Discover the Secrets of an Enchanted World

Six-word Oz-capades

Can you tell a story in six words? This super-short storytelling has a history dating back to Ernest Hemmingway when he shared the following with a friend:

For sale. Baby shoes. Never worn.

iO9 has a couple of super-short science fiction writing contests here, and here. This got me thinking about how to tell a story in six words. You see it many times in newspaper and magazine headlines. The story needs to pull you in so that you buy their product – their product being both a magazine and a message. If you buy their message, you will most likely come back. You become their audience.

So how do you build an audience in six words? You find common beliefs that allow you to use shorthand to tell your story. You find double-meanings in words that give you more mileage. And you find a way to look at events or attitudes that allow people to think they know what is happening, and then surprise them.

The power of each word is multiplied when you can only use six of them. Here are three of my favorites from my six-word sci-fi brainstorming session:

  • Substitute time traveler wanted. Provide references.
  • Successfully removed cancerous microchip. Now lonely.
  • Vegetable uprising. Time travel. Primordial soup.

I thought even further – could this work for Oz stories?

Given only the limit of six words to tell an Oz story, can you do it? Can you rely on your audience’s understanding of Oz to share an entire story in scarcely a handful of words? I’m going to give it a try. 

Some of these may be actual story ideas for The Hidden History of Oz series. Time will tell. Distilling the essence of a story down to six words is quite an interesting exercise.

Why don’t you give it a try? In the comments below, leave your six-word Oz story.


2 responses

  1. Hemingway was a master of terse. He had cut his writing down to its purest form, without embellishment and with with a strong, active voice. He was an incredible influence on writers everywhere. That’s why I love, “For sale. Baby shoes. Never worn.” There’s so much story there that I’m not sure a book could even cover it. I think this 6-word exercise is a great way to introduce people to strong titles for their work. I may go off now and try to come up with my own!


    January 13, 2014 at 12:25 PM

    • My experience doing this exercise started in the middle of the night. My mind was uncluttered with the cares of the day, so I was able to delve into the subconcious topic and principles that drive my writing. I found some fascinating glimpses into my own inner workings. All in six words.


      January 13, 2014 at 12:35 PM

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