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Really short stories – six words

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Okay, now we’re talking minimalist! You thought 140 characters was small, try doing a story in 6 words.
Again, this is one I remember from high school. You can still have a beginning, middle and end. Try two words for each if that helps.

The most famous example of a 6 word story comes from Ernest Hemingway in the 1920s. He made a bet that he could write a story in only 6 words. He won that bet, and the result is quite brilliant considering this limit. The story is simply:

For sale. Babies shoes. Never worn

I have always loved this story. It gets around the whole 6 words problem by making what is not said the most important thing. There are a few possible reasons why these shoes are for sale, sure, but we will automatically choose one that is story worthy. There is a wealth of pain and sadness behind those six words that goes far beyond what could be communicated with “sadly, her baby died. The end”. Six words, no impact. A deliberately obtuse alternative, admittedly, but nevertheless, this example goes to the heart of the “show. Don’t tell” ethos. Show the reader what’s there, and let them fill in the gaps. They will feel it more.

Here’s one I knocked together based on my mini-saga example:

He positive. She negative. Divorce inevitable.

or an alternative:

He positive. She negative. Poles attract.

I also found a rather charming collection from sci-fi and horror writers for Wired. Most are funny, and a few are similar to each other, but in my opinion none come close to Hemingway’s.

So there ends our trilogy of really short story types. I hope that’s given you a bit of inspiration. One exercise might be to take one story (or at least one inspiration), and do all three types of story around that one idea, gradually condensing it until you get to six words only.

I’d love to see any attempts at any of these really short stories, so pop them in the comments for us to have a look at!