Short is in lately. Even before Twitter, Hemmingway's six-word story had its moment, spurring magazine pieces and a book collecting contemporary writers' own six-word works. And in the age of the tweet, we've had themed collections of news tweets and breakup tweets, to the breakout success leading to publishing compiled tweets of fictional Rahm Emanuel during his mayoral campaign.
A recent addition to the bunch is a short story collection of a sort, hint fiction, edited by Robert Swartwood. Swartwood sought to collect stories of fewer than twenty-five words, and not just opening lines or quick summaries, but stories satisfying in themselves while offering a glimpse of a larger story hiding beneath.
Charles Gramlich's contribution, "In A Place of Light and Reason," is but a single sentence and meets these goals wonderfully: "Sarah watched her son through the window, as he stood in the garden and bloomed roses with his hands." We have characters with a relationship, a setting, and action, enough piece to consider this a story in itself, but we are also left with the teasing knowledge that this action is unusual, and so could easy go on to imagine an entire plot developing out of this moment.
"The Strict Professor," by John Minichillo also proves tantalizing in its brevity: "A card in the mailbox: 'Withdrawal: student deceased.' She remembers the name, the only essay in the stack she'll really read." Again, characters, a situation that suggests other component situations, events past and to come. The action outside the moment of the story is specific and yet opens up worlds of possibility. The story could be opening or epilogue.
The short-form work featured in the collection highlights the importance of density in writing, each moment motivated and directed, showing only the illustrative sliver of the world that exists behind it.