Guide on How To Write a Hint Fiction

Writing GuidesCreative Writing
Aug 16, 2018

Each story has its own demands—some need to be told in longer narratives, while others demand a shorter narrative. Fiction has been classified, aside from the genres, according to length. An example is flash fiction. But there’s an even shorter form—hint fiction. Hint fiction is a short story that is only twenty-five words or less. It is called “hint fiction” because the story is not actually told but merely hinted at. This is crucial for, unlike the typical short story, hint fiction’s length is an influential constraint. Here is how to write hint fiction:

Meaning of hint fiction - What is Hint Fiction?

Hint fiction is a relatively new kind of literature, so you make ask us to define hint fiction. There’s no need to type in “hint define” or “another word for hinting ” in your search bar. If you're a student who needs to pass a hint fiction for a term paper requirement, then this guide might help you. To put it frankly, the definition of hint fiction is simply a very short story composed of only 25 words, sometimes even fewer, which suggests a more complex story. It serves to prove that less is more. Coined by Robert Swartwood, these stories are anywhere from playful and experimental, to tragic and conservative. He was inspired by " For Sale: baby shoes, never worn ”, a six-word story by Ernest Hemingway. Swartwood used this to foster the hint of fiction’s growth and purpose of creating these extremely short stories. He named them hint fiction meaning or suggesting that the chosen words suggest a more complex series of events. Though spare, these stories evoke meaning and emotions, like a masterfully crafted narrative can be just as startling as a traditional story. The true meaning of hint fiction lies in its craft, which is hauntingly beautiful in its simplest form – the hint of an explanation will ruin it. “ Is there another word for a hint fiction?” Suppose not, but there’s a similar fiction like it called flash poetry.

Hint Fiction Examples

The rise of this fiction has inspired many authors, who have risen to the top as best-sellers. Here are some of the best books and pieces to read for the brilliant use of hint words:

  • “The Human Comedy” by Sherman Alexi. It is brief but devastating and featured as part of Narrative’s six-word stories series.
  • “I Know Things about the Girls Next Door” by Roxane Gay was published by Wigleaf, alongside a selection of stories by authors who were also featured in Norton’s Hint Fiction anthology.
  • This movement has also taken the world of social media by storm. Nanoism is a twitter-fiction which encourages stories to be written by 140 characters or less online. It’s a collection that includes plenty of pieces of hint fiction, such as pieces by Michael Jagunic.
  • “Honoring Subjunctive” and “Losing Memory” by Lydia Davis, a writer who has been writing flash and hint fiction before the rest of the world got hooked.
  • “Dandelions Actually” by R. Gatwoord is a both beautiful and potent, and he does the magic in just eleven words.
  • “Summer of ‘84” by Robert Swartwood himself, the official authority of hint fiction.

How To Write Hint Fiction - Step By Step Guide

The story should be clear in your head

You don’t need to know every detail, but the plot of your story should be clear to you. Hint fiction is not that different from a regular short story. It needs to have the elements. However, you don’t need to write about them all. Again, think of which elements are most needed to paint a clear picture in the reader’s mind and thus to tell the story. Often, because of the constraint in length, hint fiction writers resort to creative manipulation of the form. For example, Ernest Hemingway:

"For Sale: baby shoes, never worn."

This story implies that the sentence was written like an advertisement for the said shoes. Somehow, through this, it also tells you of the plotline—of the frustration and sorrow of the parents who lost a child, and finally their acceptance which culminates in them selling their baby’s shoes. All this happens in the background of merely six words.

A keen eye for detail

Of course, writing is about figuring out which parts to include and which ones to exclude, but the short length of hint fiction requires its writer to amplify this. You need to be very picky if you want to learn how to write hint fiction. This is why it’s important to have a clear picture of the story in your head—so you can filter the parts that are relevant to the story. But don’t worry. Just because a part of the plot will not be written doesn’t mean that it cannot be told. Look back at Hemingway’s hint fiction and how much is revealed in so little.

Write concisely

Your writing should not just be short, it needs to be very, very clear. Hint fiction contains multiple layers that the writer needs not only to unveil but to make known—in less than twenty-five words. Thus, word choice is the very backbone of the form. It goes without saying: revise!


Keep in mind that you are always simply hinting at a larger picture. You don’t need to be able to capture the entire picture in just two or three sentences. Trust the reader’s imagination to fill in the blanks, but lead them in the right direction. Form-wise, however, hint fiction is complete in itself. How is it complete, you ask? By hinting at a beginning, middle, and end; there is conflict; there are characters, and there are themes explored.

Write a headliner

The title  is a helpful device in setting up the climax of your story. Writers of hint fiction use the title to tell the reader about the context of the story or to build up the story. You need not be intimidated by the challenges in how to write hint fiction. What's most important here is the creativity in story-telling. Continue to push the limits of your writing by trying your hand at hint fiction.

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