Friday, March 16, 2007

Tell me a six-word story

Debates about story length, jumps, alternative forms and multiple entry points are hardly new – though they have taken on new urgency as we wrestle with engaging a changing, demanding audience.

As an editorial page editor, I had hundreds of arguments with letter writers who were certain they couldn't adequately express themselves within our 200-word limit. For years, we pointed to an Anchorage Daily News letter that had done a fine job in just 14 words:

I smoke pot. So what? Send me to jail. I can get it there.

That was eclipsed when I later discovered the winner of a nation-wide essay contest on the theme "good government" had used just six words:

Good government. Good government. Sit. Stay.

It turns out that lots of people have worked on telling stories in few words, sometimes called "flash fiction." I had never before encountered this story, which Ernest Hemingway reportedly called his best work:

For sale. Baby shoes, never worn.

I recently encountered this post, which encourages people to come up with "six word stories."

Let's play, too. You could leave your suggestions here as comments.


  1. Anonymous3:45 PM

    ‘Newspapers, who cares?’ We sure do.

  2. I thought of one:

    Launch, learn, relaunch. Repeat as necessary.

  3. Anonymous10:43 AM

    Newspapers go online. Birdcage is filthy.

  4. Post story. Get stats. Ca-ching! (is a hyphenated word one word or two?)

  5. Here's a fun site too - and some really great sentences.

  6. Anonymous8:02 AM

    He had been good for years.

  7. Flickr has a Six Word Story group that introduced the concept for me.

  8. Anonymous12:07 PM

    Gazing breathlessly through my cellar door.

  9. Fix it. Or someone else will.

  10. But then again, I just twittered today that I find political pronouncements on Twitter to be shallower than a sound bite on the evening news. Bumper-sticker-speak.

  11. Anonymous2:04 AM

    true but false
    real but imaginary

  12. Anonymous12:19 AM

    Life gave lemons. I made lemonade.

  13. Anonymous12:21 AM

    Heartless girl seeks doctor for transplant

  14. Anonymous2:21 AM

    my story in six words:

    Good heart, twice broken, stops beating.

  15. Anonymous11:41 AM

    That's kinda dirty, Sanchez.