I was supposed to be working on revisions this week but thanks to the Word Wenches that train derailed when I read their post about six-word stories.
Rumor has it that Hemingway wrote his well-known six-word story when he was challenged to write a complete story as succinctly as possible.
“For sale: baby shoes, never worn.” ~ Hemingway
Through the years, this idea has inspired a number of websites, articles, and, most recently, a six-word memoir trend. The Smith Magazine website invites readers to share their own six-word memoirs and currently almost a million entries have been posted.
“Everyone has a story. What’s yours?” ~Smith Magazine
Narrative Magazine , which pays $50 for each story it accepts for publication (submission fee applies), provides this guideline for what a six-word story should include:
“A Six-Word Story should provide a movement of conflict, action, and resolution that gives the sense of a complete story transpiring in a moment’s reading.”
Cruise on over to Amazon and you can find whole books dedicated to the 6-word concept. Google “six word stories” or follow #sixwordstories on Twitter and you can find plenty of examples like:
“Longed for him. Got him. Shit.” ~Margaret Atwood
Six-word stories can be a good way to jump-start your creativity. Think of a six-word story (or choose one of the many examples online) and then expand on it in a writing sprint. Who knows – you may wind up with some good story ideas that way.
Focus Your Story
The six-word idea can also help focus your writing. Think of the story you’re currently working on. How would you describe it as a six-word story? Here are two quick examples from my own WIPs:
“Future on hold. Accused of treason.” ~ The Traitor
“Married. Divorced. Trying again.” ~ Second Chances
Like developing a tagline or synopsis, distilling your story down to a handful of words can be a helpful way to focus on what it’s really about. You can also try this for particular acts or scenes in your story, to help focus the action or to clarify what is really happening.
Above all, I think the six-word stories at just fun. You get the enjoyment of “writing” a story without the heavy lifting of scenes, beats, acts, and turning points. They provide the perfect distraction while stuck in traffic or trapped in meetings.
Here are a few that I came up this afternoon:
Childhood crush becomes happily ever after.
Rome burns. London explodes. Karen survives.
Two brothers. One girl. Who wins?
So, what’s your six-word story?