Saturday, June 15, 2013

Why Tell All When You Can Just Hint?

All month, we’ve posted Silverville Series “Hint Fiction” on our Write in the Thick FB page – mini-stories of 25 words or less that each suggest some subplot or story within the series.

And it’s fun but challenging to capture these threads in such a tight space. (At least you get to write the title outside the word count, so you can hint a bit more.)

Here’s a sample from our Silverville Saga series:
Buford could make a bundle with the time portal – if he could only figure out how to stop it from killing any more patrons. (Book Three: The Magicke Outhouse)

It’s sort of like syllabic poetry, where you have to figure out how to say something meaningful in lines with a prescribed number of syllables (Haiku is a great example of syllabics with its form of three lines, where the first has  seven syllables,  the second has five, and the third line again has seven syllables.)

Hint Fiction and other similar limited word-count stories are the fictional equivalent of syllabics.

Robert Smartwood invented the form and coined the term. Check out his marvelous collection gathered from a contest he sponsored a couple years back: Hint Fiction: An Anthology of Stories in 25 words or fewer.

But Hint is only one of a number of micro-fiction forms.

Two of our other faves are Dribble and Drabble.

Dribble is a story implied in (gasp) six or fewer words. The most famous example, supposedly by Hemingway, is this one:

“For Sale: Baby shoes. Never worn.”

Drabble is a story that tells its tale in exactly 100 words.

The charm of these micro-stories is that the shorter the stories are, the more the writer must relinquish the back story and meaning to the imagination of the reader. In some ways, it’s a good exercise in authorly humility.

Using the same thematic kernel, here are three (non-Silvervillean) micro-stories, first a dribble, then a hint, and finally a drabble:

They found a head – another one.


After the flood, her team worked the field by the cemetery. Then she noticed the half-covered head. She’d come back later, maybe keep this one.


 What a lovely day. Sara waved to the others a hundred yards away as she turned over sandy clumps with her rake.

The rescue team had found seven bodies so far. But according to town records, the flood had uncovered and washed dozens into the fields next to the cemetery.

Her rake uncovered a head, and she stopped. Recently buried and fairly well preserved, based on the exposed features and hair. Too bad the rake’s tine had punctured one eyeball. She smiled and reburied the head.

She’d return that night to reclaim the parts she’d need for her science experiment.

We just love the economy of these micro-story forms. 

We've modified the original intent of Smartwood's Hint Fiction form just a bit for our own purposes, of course, by using various threads and stories within the world we've created for the Silverville Saga series.

Instead, we're previewing these threads for folks who've not yet read this or that book; we're also reminding those who have read the books about the various stories contained within the saga -- a chance to revisit those threads in 25 words or less.

Check out the tab at the top of our blog page for the accumulating hint stories for each book within the Silverville Saga, or drop by our Write in the Thick FB page on Mondays and Thursdays this summer to see the latest installments.

And, of course, we’d love to see some of you post a dribble, hint, or drabble here of your own for us to ooh or ahh over!


  1. I knew none of this and am fascinated by the word economy. I'm so glad you shared these techniques.

  2. Hope you give them a try, Julie.

    They also make non-intimidating starters to get past writers block. Sort of a one-step-at-a-time trick to get you into deeper waters.

    That's how gullible our minds are -- we're so easy to trick!