Ernest Hemingway is not granted rights as originator of the Six Word Story, but his own six word story has helped make it popular. The eleven word story goes: Hemingway bet he could craft an entire story in six words.
Six Word Stories are fabulous challenges–contests are held; best-ofs are published–because it really comes down to some combination creative thinking, diction, and syntax. It challenges the writer at the level of the story. Six Word stories is also a guaranteed way to spare the reader lengthy, complex sentences. You still have to understand punctuation though.
A digression by a Lit grad:
The colon emphasizes the relationship between the words before and after it. Full-stops (periods) are endings. The repetition of the period reinforces the conflict of endings and that this baby’s ending was too soon. The fragments the full-stops create are not only to metaphorically foreshorten a potentially full sentence, but speak to the breaking or fragmentation of the lives affected by the death. Both the colon and period compel the reader to continue on to what follows. You will likely resist this with the fragmented sentence, wanting there to be more, but nevertheless are forced to move on to the next part. The colon draws us back to consider the relationship between the fore and after. “For sale” is antithesis to the notion of lingering, of holding on to an object of sentimental value. A question follows, can the parent afford to hold on to the baby shoes?
Upon first reading, Hemingway’s story is a punch in the gut. The reader needn’t break down the mechanics, but as a craftsman of a six word story (as with any story), the fundamentals are worth entertaining. Poets are not the only writers who need to apply themselves.
The Summer Writing/Drawing Program follows others’ expansions on the Six Word Story idea as a variation. For an example, I include Poet Hannah Nicole’s ” (Six) Six Sentence Stories of My Life.” Every sentence speaks to the same person and could be summarized in that sixth and final sentence. Prompt “WI 15” is not about liking Nicole’s work, writing memoir or mimicking anything more than a structure of six six word sentences. We tried to create prompts in a way that they could be left open to as loose an interpretation without losing the benefit of them. That said, I sketched a few Six Six Sentence Stories last night while thinking of a life (as inspired by Nicole’s direction with her piece). I had Natalya help me pick a few that wouldn’t be too painful to share, but after that unanticipated detour with Hemingway, aren’t they all?
remembering: early drafts are Frankenstein’s monster.
This one was a challenge to keep it to six sentences in length.
The screenplay crept up the stairs.
The soundtrack sifted through drifting dreams.
She disrupted the quiet with – nothing.
She disrupted nothing turning into pillows.
Pressing into creases, she lined skin.
Lines memorized in pulse driving rhythms.
This one challenged sentence order and diction. I’m still debating “penned” vs. “inked” in the second sentence. Penned was the original choice and I like the harder, smoothed-over, rolling-over-surfaces sound. Inked covers skin, saturates, hides/reveals, recolors….
She kept creative non-fiction fiction journals.
Lies were penned to uncover truth.
Reality was a dream fabricated yesterday.
Everything was recorded, a multifarious concoction.
Life was rendered in declarative sentences.
She lived it in question marks.
Continuing with the thought of writing a life, I looked at prompt “WI 16b. Name & elaborate upon these characters.” One of the options: “His name is Caroline. Her name is Luther.”
His name was Caroline at first.
She became Luther at age twenty.
But they always kept both names.
Luther Caroline, both after late grandparents.
Rooted and liberated, looking in mirrors.
Shadow, rouge, and distinct blue eyes.
Those are a few of my first drafts. Go forth and create your own first, second…and sixth.