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March Slice of Life No. 5.

Tell a story in six words, that’s the task.

The earth moved, but we stayed.

–I wrote this in 2016 after a 7.8 earthquake struck my son’s city in Ecuador. {Notice the juxtaposition. See my tips below.}
Portoviejo, Ecuador
April 2016

He yawned, stretched, and walked away.

–I wrote this one in my head before I got out of bed this morning.

What is a six-word story?
I once read that a six-word story is a drama in one breath. It think that is the best definition. {Sorry, I don’t recall the source.}

Want to write a six-word story?
Here are a few things I’ve learned:

  • 1. A six-word story is a story, a narrative.
  • 2. Think story elements: characters, setting, plot, conflict, resolution. Can you identify any of these elements in your six words?
  • 3. Play with your words and choose them carefully. It must be both concise and precise, and at the same time, it should have broad inference boundaries. Think of the six-words as a universal narrative, capable of evoking many different tales.
  • 4. Use the reduction techniques that writers use to combine ideas (clauses and sentences), e.g., reducing a clause to a participle. {I share about these techniques in my writing workshops. Perhaps I will share a post another day. If you are interested, tell me so in the comments.}
  • 5. Do your six words evoke emotion? Are there hidden (implied) details?
  • 6. Use juxtaposition. This often creates a twist, making the story more interesting. For example, “I awoke dressed for my funeral.” Awoke. Funeral. {Can’t remember where I heard this six-word story.} Another example: “He said the lion was friendly.”
  • 7. One of the things that makes six-word stories so intriguing is that the reader immediately imagines a story based on six words. If you use a prompt (photo or story) to get your story ideas moving, do not share the prompt with your final six-word story. The prompt will create inference boundaries for your readers.

Do you have a tip about writing six-word stories? Please share it in the comments below.

What is the origin of six-word stories?

I did a bit of searching {I can hardly call it research} to learn more about the history of six-word stories.

Some say that Hemingway once wrote a story in just six words (“For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”) and that he called it his best work. However, from what I’ve read, I think this is most likely a legend. The following two newspaper clippings were part of the evidence cited to discount this anecdote.

May 16, 1910, edition of The Spokane Press (Wikipedia)

“Miscellaneous Items for Sale” classified ad column
of a Tucson newspaper, 1945 (Snopes)

So, though I learned some interesting information, I didn’t really find the answer to my question. And I wasn’t interested enough to search further.

Would you like your students to write six-word stories?

  • Here’s a practical how-to from Ms. DiGiorgio, a high school teacher.

Think about incorporating multimedia!

  • If you like the idea of using multimedia {I see so much potential here}, then check out Don Goble’s Six-Word Story, Six Unique Shots on iTunes. It’s free.
  • And when you have time, you should read this Don Goble interview by Laura and Matt Grundler at EducationCloset

Want more examples?

  • Just do an internet search for “six-word stories” . . . the links will seem endless.
  • Yesterday I wrote a few six-word stories in my slice “Six Words” and other slicers share more in the comments.


March 2019 SOLC–Day 5
Thank you to

Two Writing Teachers