The six word story was made famous by Ernest Hemingway, and I decided we’d use the idea as one of our playful prompts last Friday.
First, I gave the group Ernest’s example, along with a few others I’d found during a brief internet search (see Guardian article link below).
I then placed a pile of small blank pieces of paper in the centre, turned my three minute timer, and invited people to write as many six word stories as they wished, within that time, and place them in the centre to form a circle.
We read them aloud in awe…
Then, I asked each writer to choose just one, which they would then explore and expand into a longer story, written in just ten minutes.
Here are a few examples, made easier for you to read:
- I’m waiting. He’s coming. I think.
- Hundreds of people saw him fall.
- Two drinks. Two chairs. One empty.
- Why me? Why now? Burn it.
- “I’m over here.” “Who said that?”
- My favourite dress. Too big now
The results were stunning. As I have often found to be the case, offering a very simple, playful prompt can be the most direct route to genuinely profound and moving pieces of writing.
As it is, I only have my own to share, but the variety and vitality of the imaginative responses was breathtaking.
Written in just ten minutes, unedited, inspired by the six word story;
“Will it grow?” “No!” It grew.
“What are you doing?
“Planting what?” He pushed her aside, “I don’t see anything?”
“That’s because it’s in the earth. Now we wait.”
“It won’t grow! No!”
She looked up at him , a stretch from her bent knees. The question was almost out, before she caught it. Just wait. Gardeners know all about patience.
He stamped his foot on the loosened earth, where the bulbs had just been nestled in. She stood, shocked.
“Stop it Shane!”
“It won’t grow. Nothing grows. Everything’s dead, dead, dead.”
He ran. She let him. She poured water over the footprint.
He had the photo in his cell. Bright yellow daffodils. He was allowed to receive post now, and she wrote to him often.
“It’s not a prison. It’s earth. You’ve been planted. Don’t be scared to grow.”
Her words journeyed him through the seasons he could barely see, let alone smell or touch. Seasons turned into years.
“The air tastes different,” he said, the day he was released.
This is an interesting article with other examples of six word stories, written by some contemporary authors, some of which I shared with the group as inspiration:
I’d love to read your own six word stories in the comments, if you’d like to have a go…
If you enjoyed this prompt, then you can find more here: