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