::Literate Blather::
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
Six-word Stories
Is it possible to compose a complete short story in six words? It was a challenge once delivered to Ernest Hemingway. The great writer came up with this compelling piece of literature: "For sale: baby shoes, never used."

DaRK PaRTY became intrigued by the idea of writing riveting literature with such economy. The goal is to present a premise that lives beyond the six words and gives the reader something to ponder. In Hemingway's piece, a reader is immediately struck by the amazing possibilities. Are we dealing with a couple who lost their baby before it was born and are no longer together? Are they now selling off the nursery? Or is this an old lady who bought the shoes as an impulse in her youth and now she discovers them dusty and forgotten in a cabinet? Must she sell them to wipe away the pain of unfulfilled dreams?

By any measure, it's a powerful and riveting piece of fiction for just six words.

So in the spirit of Hemingway (and brevity in general) -- we present you with our own efforts at composing six-word stories (with varying degrees of success -- please feel free to leave your own story in our comments section):

Wake up in coffin, already buried.

Tough, old coach; watches players shower.

Writes vegetarian cookbook while eating hamburgers.

Talking trees take revenge on lumberjacks.

God dies, war erupts, enlightenment follows.

Baby dies, anguished parents mourn separately.

Cynical professor wins lottery, can't cope.

Time traveler saves Lincoln, Confederates win.

Siblings feign love for sick mother.

Wizard saves elves from his apprentice.

Beached whale galvanizes remote Scottish village.

Scientist cures cancer; Bono wins Nobel.

Terminal businessman finds enemies, makes amends.

Poisoned boss; married his rich wife.

Playboy seduces girl; marries her mother.

Poet plagiarizes dead student, wins Pulitzer.

Grandfather dies, leaves family treasure map.

Plague kills everyone, zombies hunt survivors.

Killed father, hunted by his son.

Jazz drummer falls for pop princess.

Read L. Kenyon's short story "Susan Spelling B" here

Read our 5 Questions interview about Ernest Hemingway here

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Anonymous Rosina Lippi said...
Your examples, taken together with Hemingway's, highlight something important, and that is, this exercise is restricted - maybe necessarily - to a certain kind of narrative. All the attempts read like ads or titles. I think it would be much harder to do otherwise. For example:

After Henry's birth, George sold everything.


John made a profit selling the newborn's clothes.

Mary sold the newborn's things.

My conclusion would be that it's the telegraphic nature of ads and titles that provide most of the punch.

Blogger GFS3 said...
Hi Rosina:
Good points. It's more difficult than one thinks to generate a deep and rich story with such a limited word count.

But I think your examples read like sentences and statements rather than full blown narratives. But I also agree that trying to make them "larger" can reduce them to ad speak.

But regardless, it's a wonderful writing exercise that forces you to think pithy.

Anonymous zach said...
Very nice, love the one about the old coach.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Okay, not suggestive of a story but it did spring quickly to mind:
Politics today: Now, or we bomb

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