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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