The Write Practice

The Online Writing Workbook

How to Use Six-Word Stories As Writing Prompts

According to legend, Ernest Hemingway was challenged to write a short story using only six words. He came up with: “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”

Six-word stories are a great way to practice your writing without actually having to write much.They can also be used to warm up before working on a novel or short story.

When I had first heard about six-word stories, I thought, “A whole story in six words? That’s impossible!”

Then I wrote my first six-word story—and it was really easy, not mention fun! Once you write your first, you can write a whole army of them. Here’s how six-word stories can be used as a great writing prompt.

My sprite is in a coffee cup.

Photo by zoovroo

1. Read

Before you write a six-word story, you should look at some examples. A great website you can use is sixwordstories.net. If you just want to look at a few quick examples, here are a few I liked:

“Rapunzel! I am slipping! A wig?!”

Misleadingly deep puddle. Curious child missing.

“I love you, too,” she lied.

Artificial limb, bungie jump-bad idea.

2. Write

Now that you’ve looked at some examples, you’re ready to write!

But if you end up staring at a blank screen right now—I was before I was able to write a six-word story—just think of a sentence or two that might be intriguing and tells a story without telling an entire story.

If you’re still stuck, try this tip: use magnetic poetry. You know the kind that you put on your refrigerator and mess around with? That often gives me ideas.

If you have an idea, but can’t figure out how to shorten it into six words, here’s some more advice: use contractions. Use “I’m” instead of “I am.” Use “They’re” instead of “They are.”  Now what if your story is too short? Use adjectives. Don’t say, “the ball is round.” That’s only four words. Use, “the ball is big and round,” or, “the ball is furry and round,” or even, “The man-eating ball is hungry.”

And don’t worry if your six-word stories aren’t works of art. They’re supposed to be fun and creative.

3. Use Your Six-Word Stories as a Writing Prompt

When you write or read a six-word story, you probably want to know more about the story, right? Six-word stories severely limit you, and of course, that’s the point!

Once you’ve written a few six word stories, why not turn it into a write prompt. Choose one, and writing that same story using as many words as you would like. Now you can create interesting characters, surprising plot twists, and as much description as you want.

Have you ever written a six-word story? How did you like the process?

PRACTICE

Write a six-word story about anything you like. It can be humorous, dark, mysterious, and anything else you can think of. Then use that six-word story as a writing prompt.

Write for fifteen minutes and lengthen your six-word story into a more-than-six-word-story. Then post both stories as a comment.

Be sure to comment on a few other peoples’ practices. Have fun!

About Joe Bunting

Joe Bunting is a writer and entrepreneur. He is the author of the #1 Amazon Bestseller Let's Write a Short Story! and the co-founder of Story Cartel. You can follow him on Twitter (@joebunting).

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  • Marla4

    Found, wedding ring. Call strip club.

    • http://joebunting.com Joe Bunting

      Ha! Good one Marla.

  • http://twitter.com/tianawarner Tiana Warner

    They never mentioned Champion was blind.

    • themagicviolinist

      Ooh. Mysterious. This makes me want to read more.

  • http://frogdiva.wordpress.com/ Tonya

    Rainy day. Sudden Stop. Crash!

  • http://www.sowingseedsofgrace.wordpress.com/ Sherrey Meyer

    Mom of 11 missing. Check bathroom!

  • Antonia

    We do these for our writing club at school called Pen & Ink, but we call them six word memoirs. Here are a few of mine:

    Madhouse? Just check out my family.

    Yes. You heard me. Four brothers.

    That’s my dog. He eats sofas.

    Childhood reading Tintin. Childhood well spent.

    • themagicviolinist

      Ha ha! :D I loved these! Especially the one about the dog. My dog is definitely insane, but she doesn’t eat sofas. ;)

  • Patrick Marchand

    Jungle man. Tree. Watch out! Oups.

    • Guest

      Oh and this translation of an epic quote would be perfect:
      I came, I saw, I conquered.

    • themagicviolinist

      Wow–that was intense! This could make a good adventure novel. You have the right idea. Nice job!

  • http://gabrielgadfly.com Gabriel Gadfly

    Pawn shop owner likes wedding ring.

  • Annette

    White haired lady. To dye for.

    • themagicviolinist

      LOL! XD Good use of wordplay.

  • Curt

    He runs. She jumps. They meet.

    Love this prompt!

    • themagicviolinist

      Thank you! :D I loved your story.

  • http://twitter.com/1stwordproblems Jeff Ellis

    My father left two days ago.

    Without you, there is no us.

    Dreamed of tomorrow. Forgot about today.

    Heart skipped a beat, then stopped.

    Loved her. Lost her. Miss her.

    Rainy days. Wet asphalt. Many casualties.

    I feel like I could never stop.

    • themagicviolinist

      Wow, this was really cool! I never thought about creating a story only using six word stories. ;)

      • http://twitter.com/1stwordproblems Jeff Ellis

        Actually I hadn’t intended for it to be one story, but now that I look at them, it absolutely is, haha. Thanks MV!

        • themagicviolinist

          Ha ha! XD That’s even more awesome that you did it unintentionally.

  • http://www.facebook.com/zoe.dyer Zoe Beech

    Bride meets wedding morning in bar.

    Security guard ushers thieves in. Quietly.

    • themagicviolinist

      Love the second one. ;) It makes me want to know why the security guard is letting the thieves in.

  • Craig York

    Red hand, red blade, red floor.

    • themagicviolinist

      Ooh, creepy. This would make a great lengthened story! :D

  • http://unknownjim.com/ Jim Woods

    Hug. Kiss. More. Less. Crying. Silence.

    • themagicviolinist

      Sad and mysterious. I like it!

      • http://unknownjim.com/ Jim Woods

        Thanks! Isn’t every story a sad story at some point? I wonder if this is the framework for most stories.

        • themagicviolinist

          That’s an interesting concept. I guess most stories have sad parts, but I don’t think all stories are “sad.” Very interesting.

  • Juliana Austen

    Her daughter’s future was at stake.

    Felicity knew her daughter was the most deserving of the scholarship to the prestigious St Barbara’s School – she was gifted, talented everything that the Judging Panel would be looking for. There was only one other girl being considered –she came from a poor home, her mother had recently died. The judges might be soft they might make the wrong decision. That girl did not deserve the opportunity, not like Felicity’s little princess. Felicity knew she had to take steps – to even out the playing field, make sure the right decision was made.
    She watched the other girl, Georgia, watched her for a whole day. Watched the girl walk to school, watched her working in the local diner, watched her chatting, laughing with a boy. That was it. She knew what she must do.
    Next morning Felicity called the Head of the Scholarship Board.
    “Hello, I’m calling from the Abortion Clinic this is just a reminder for Georgia about her appointment. It would not do for her to miss another one.”
    “Pardon!’ said the voice on the other end of the phone. ‘I don’t know what you are talking about.” Felicity recognised Mrs Bentwood- Green’s voice.
    “Georgia Jones has given this number as a contact. She is scheduled for a termination tomorrow.”
    “Well I’m sorry I have no idea how you got this number. But I don’t think it is appropriate that you say any more.” The voice had grown cold.
    “Oh I am so sorry I will see if we have any other numbers for Georgia. So sorry to bother you.” Felicity hung up and felt a frisson of excitement – that should plant a seed of doubt, of distrust, misrule. She almost laughed out loud.
    She rang the other judge from the call box in the Mall.
    “Georgia Jones is a slut. She has a sexually transmitted disease.” Felicity had lowered her voice to hoarse whisper.
    “What! Who is this?”
    “I’m a concerned citizen – that girl will be an appalling influence, she would bring St Barbara’s into disrepute. Georgia Jones is a dirty slut!” Felicity hung up quickly and nearly danced home.

    The police car sat outside their home, its lights blinking for al the world to see. The police woman opened the back seat for Felicity.
    “But I have done nothing wrong!” she protested. Her husband had his arm around their daughter. She always went to him when she was upset. “Sweetheart!” she implored.
    But her daughter just buried her face in her father’s shoulder.

    “You have gone too far this time, Felicity.” Her husband said and he led his daughter back into the house.

    • themagicviolinist

      Wow, that was a CRAZY story. I don’t think I could’ve come up with something like that. Good job! :D

      • Juliana Austen

        Thanks! It comes from my newspaper cuttings file of crazy stuff! Someone did that!!!!!

        • themagicviolinist

          Wow! Good use of inspiration.

  • http://www.facebook.com/veryhakim Mahmoud El Hakim

    a passionate roar. a bloody flag.

  • http://www.facebook.com/veryhakim Mahmoud El Hakim

    he disappeared. Oh what a show!

  • Claudia

    I just found this prompt surfing around. Intriguing! i thought of newspaper headlines that make you want to read more Here’s my 6 words off the top of my head. Later I will expand one.

    Discarded wheelchairs behind the facility.

    Free:sexy nightie in unopened package.

    Red dog collar donated to Goodwil

    Motorcycle and Truck have Memorable meeting.

    I realize, looking at these that I avoided verbs. hmm

  • Paul Owen

    Smoker’s house fire: only chimney left.

    New year. New job. New trouble.

    Son starting school, watching bus leave

    Left child at rest stop – aaah!

    TV broke. Have only books. Perfect.

    • Saunved Mutalik

      “Smoker’s house fire : only chimney left.” Loved it!
      And the last one about TV too! :D

  • Paul Owen

    Smoker’s house fire: only chimney left.

    New year. New job. New trouble.

    Son starting school, watching bus leave

    Left child at rest stop – aaah!

    TV broke. Have only books. Perfect.

  • http://forderek.com/ Hanni

    Uh, just found this post and even tho I’m a bit late, here’s my try:
    Sending the Dragon. Watching the flames.

  • Erin D

    Ooh, I’ll play, I’ll play! It’s kind of hard to write something coherent in 15 minutes, and I guess this is a bit more of a rant, but here’s what I’ve got:

    “Yes, I know how to talk.”

    Such is the reply that I’ve given to many people (mostly within my own family) when they remark to me that “you know that (insert social function, special event,
    or anything that involves interacting with people here) involves talking, right?” This reply is usually preceded by a frustrated sigh, a rolling of my eyes, or the urge to grab the person I’m talking to by the shoulders and to scream at them. Or sometimes all three of those things are present. I’m usually able to keep my composure and appear unfazed by the other person’s remark, even though it does bother and sometimes hurt me. Such is the world that I live in, though, one that paints quieter folk like me as socially inept weirdoes who don’t know how to carry out a friendly conversation. We’re treated like we can’t stand people or
    that we’re afraid of people or like we need to be coaxed out of our shell all
    the dang time.

    The truth is, though, I like people. I really do. Just in small doses. And I like to talk. But only if I’m talking about something that I’m really passionate about, and that usually only occurs when I’m around people that “get” me or people that I’m comfortable with. I guess not wanting to have a five-minute conversation about the weather or about your cat makes me unapproachable and cold, or that not wanting to be friends with everybody makes me asocial. I suspect many other introverts feel the same: shamed for preferring to keep to themselves unless they have something worthwhile to say, pressured into being social all the time because the world around them seems to demand it. It’s exhausting, really.

  • Jen Recato

    Here are my tries:

    Dead body found. Naked. Roped. Nun.

    Late night voices. Laughters. Empty apartments.

    One-eyed driving. Empty beer cans. Emergency.

    Birthday candles burned out. With her.

    Nail arts found clutching on windowsill.

    Explosives in place. Confirmed by binoculars.

    Defective faucet on bathroom coughs blood.

    I’ll try to make a happy one. :)

  • Hello Brownie

    Through a hole. Magic included. Sisters.

  • Saunved Mutalik

    That was slightly hard. My stories:

    Door creaks open. Just the wind!
    Tired face. Sore eyes. Smiles beautifully.
    Eyes closed. I dream about you!
    Moth taps bulb. Dead in seconds.

  • TurdbagTheGreatXIV

    Now, we toilet paper that bear.
    She faced the barrel and fired.
    Final challenge: Taco Bell and laxatives.
    I’ve found the meaning of life!