Ernest Hemingway once wrote what must be the world’s shortest short story:
According to Wired Magazine, he considered it his single best work. I’m not sure if it’s really Hemingway’s best story – certainly it wouldn’t work well as a summer vacation read, except perhaps for a very short visit to the beach – but one must admit that in six short words, Hemingway managed to imply a much longer story, with genuine emotional impact. (With its combination of pathos and brevity, it could, perhaps, serve as a bedtime story for constitutionally cheerful narcoleptics; so even in purely practical terms, the story is a winner of sorts.)
There is a lesson here for writers – a lesson that Hemingway himself understood well, even though most of his work was more prolix than his six-word masterpiece: Don’t try to say everything.
Wired Magazine invited a bunch of science-fiction, fantasy, and horror writers to compose their own six-word stories; here are some of my favorites:
|Margaret Atwood||Longed for him. Got him. Shit.|
|Corpse parts missing. Doctor buys yacht.|
|Starlet sex scandal. Giant squid involved.|
|David Brin||Vacuum collision. Orbits diverge. Farewell, love.|
|Mind of its own. Damn lawnmower.|
|Orson Scott Card||The baby’s blood type? Human, mostly.|
|Howard Chaykin||“I couldn’t believe she’d shoot me.”|
|[This one resonates with me, considering that I’m an outgunned husband.]|
|Brian Herbert||Epitaph: He shouldn’t have fed it.|
|Robert Jordan||Heaven falls. Details at eleven.|
|James Patrick Kelly||We kissed. She melted. Mop please!|
|Steven Meretzky||He read his obituary with confusion.|
|Time traveler’s thought: “What’s the password?”|
|I win lottery. Sun goes nova.|
|Steve ignores editor’s word limit and|
|Parallel universe. Bush, destitute, joins army.|
|Richard K. Morgan||K.I.A. Baghdad, Aged 18 – Closed Casket|
|Rockne S. O’Bannon||It’s behind you! Hurry before it|
|Richard Powers||Lie detector eyeglasses perfected: Civilization collapses.|
|Charles Stross||Osama’s time machine: President Gore concerned.|
|Vernor Vinge||Epitaph: Foolish humans, never escaped Earth.|
Some of these are telegraphic plot summaries; others take the form of news headlines, epitaphs, and the like. Many of them made me laugh, and one – the one about a soldier killed in Iraq – approaches Hemingway’s masterpiece in its terse description of tragedy and bereavement (although I’m not sure if counting “K.I.A.” as one word constitutes cheating).
I am not a writer of fiction; I’ve tried, and I simply don’t have the knack. However, if Papa Hemingway and all these others can write six-word stories, I don’t see why I can’t try my hand at writing some six-word blog posts. Given my tendency to blather on, I’m sure the multitudes reading this blog (and while they are indeed very small multitudes, they are most definitely multitudinous) will appreciate my valiant effort to achieve brevity.
So without further ado, I present my first three attempts at writing The Great Six-Word Israeli blog post:
- Free Palestine! Limit one per customer.
- Caroline Glick: All is lost! Panic!
- No Cabinet ministers indicted – slow day.
Elegant, no? And while the first may be more of a bumper sticker than a blog post (I may have more to say about potential bumper stickers, but that’s for later), the second and third seem to me to make rather good blog articles all by themselves.
And so, an invitation: Submit your six-word blog posts! This may* become a contest! There may be prizes! Stay tuned!
* (if enough of you submit entries)