Saturday, November 13, 2010

Hint Fiction - Novaiku

Have you heard of 'Hint' fiction? I hadn't until I saw a link on Facebook to Robert Swartwood's new book, 'Hint Fiction: An Anthology of Stories in 25 Words or Fewer'.

As the name suggests, the essence of this mini genre is to conjure up an entire story in its most reduced form. Ernest Hemingway is supposed to have written the daddy of all mini fictions with his "For sale: baby shoes, never worn" from which Swartwood was inspired to solicit very short fiction on his website. It grew into a contest and even well-known writers joined in.

The idea of hint fiction, as its name suggests, is to hint at an entire story using a minimum number of words. It's a sort of haiku in prose, and is as difficult to write as a haiku. Every word has to earn its place, working twice as hard as normal. It has to evoke more than it would in a wordier setting. The ultimate 'less is more'.

Naturally, being interested in words and the formation of succinct phrases, I started thinking about my own hint 'novel'. They are called novels, but only because there isn't an alternative word; the novel version of a 'haiku'. Or maybe we could invent one - the 'novaiku', for example?

Swartwood believes that writing a 'novaiku' can help writers develop as writers. It's a starting point, an essence, from which a novel can be developed and filled into a larger entity. If you can think of a story distilled into 25 words or less, you have the basis for a whole, longer work.

My inspiration came from a fellow blogger whose story is wonderfully romantic, a teeny bit tragic, and has a happy ending, called 'French Kiss'.
She never replied to his letter. Until, years later, divorced, she found it again, replied. He responded, positively. Still in love, they married, at last.
That's 25 words (to save you counting). It could have stopped at 'positively' but that wouldn't have evoked the entire story. With a novaiku you have to hint at the whole thing. Swartwood says that many 'rookie' novaikists just write basically a novel's "first line", or a series of "random thoughts". 

You can see this year's winners of the Hint Fiction 25-word Story Contest here. The winner was written by Sean Johnston for 'Cabin Fever' -
Cindy had agreed to the electric fence, the deadbolts, the new alarm system--true--but she had assumed his intentions were to keep people out.

See if you can have a go and come up with a novaiku - 25 words or less. Share it in the comments section below. It's quite a challenge and it really sets the brain working as a piece of disciplined writing. You could also join the Facebook page 'Hint Fiction' and post it there.

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