Photo courtesy The Blue Bookcase

Around two months ago, I picked up on a whim Hint Fiction edited by Robert Swartwood. Swartwood’s definition of hint fiction is ‘a story of 25 words or fewer that suggests a larger, more complex story’. As the book’s blurb on Amazon notes,

“The stories in this collection run the gamut from playful to tragic, conservative to experimental, but they all have one thing in common: they are no more than 25 words long. Robert Swartwood was inspired by Ernest Hemingway’s possibly apocryphal six-word story—”For Sale: baby shoes, never worn”—to foster the writing of these incredibly short-short stories. He termed them “hint fiction” because the few chosen words suggest a larger, more complex chain of events. Spare and evocative, these stories prove that a brilliantly honed narrative can be as startling and powerful as a story of traditional length. The 125 gemlike stories in this collection come from such best-selling and award-winning authors as Joyce Carol Oates, Ha Jin, Peter Straub, and James Frey, as well as emerging writers.”

The book was a compelling read. The stories in it, as the best of them often do, resonated beyond the culture and context they were written in and the audience they were meant for.

Four of my favourite stories from Swartwood’s anthology are:

  • They buried him deep. Again. – Joe R. Lansdale
  • Triumphant, Dr. Masuyo held the frail child. After year, he finally had a cure. Outside, the sun warmed Hiroshima. And then he saw the flash. – Kevin Hosey
  • The bull terrier watched the car fishtail and then straighten as it sped away. The dog turned, looked down, and gently licked his master’s forehead. – Daniel A. Olivas
  • The sour of breaking glass got Philip out of bed, and then he remembered he was no longer in love with his wife. – Jason Rice

After reading it cover to cover, I wondered what it would be like to do a similar project in Sri Lanka, with resident writers or those from abroad who had spent some time in the country. Having discussing the idea with them, Perera-Hussein Books offered to seriously consider publishing a Sri Lankan anthology of Hint Fiction, and I am keen to also use the exercise as a way to see how a traditional print based work can be complemented through e-book and Apple iBook formats, which Groundviews pioneered in Sri Lanka.

But before form comes content. Twitter’s @sixwordstories demonstrates that even as little as six words is enough, in the hands of a vibrant imagination and creative word-weaver, to tell a good story.

Prospective writers should anchor their story (or stories) to something very Sri Lankan – a phrase, place, event, issue, marker, adage, trait, historical chapter, reference, image, dish, sweetmeat or map, for example. The idea is to evoke something of this country – something loved, reviled, longed for or missed.

Submissions will be accepted till 15th September 2012. Please email your story or stories only to [email protected]. Please remember that each story should be 25 words or less.

I sincerely hope the submissions, if they are good enough and make to print and the web, will introduce a new genre to Sri Lankan fiction and be a damn good read as well.