Six Word Stories: How to Write the Shortest Story You’ll Never Forget

by Joe Bunting | 62 comments

According to legend, Ernest Hemingway was challenged to write a short story using only six words. Ernest Hemingway's story? It was: “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”

While you're not going to be able to tell an entire life story in six words, you just might be able to catch a movement of conflict or a significant moment in a character's life. Plus it's fun. Let's look at how to write a really short story.

Six Word Stories

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

Then I wrote my first one. It was really easy, not to mention fun! Once you write your first, you can write a whole slew of them. Let's look at how to write one.

1. Read examples

Start by looking at some examples. A great website you can use is sixwordstories.net. If you just want to look at a few examples, here are some I liked:

“Rapunzel! I am slipping! A wig?!”

Misleadingly deep puddle. Curious child missing.

“I love you, too,” she lied.

2. Choose a Moment of Conflict

Part of what makes a story, well, a story is a goal coupled with conflict. Think about the examples we listed above. Where is the moment of conflict?

Rapunzel's suitor has a goal (reaching Rapunzel) and the conflict is that the hair he is climbing is a wig that is slipping. Oops.

The second one implies one of two stories: the child lost in a puddle OR what happens next when someone realizes the child's fallen in. The goal will determine the conflict.

In the third one, the goal is to mislead someone. The conflict? The lie (or maybe why she lies).

3. How to Write a Six Word Story

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

Begin with a sentence or two that might be intriguing. A situation that tells a story without telling an entire story.

Who will the characters involved be? What do they want? What will get in the way? Choose words for each. Like this:

Character: gardener
Goal: to plant his lilies
Conflict: unearths human bones

Now, combine them, distilling the ideas into just a handful of words.

Story in six words: “Hello? There's bones. In my flowerbed?”

Or: He planted lilies. But harvested bones.

If you have an idea, but can't figure out how to shorten it into six words, here's some advice: use contractions. Use “I'm” instead of “I am.” Use “They're” instead of “They are.”

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

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.

4. 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 writing prompt? Choose one, and write 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. Give it a try and show us what you come up with!

Have you ever written a six word story? How did you like the process? Share in the comments

PRACTICE

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

Write for fifteen minutes. Once you have a six word story, then work to expand your story into something longer. Then post both stories in the Pro Practice Workshop.

Be sure to comment on a few other writers' practices. Have fun!

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Joe Bunting is an author and the leader of The Write Practice community. He is also the author of the new book Crowdsourcing Paris, a real life adventure story set in France. It was a #1 New Release on Amazon. Follow him on Instagram (@jhbunting).

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62 Comments

  1. Marla4

    Found, wedding ring. Call strip club.

    Reply
    • Joe Bunting

      Ha! Good one Marla.

  2. Tiana Warner

    They never mentioned Champion was blind.

    Reply
    • themagicviolinist

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

  3. Tonya

    Rainy day. Sudden Stop. Crash!

    Reply
  4. 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.

    Reply
    • themagicviolinist

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

  5. Patrick Marchand

    Jungle man. Tree. Watch out! Oups.

    Reply
    • 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!

  6. Annette

    White haired lady. To dye for.

    Reply
    • themagicviolinist

      LOL! XD Good use of wordplay.

  7. Curt

    He runs. She jumps. They meet.

    Love this prompt!

    Reply
    • themagicviolinist

      Thank you! 😀 I loved your story.

  8. 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.

    Reply
    • themagicviolinist

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

    • 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.

    • Carrie Lynn Lewis

      Jeff,

      I’m assuming that last line is your thoughts on writing six-word stories. I have to agree with you. Once I got started, it was difficult to stop. Even when the timer went off!

      I especially like “Dreamed of tomorrow. Forgot about today.” Excellent!

  9. Zoe Beech

    Bride meets wedding morning in bar.

    Security guard ushers thieves in. Quietly.

    Reply
    • themagicviolinist

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

  10. Craig York

    Red hand, red blade, red floor.

    Reply
    • themagicviolinist

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

  11. Jim Woods

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

    Reply
    • themagicviolinist

      Sad and mysterious. I like it!

    • 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.

  12. 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.

    Reply
    • themagicviolinist

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

    • Juliana Austen

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

    • themagicviolinist

      Wow! Good use of inspiration.

  13. 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

    Reply
  14. 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.

    Reply
    • Saunved Mutalik

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

    • Carrie Lynn Lewis

      Paul,

      I like all of these. I laughed out loud at “Left child at rest stop – aaah!” but the last one is great, too.

      Good work!

  15. 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.

    Reply
  16. Hanni

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

    Reply
  17. 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.

    Reply
  18. 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. 🙂

    Reply
    • The Awesomely, Awesome Bird

      Plot twists.

  19. Hello Brownie

    Through a hole. Magic included. Sisters.

    Reply
  20. 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.

    Reply
  21. 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!

    Reply
  22. Carrie Lynn Lewis

    I made a commitment over the weekend to improve my writing by doing at least three of these writing practice lessons each week. Today (August 17) is the first day and what did I get? Writing prompts. Not my favorite thing.

    But commitment is commitment, so I found a prompt I liked (six sentence stories) and wrote for fifteen minutes. I ended up with 33 (themes and variations).

    In the spirit of the exercise, here are my favorites.

    That’s not possible. I’m seeing things.

    The ideal home…. complete with body.

    End of world! Film at eleven.

    Missing: One large man-eating lion. (I hope hyphenated words don’t count as one word!)

    Dazed. Confused. Hopeless. Life or death?

    Reply
    • Carrie Lynn Lewis

      I see I misunderstood the instructions. Sigh. It is Monday.

      I’ll see what I can do about expanding one of these into a story and post that, too.

  23. Kathryn VanWyhe

    Here are my top five:

    Falling for long, rising up forever.

    Strangled I cry but none hears.

    Poisonous fruit, lost friend, Impossible decision.

    Warning! The hair bites at men!

    I will color the world tomorrow.

    Reply
  24. Indukuri Surya Teja Varma

    I’m fat but, have a heart
    Memories Memories all over the place
    I love you. I don’t believe.
    I love her. She loves me.
    Opened books. No interest. Keep Sketching.

    Reply
  25. Shashank Kris

    Love to eat, fuck and sleep.

    Reply
  26. SB

    This is my first time trying to write a six word story and then use it as a prompt. I think they may be some gaps in the story, but I couldn’t change it within 15 mins. I thought I’d post it anyway 🙂

    Sealed letters that still remain unopened.(six word story)

    She is holding one more letter in her hands. Tears running down her cheeks. Such ambivalent emotions. A feeling of relief is comforting her heart, “he is alive” she sighs with a smile, but a sadness conquers her heart as she is adding the letter on the pile of the other unopened ones.

    The agony she experiences is not to be expressed with words, only with tears. She is holding the letters close to her heart, then she smells them and she kisses them. She knows that his hands touched these envelopes and she wants to touch the exact spots that have been touched by him.

    No one will ever know the sacrifice she is making. Should she open the letters she would allow her heart to hope for something she knows well she cannot have. Should the letters stop coming, her heart wouldn’t bear it. She is called to suffer by expecting letters that she will not open.

    How can you tell a soldier who is fighting on the front line, that while he thinks you are waiting for him, your father is arranging your wedding with a man he thinks he best suits to be your husband? She wouldn’t dare take away from him the only thing that is keeping him alive.

    Reply
  27. Ram

    have brain, less usage – Human Being

    Reply
  28. A W

    Here are some of mine:
    – I’m alone but not really lonely.
    -Everything but the future is planned.
    -Best friends can also be enemies.

    Reply
  29. Depayan Paul

    Here’s my six-word story:

    ….and after night, there was darkness….

    Reply
  30. Depayan Paul

    And here’s another one:

    She said, ” Good night. ” Night obliged.

    Reply
  31. Billie L Wade

    Great post, Joe. What a great idea. I have a book titled “Not Quite What I Was Planning,” but I hadn’t thought to use the entries as prompts. My own six-word story is: “I wish I had left sooner.” I’m going to do this more often. Thanks again. Happy Writing.

    Reply
  32. meenu bahuguna

    Here’s my first try to a six story, pls do share your thoughts:
    We fell together, she rose alone
    I loved her, she loved her
    Was famous once, but died young
    Free time, wasted time, no time
    Bright talkative outside, dull lonely inside

    Reply
  33. Kimberly Owen

    Six words won’t do him justice

    Reply
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