think it's stupid. That's to be expected.

(One major author I'd contacted about possibly submitting to the anthology said she didn't agree with the book's premise; her agent, however, thought it was a terrific idea and even suggested some of his other clients who he thought might be interested in submitting.)

Ultimately though, the idea here to just to have fun. My goal is for the writers to have fun working on their stories, and the eventual readers to have fun reading them. Granted, not every reader is going to love every story. I've found that a reader will love Story A and hate story B, while another reader will love Story B and hate Story A. Just like everything else in life, certain things appeal to us, other things don't.

Hint Fiction, above all else, is an exercise in brevity. It shows writers just how important word choice is, and hopefully this will reflect in their other writing.

So now I leave it up to you -- questions, comments, concerns, leave them in the comments section and I'll try to answer the best I can. After all, I don't have to defend myself like this, but I want everyone to see where I'm coming from, where I hope to go with the book, so that each person planning to submit can get a fair shake.