Story vs. Plot

This will most likely be the epigraph to the Hint Fiction anthology (major thanks to Stewart O'Nan for suggesting it in the first place):

"The king died and then the queen died," is a story.  "The king died and then the queen died of grief" is a plot.

What, I ask you, is the difference between the two? Well, the common argument is this the second "story" contains plot because of causality. It was because the king died that the queen died. She had loved him very much and died of grief for his passing.

Okay, the reason I wanted to bring that up is, ultimately, I don't care whether your Hint Fiction submission has plot. Obviously, it has to have something, some kind of substance, but I worry that too many people might over think their stories. (On the flip side, I worry that a number of people might under think their stories too.)

Remember, it's possible to write a self-sustained story in 25 words or less. You can probably even come up with a great one, too.

But that's not what I'm looking for for this anthology.

Keep in mind the "hint" aspect. Ask yourself, What does your story hint at? Use the Hemingway six-worder as an example:

For sale: baby shoes, never worn.

What larger, more complex story is he hinting at? Imagine the characters. Imagine the grief. Now try to do the same with your own work.

Please keep in mind I won't be impressed by six-word stories that are obvious derivations of the Hemingway piece. Not that your stories can't be short. Joe Lansdale sent me a five-word story that I think is absolutely amazing. So just as with any story or novel, let the story dictate its length.

Now for a quick example:

The boy went to the corner store and stole a Snickers bar.

Okay, so what's going on in this story? The boy steals a candy bar, obviously, but what else? What is being hinted at?

Honestly, I don't think much is happening here. It's not interesting. It's not compelling at all.

Now let's change it up:

The boy went to the corner store and stole a pregnancy test for his sister.

All right, so this piece is becoming a little more interesting. There's definitely a larger, more complex story being hinted at. Why can't the sister buy her own pregnancy test? Why is the boy stealing it? Why doesn't he just pay for it in the first place?

But wait -- we need a title. So how about ...


If you're cringing a little bit, then the story definitely evoked an emotional response. Keep in mind you shouldn't go overboard, and maybe this title does that. Maybe it could be something more vague, like "The First Time" or "The Night After" or something like that.

See how the title is just as important as the story?

Still another two weeks away before submissions open. I hear people are already working on their stories. Which was the whole point announcing the guidelines at the beginning of the month -- I want writers to spend time on these stories, think about the word choice, and not just throw them together as fast as they can and submit them.

Also, I'm happy to say it seems the Google hits for "hint fiction" have increased by almost 2,000 in the last two weeks, which is pretty amazing. Thanks to everyone who's helped get the word out, no matter if it was positive or negative :-)