One of the first subjects I completed in my ongoing Diploma of Professional Writing and Editing was Short Story B with Margaret McCarthy. In this class, Margaret introduced us to a variety of short story forms including the ‘six word story’.
How hard can it be to put together six words, right? Wrong!
Those six words need to convey all the elements of a good story—character, mood, setting, theme and plot—while having a definite beginning, middle and end, and using a style that shows rather than tells. Phew!
After the original discussion in class, I scoured the internet for six word stories and found a few sites dedicated to the form and hundreds of great examples. My favourites include:
Found true love. Married someone else. —Dave Eggers
Blind date. Wrong restaurant. Missed destiny. —Clare Hill
Dad called: DNA back: he isn’t. —Helen Fielding
“Apple?” “No.” “Taste!” “ADAM?” Oh God. —David Lodge
Megan’s baby: John’s surname, Jim’s eyes. —Simon Armitage
Every single sight mentions Ernest Hemmingway and his belief the best story he ever wrote contained only six words:
‘For sale: baby shoes, never worn.’
While new clothes frequently get lost in my children’s cupboards until they are outgrown, I think Hemmingway is alluding that something happened to the baby. The voice is that of an advertisement and hints the author needs the money and is ready to move on from whatever happened. I might be thinking about this too hard, but my reasoning shows those six words imply a much greater story and, more importantly, create a taking point for readers and writers alike.
Over the next week or so, I created more than 50 six word stories of my own; I just couldn’t help myself. I recently submitted my best to Platform Magazine, who commissioned 13 for their 10th, and current, issue. If you’d like an electronic copy of Platform (it’s free!), please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org . You can also pick up a hardcopy at
’s Victoria University St Albans campus or one of the Rotunda in the West events.
I’d love to know what you think of the stories and welcome you to post your own.
Thanks for visiting,