Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Six Words and Your a Storyteller?

Hemingway started it back in the 1920s. His colleagues bet him he couldn't write a complete story in six words. They paid up. Hemingway wrote the following six word story and is said to have considered it his best work.

"For sale: baby shoes, never worn."  

It has taken on new life today especially as succinct writing is the rave. It was trending on Tumblr last month and Twitter before that!

In 2006, the Six Word Memoirs project became popular. (I taught a six week course in writing memoirs. We worked on a lot more than six words!) The six word memoirs became a global phenomenon, a bestselling book series; and even found it's way inside one million Honest Tea bottle caps.

A partnership between Smith Magazine and Twitter began the contest. It was a strategy designed to address the microblogging explosion. The simple online challenge asked:

"Can you tell your life story in six words?"

I find it an interesting concept. It can have the elements of a traditional story - a beginning, middle, and end. It can meet the definition of a story - an account of imaginary or real people and events told for entertainment. Hemingway does this and I suppose many others did as well in the bestselling book series. It also helps develop the imagination and gives the reader a sense of ownership by allowing him to apply his own interpretation to the story. Hemingway's could be interpreted in several ways, for example:
  • It could be a sad story if focus is placed on the words "never worn." Perhaps the shoes were never worn because of a tragedy. Selling them could be an act of closure for the parents who could not throw them in the trash.
  • Or, it could be a happy story, if focus is placed on the words "for sale." Perhaps the family is beginning an exciting adventure, selling their home, and moving to a new place. A rummage sale is a typical activity before a move.
  • Or, it could be an exciting story, if focus is placed on the words "baby shoes." A new baby could be on the way and perhaps it will be a boy. Thus, pink shoes will not do.
The popularity derived from this short, short story parallels the culture today in both professional and personal pursuits. Friends like to keep in touch through short blurbs on the internet, business associates set up meetings on internet channels with short blurbs, celebrities and politicians microblog about concert dates, book releases, tour schedules and more. Our lives are getting quicker and we have no time to reach perfection in a task nor the time to even participate in such a task. So the trend is to do less in a sense, be short and succinct in our communication methods - like writing a six word story instead of a novel.

Though that may not be the case here. It is actually quite difficult to do - write a six word memoir. Especially if you are a writer by trade, who works so hard to make many words dance on a daily basis. It is for that reason that I will have to get back to you on my own six word memoir. It is not finished yet.

How about yours? Write one and share it!

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