I’ve always loved writing. The thought of a good session really gets me going. In fact, as a little girl, I remember crafting whimsical tales of fairies, dragons and a world where everyone was equal – fantasy stuff really. Nowadays, writing has gotten so rigid, overly serious. People churn out prose in factory-like fashion, following rubrics and strict guidelines, so much so that creativity has all but disappeared thanks to the mighty dollar. Books are nowadays extremely cookie cutter, spanning sequels and spurning spin offs that in all honesty would have been better off unwritten.
What’s a writer to do? Submit to the hive mind and follow rubrics to get your material read or commit to individuality and hope for the best? I’ve done both. I’ve been the person that adopted rigid templates to create prose. I felt so constrained, so uninspired, so robotic. I knew that was not going to work for me. I’ve also been the writer that experimented with different formats, struggling to balance creativity and keeping it relatable to the reader.
Make Authors Great Again. Make Creativity Norm Again. The six-word story was my answer and I believe it can be yours too. I scrapped it all, started over, back to the basics. Like a hoarder clearing out their back room, I scrapped everything and started anew with the bare minimum, six words. This format allowed me to do both, be unique yet follow a structure that was acceptable for me. I chaneled Ernest Hemingway and his popular “For sale baby shoes never worn” micro fiction and got to work trying to craft stories that could portray a lot using a little.
Now that we’ve figured out the problem and heard the good word, what really goes into crafting a great six-word story?
The anatomy of a six-word story in four steps
Why four steps you ask? It turns out that even in crafting this type of micro fiction, less is more.
- Find a theme. What is a story that needs to be told? It could be a tale as old as time or a modern-day theme. Science Fiction and Interpersonal relationships are my favorite themes to write on.
- Character. Every story focuses around a character. Six words may seem like a little but a character, can be introduced, explicitly or implicitly. One example of an explicit character, “I have Uncle Bill’s blue eyes”. Two characters are introduced, Uncle Bill and the narrator, who seems to have been the result of an incestuous relationship between Uncle Bill and his sister. An example of an implied character, “I thought you said ‘million heirs’”. It involves a genie granting a wish to at least two persons where he grants them a million heirs when they wanted to become millionaires, both stories which were created with only six words.
- Conflict. Reflect on your theme to create a problem. Think to yourself, “What issue could arise out of this theme”? If you choose adolescence as a theme, one issue that arises during this period is teenage rebellion. Here is a sample six-word story, “Teenage rebellion, snuck out, raped, dismembered”; short, not so sweet, but you get the idea. Having a theme is important in crafting a great six-word story.
- Count to six. After all has been said and done, here comes the best part, create your six word story. Eliminate all non-essential words, conjunctions, adjectives, hyphenate if you must to reduce it to six words. This is your chance to be creative but tell your story effectively. “She died, my love too violent”, “Maybe next year: Rejected – Adolf Hitler”, “Slurred words, belt drawn, he’s home” are all examples of six word stories that succinctly paint a picture.
There you have it, your six-word story, structure and creativity intact. Creativity is not dead. Writers can flex their creative muscles by without sacrificing time and effort to craft ornate situations and backstories. These six-word stories can be the ideal starting point to great prose.
Click for more six word stories.