In the past – and, being honest, not too long ago – I got accused of being verbose. I won’t deny it as I do love words and language and, sometimes, don’t really know when to stop.
In fact, during a short story writing contest last year, I wrote 23,000 words as my entry – hey, there’s nothing in the rules that says a novella isn’t also a short story, you know!
Anyway, in order to try to train myself to write less, while writing ‘more’, I have been focussing on shorter fiction: flash fiction (1000 words or less), micro fiction (500 words or less) and even a foray into fiction specifically designed for Twitter and text messages (so sub 140 characters).
I’ve even been lucky enough to have work in each of those ‘genres’ published – yes, including the novella
Somewhere along the line I fell in love with shorter fiction, so much so that I set-up With Painted Words that only allows fiction up to 1000 words but, quite often actually, has published work of much smaller size.
Like a lot of people I came across Ernest Hemingway’s alleged piece:
For Sale: Baby shoes, never worn
It’s evocative and powerful – a complete story in six words.
Obviously that is under 1000 words so, technically, is flash fiction. However I recently stumbled upon something called ‘hint fiction’ (n) : a story of 25 words or fewer that suggests a larger, more complex story … and if you want to find out more about that, or read some great stuff, I would suggest visiting http://www.robertswartwood.com/ … and, for me, Hemingway’s piece definitely tells a complex story.
At least it does in my head. As soon as I read it I thought of a poor couple who had lost a very young baby – I thought that it was very obvious that that is what he was saying but a friend of mine read it and thought of a couple who couldn’t have children at all.
Six words but, for two people, two stories.
I love the idea that, at its most basic level, hint fiction gives you a full story but it is up to you just what that story actually is.
So, if Hemingway could do that in six words – and I am allowed a full twenty five – I really have to give this hint fiction lark a go, don’t I?
Yes – yes I do.
Tomorrow – just to leave you all in (to quote Doctor Frankenfurter) antici ……… pation!
… oh, and if anyone is wondering what the answer to the original question is, I would personally go with succinct.