Six word stories are said to have originated with the legendary, American writer Ernest Hemingway, who bet his friends he could write a story in 6 words, with the result being, according to Hemingway, ‘the best story he ever wrote’. It read –
For sale. Baby shoes. Never worn.
This story, helped by the internet, has spawned an ever-increasing (yet naturally still small) body of literature; with established writers to rank amateurs all making a contribution. This is one of the great things about six word stories, the enforced brevity and extreme economy of prose very much levels the playing field. Anyone can have a go.
The power of a good six word story lies in what is not said. It leaves your imagination to fill in the gaps, creating an immediacy of understanding that can be arresting, amusing or tinged with sadness. An ‘amuse bouche’ for the imagination, if you will, that can spark an instant understanding of something beyond the six words written. A great six word story will often have an ambiguity of meaning that makes you think and second guess yourself and the author.
By Iain Murdoch