A picture may be worth a thousand words but these days who is willing to read all of that? Everyone lives on tweets and sound bites and flash fiction. Most media outlets want articles and stories no longer than 1500 words, many are down to 800 words max.
This isn’t a wholly new idea. Lincoln kept the Gettysburg Address to 246 words. (The preceeding orator, Edward Everett, had just talked for two hours straight.) One of Twain’s tips on writing was not to use police officer if you could use cop instead. And probably the most famous (for writers anyway) was Hemingway’s challenge.
The Lost Generation cohorts had dared Hemingway to write a story in six words. Not a headline, advice, poem or adage. A story. A teacher gave my class this assignment once. And I tried to pass it along to the classes I eventually taught, which was a disaster. I was thinking about this exercise recently in an effort to get some creativity flowing.
Here are mine:
- John’s letters from Iraq stopped coming.
- “Is ordinary so bad?” he asked.
I should reveal Hemingway’s 6 words, which he apparently thought were among the best he’d ever written (and make mine look like total drek).
For sale. Baby shoes. Never worn.
Do you have a six word story? Send it on in.