I've been thinking a lot lately about the six word story. It started in a bar, where a man bet Hemingway that he couldn't write a story in only six words. Without a moment's pause, he replied, "For sale. Babies shoes. Never worn."
There's a beauty to being concise in your writing. I've never enjoyed flowery, run on sentences. Sure, poetic prose is lovely, but when it comes to telling a story, I find it often gets in the way. It's the same with Lillie McFerrin's Five Sentence Fiction, where every week she gives a prompt and challenges writers to write a story in just five sentences. (If you'd like to read last week's edition by yours truly, go here). Some come back with whole paragraphs, their sentences long and packed with description. These, are not my favourite. My favourites are the short ones, those that have been boiled down to the essence of the story. And the more I thought about it, the more I realized that most stories could be boiled down not just to five sentences, but to six words. Let me give you a few examples.
Lust for beauty kills a stepmother.
Love's kiss wakes the sleeping princess.
Wooden boy lies, dies, is redeemed.
See how it works? It's actually kind of fun. And I think it could be useful for our own writing. Look at your own work in progress. What does it boil down to? What is at the essence of your story? Try compacting it down into just six words. You might be surprised at what you find. I know it's often an eye opener for me.