Arthur C. Clarke recounts the tale of Earnest Hemingway’s bet to his friends about writing a story in just six words: “While lunching with friends at a restaurant , Hemingway bets the table ten dollars each that he can craft an entire story in six words. After the pot is assembled, Hemingway writes “For sale: baby shoes, never worn” on a napkin, passes this around the table, and collects his winnings.” Apparently Hemingway was a bit of an asshole.
But these ‘six word stories,’ though apparently much older than this example, is an extreme form of condensed fiction. In six words an entire story is told. There are no details, yet we all know what the tale is about. Just six words can be an entire story.
Though those ‘six word stories’ can be powerful, writers need to write a bit more than that. Even something as silly as fan fiction need some more flesh to it. I think the shortest fan fiction story I wrote was slightly over 900 words long. It was about a page and I think it is one of my best ever. I still get comments and ‘likes’ about it, and I wrote it in 2010 or so. But, come to think of it, that story was based on a single seven-word sentence – and it only went into 7 words because I used my screen name in it and it’s 3 words long.
A few words can also change an entire story. Two of the best examples are from the audio-visual world, one from television and one from a movie. The first is from Avatar: The Last Airbender (not the movie. Never the movie). In the opening monologue Katara describes their beautiful world. A beautiful world isn’t a story though, but these six words change that into a story that I still re-watch every once in a while: “And then the Fire Nation attacked.”
The second is another sentence at the end of a movie. At the end of The Terminator (the 1984 original), Sarah Connor asks the station attendant what the boy said to her when he handed her the photo, and he replies: “He said ‘a storm is coming.'” The entire story and all the sequels are contained within those six words.
Today I also have a six word story to share; my own little tragedy:
I’ll never see my roses bloom.