We are all on a quest, whether we like to admit it or not. Each and every one of us is searching for something. Some people go their entire lives without finding what that mysterious thing is, while others find it right away. Me, I've come to realize that my quest in life is to find the magic number.

It's not as easy as one might think. Because the magic number changes person to person. It never stays the same, which makes my quest all that more difficult.

By some weird twist of fate, I created the term "hint fiction," which has, for the time being at least, gained some momentum. Inspired by Ernest Hemingway's six-word story—"For Sale: baby shoes, never worn"—Hint Fiction is a story of 25 words or fewer that suggests a larger, more complex story.

But there are some people who don't see that six-word story—or any other tiny story—as a story. For them there is no beginning, no middle, no end. No protagonist, no conflict. And, of course, it's just so short. How, they argue, can something so short be considered a story?

See, it's that mythical magic number. The one that tells us at what point a story stops being a story. A story of 2,500 words is a story, right? But what about a story of 250 words? Some say, "Oh, you can't tell a story in 250 words." Really? Why not?

For me, a story should do four basic things: obviously it should tell; it should be entertaining; it should be thought-provoking; and, if done well enough, it should evoke an emotional response.

Now, if those four principles can be applied to a story of 2,500 words, why can't they be applied to an even shorter story?

This November W. W. Norton will release Hint Fiction: An Anthology of Stories in 25 Words or Fewer. It's a story collection that asks us to read within the smallest of frames. Whether or not it succeeds is up to the individual reader. Because with stories that are so short, so much more depends on the reader—to move past borders, fill in blanks. When we do this, when this happens for us, we may prove the old paradox: less is more.

I want to thank Scott Garson for inviting me in putting together a special mini issue of Hint Fiction. Wigleaf has always been one of my favorite online journals, so it's been a thrill and honor to work with Scott on this project.

In this issue you will find ten stories by ten contributors of the Hint Fiction anthology. They are original stories, all dealing with different themes, but all having one thing in common: they are no more than 25 words long.

Scott and I hope you enjoy the stories, a literary appetizer of sorts, if you will. While you do, I will continue my quest to find that mythical magic number.

Robert Swartwood is the editor of Hint Fiction: An Anthology of Stories in 25 Words or Fewer, forthcoming this November from W. W. Norton. To learn more about Hint Fiction, visit his website.

To link to this directly: http://wigleaf.com/hfintro.htm

w i g · l e a F               08-10-10                                [home]