The Writer’s Journey is a column dedicated to different styles of writing
and the exploration of one writer’s path to publication.

Written by Samantha House

Hello fellow word lovers! So far in this series we have covered Fiction and Nonfiction, Literature versus Commercial Fiction, Novels and Novellas, and Short Stories and Flash Fiction. In this article, however, we dive into the truly massive world of 6-, 8-, and 9-word stories. As though the social media craze somehow slipped by me unnoticed, I had never heard of these short stories until last year, and now I am fascinated with the possibilities so few words can create.

A Legend is Born

Rumor has it this extremely brief form of writing was started when Ernest Hemingway, at lunch with other writers, was challenged to create a story in six words, and thus was born the famous line:

For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”

Whether or not the rumor is true remains open to speculation, but when I first heard it, I simply though it a line from a longer story – not a stand-alone tale.

Analyzing the “story,” you’ll see that it has the basics essential to any narrative: a beginning, middle, and end. It also has emotion (although it’s somewhat open to interpretation) and detail, two components that hook a reader. The brevity, however, forms the words into a single arrow aimed with precision at a reader for maximum effect, so essentially, it’s story-telling that has been refined, reduced, and polished to perfection.

In 2006, Smith Magazine asked readers to submit their life stories in six words. It resulted in a book titled Not Quite What I Was Planning: Six-Word Memoirs from Writers Famous & Obscure which, in turn, proliferated an entire book series with the same theme. Check out their website sometime if you’re looking for inspiration on what you can do with six words.  

Many writers find six words too brief to convey a full story, but thankfully the form has expanded to eight- and nine-word stories along with just about every other ideation of the concept as numbers increase. These “longer” stories were brilliantly depicted last year when the Queensland Writers Centre in Australia ran a campaign on Twitter: the #8WordStory, which attracted writers and award-winning authors from around the world and produced 10,749 entries! Favorited stories were featured on 30-foot digital billboards around Brisbane where I, too, was fortunate enough to have my entry featured:

“Confetti rain, bouquet toss. Tears, laughter, hands entwined.”

But… it’s so few words!

And that’s the point! Six, eight, or nine words is doable for anybody. We all have a story inside us and the brevity of this form is a great starting point. Pick a theme such as love or a specific scenario like a first kiss, and then break it down to its basic parts. Let’s walk through one together.

Our theme will be “home.” I’ll simplify that to what I want to focus on (the feeling of being welcomed home), and we’ll make laughter/joy the emotional response we’re aiming for. Details can be tricky, but let’s use a door to represent the building itself. Voila! Here is the result.

Door open, laughter spills out. Home.

Punctuation is essential to creating a 6-, 8- or 9-word story. The use of commas implies the rate at which the piece should be read and also designates the beginning, middle, and end of the story. Without punctuation, it’s just a bunch of words that don’t have much impact.

Now it’s your turn!

Competition Time!!!

Her Heart Poetry and The Writer’s Journey are giving you the opportunity to win a copy of You/Poet by Rayna Hutchinson and Samuel Blake. Rayna is the founder of the Her Heart community, and Samuel is the Editor in Chief. Together they have a created a fantastic book to help you express your poetic truth.

To win all you need to do is create your own 6-word story with any theme, and because we understand that six words can be a little restrictive (especially if this is your first attempt), we’re going to let you write an 8- or 9-word story instead if you wish. The original 6-word story is the goal, though, so try to push yourself!

Share your story on Instagram using #hhp6wordstory and #thewritersjourney, and make sure to tag @samanthahouse and @herheartpoetry so we can find them.

The winner will get a copy of You/Poet, and we’ll feature the best stories on Her Heart’s Instagram page.

Get writing people: you have until the 30th of November!

Have a wonderful time creating your stories 😊

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