can you tell a story with only six words?

It’s difficult, but not impossible, to tell a story with just 6 words.

Here are some examples collected by Wired On-Line Magazine:

“For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”   Ernest Hemingway

“Longed for him. Got him. Shit.” Margaret Atwood

“Failed SAT. Lost Scholarship. Invented Rocket.” William Shatner

Here is mine:

“Wanted wings.  Learned to sing instead.”

This took me a while. I had a specific story to tell and “Wanted to fly. Learned to sing instead” felt like the best I could do, but it also felt clumsy – and it was one word too many. So I kept on trying.

Is the six word version better? I think so.

The elimination of one word can make a world of difference.

Now you try it.

Keep in mind – your story needs a plot – a beginning, a middle and an end, but not necessarily in that order. You might take a story you have already written and distil it to its most basic meaning. Or perhaps you have a story that you feel compelled to tell?

Don’t try to tell it in 6 words right away. You might start with complete sentences, sentence fragments, poetry or bullet points. Once you isolate the story you want to tell from the hundreds of others that you could tell, look at it closely.  Identify the core meaning of the story – what makes it compelling? – and then define the beginning, middle and end.  With a strategic choice of words these don’t have to be explicit – they can be implied.

It can be very helpful to save each draft, so make your editing a progression. Cut and paste from the first, from the second, the third and so on.  That way, as your story changes meaning and focus, which it is bound to as you experiment with the wording, you can always go back to see what you may have lost or gained by adding or eliminating words.

When you have completed your 6 word story feel free to post it in the space provided below.

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