Six Word Stories

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Paul Whybrow

Full Member
Jun 20, 2015
Cornwall, UK
I wasn't sure whether to post this thread on Café Life or Flash Fiction, but went for the forum with the most clicks of the mouse.

The ultra-short story form, of only six letters, supposedly came about when Ernest Hemingway was challenged to write in this way. Hemingway's chilling six-word story read: "For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”

Other famous authors have attempted this condensed flash fiction:

Margaret Atwood - "Longed for him. Got him. shit."

Alistair Daniel - "Without thinking, I made two cups."

Joyce Carol Oates - "Revenge is living well, without you."

In 2006 Smith Magazine, an American online storytelling magazine, used the form to found a project called 'Six-Word Memoirs.' The entries were published in several books, with one being entries by teenagers - who were encouraged to share their private thoughts. As a writing exercise in teaching, six word memoirs can spark creativity.

One thing that struck me about many of the six word stories is how sad they are - at best, they're a wry reflection of life. This has changed now that a Native American author Sherman Alexie, has published a collection of them called 'The Human Comedy.' His stories contain some humour:

"My ex-wife. My brother. They eloped."

"I proposed. She declined. And laughed."

"First sex. I came. She didn’t."

"Palin wins! By one vote! Whose?"

I find myself thinking of haikus, the seventeen syllable impressionistic Japanese poetry form, when I look at these six word stories. Most have a three act structure, and the lack of adjectives, adverbs and prepositions makes them more a form of poetry. Just reciting them, one falls into an iambic pentameter rhythm of unstressed and stressed syllables.

Thinking creatively in this way certainly concentrates the mind, forcing you to think about what essentially matters to you and you alone; much is revealed in a few words. It might be proof of the old Shakespeare-derived proverb 'Brevity is the soul of wit.'

Here's a few of mine:

"Eldest Child. Big Brother. Permanent Uncle."

"Cat died. Within me he endures."

"Nothing lasts. All passes. Enjoy now."

Do the Colonists have any six word stories to share?

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