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Writing

How to Write an Unforgettable Six-Word Story

Written by MasterClass

Last updated: Jan 27, 2020 • 3 min read

Like other forms of short stories or flash fiction, a six-word story allows a reader to consume an entire narrative in just a moment’s time. If you’re trying to get in some short, but challenging, bursts of writing practice throughout your day, try writing six-word stories. These bite-sized narratives are fast and fun.

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What Is a Six-Word Story?

A six-word story is an entire story told in six words. It is a short narrative that can have all of the emotional themes of longer stories—from funny to dramatic, sad to scary. While these quick stories don’t have the classic beginning, middle, and end of a traditional storyline, they have a subject and verb that give the reader a sense of what’s happened and a bit of conflict.

3 Examples of Six-Word Stories

The most famous example of a six-word story is frequently credited to Ernest Hemingway (though there’s little evidence that he actually wrote it): “For sale: baby shoes. Never worn.” In six simple words, a heartbreaking narrative is told—from the few words but also from what is left out. Here are other short stories in this format:

  1. Thirteenth birthday, I laughed and cried.
  2. I’m dating him; she’s my girlfriend.
  3. Google: how to inflate a liferaft!

How to Write a Six-Word Story

Six words can make a compelling narrative. Once you master the art of this tiny type of storytelling, try using some of your original small stories as writing prompts for your next, longer work. These itty bitty tales are creative writing at its finest and shortest.

  1. Have a basic story structure. This short story format should contain conflict—or rather, a teaser of a conflict conveyed with vivid words. It should also have a subject followed by a verb that gives it action and movement. Finally, a six-word story should have a feeling of resolution.
  2. Have a small narrative arc. The key to writing your own six-word story is to take an original idea, filter out most of the words, and leave the most informative ones in, to tell a whole story. Learn more about narrative arcs in our guide here.
  3. Entice the reader to fill in the blanks. In just six little words, you can create a powerful story that evokes emotions. Use what’s left on the cutting room floor to draw the reader in even further. In other words, part of your story will be in what’s left unsaid. Tease the audience with six words that let their mind fill in the blanks with the bigger narrative and give them a sense of a complete story.
  4. Choose your words carefully. With only six slots to fill, you don’t have room to waste with weak word choice. Choose words that have purpose and meaning and drive your story forward. Shorten phrases with contractions to make room for nouns and verbs. Use punctuation marks, colons and em dashes, to join different phrases without having to use conjunctions.
  5. Write your own story. Find inspiration in your own life and write a little memoir. Try thinking of a pivotal moment and boil it down to six words that carefully sum up your experience and convey your emotions.
  6. Submit your story. Six-word stories have become popular on websites, like Tumblr and Reddit with users submitting their original works. Some have even gone on to become part of published books within this story genre. When you’ve written a great six-word story, find an online outlet and share it with the world.
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