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Submitted on
August 3, 2013


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3wyl recently posted a SixWordStories journal asking members how they write their stories, and she has kindly allowed me this opportunity to talk in a little more detail about my particular writing process. This blog isn’t meant to be a tutorial or even suggestions as to how to write your own. It’s really just a chance for me to discuss a subject that’s become very important to me.

Well, to start off with, I like to read other people’s work. It’s what I did before I ever began writing my own six word stories, and I still do it to inspire myself. Sometimes someone else’s story will directly lead to one of my own. (And then I credit story and author in my notes.) But generally it’s not as definite as that. Seeing what others are doing sparks off ideas and sends me in a fresh direction.

Prompts assist me a great deal as well. The majority of my pieces have been written for one prompt or another. I like to try and go off at a bit of a tangent – not go for the most obvious interpretation of the prompt. That’s a real boost to creativity. However, I’ve also learnt not to torment myself – if I really can’t come up with something good for a certain prompt, I let it go and move onto the next. Often the ideas that didn’t lead anywhere then, will be helpful later on.

I have no fixed rules, but when it comes to the dramatic structure of a six word story, I usually set up a situation and then comment on it. So, I prefer to use two or more sentences. (Though some of those “sentences” may be only a word long.) And within the six word story format, there are a couple of forms that I’m fond of using: two sentences (of whatever length) or three sentences of two words each. In the latter case, the first two sentences tell the story and the final sentence is the conclusion or twist. But the joy of the six word story is how flexible it is. You can have one sentence; you can have six sentences. However, having those two familiar frameworks ready in my head helps me quite a lot. The appearance of my piece is also something I take into consideration. I often stack sentences on top of each other (with gaps in between). This means that the words take up a more significant amount of space. The shape looks more like a story, I think.

A couple of examples:

TremorsShe embraced Atlas.
The earth moved.
This one was inspired by another story, How Earthquakes Are Made by terence9213. Two sentences: The first setting up the scene. The second commenting on that, and bringing the action and the story to an end. The second sentence already has a well-known meaning; I’ve added a second, more literal meaning to it, which hopefully makes the reader smile.

Musical ChairsThree women.
Three bladders.
Two toilets.
(Particular favourite of mine. I love this story so much.) Three sentences of two words each. The first two sentences set up the situation. The final sentence gives the twist.

With any kind of creative writing, I think it’s a case of matching story to form. You shouldn’t read a novel and come away thinking it would have worked better as a short story, or vice versa. And it’s the same with a six word story. It shouldn’t be an abbreviated story; it should be able to stand alone and be satisfying as it is. You may want more but you shouldn’t need more. I find with my most successful stories the action takes place over a very brief period of time: maybe only a few seconds. Or the stories represent a continuing state. Though I have written successful stories that take place over long periods of time too. (I’ve written my autobiography in six words.) I think for those ones it’s a case of listing the significant events in the narrative - using as many sentences as possible. And the interest comes from the words I use - the way I describe the events – or the juxtaposition of events, rather than from the events themselves. (“Interest” for me, generally meaning “humour”.)
For example:   CrowBarGot hammered.
Nailed her.
Husband saw.
. I think this one must take place over a few hours. And, of course, the emphasis is on the set of puns I’ve used.

If anyone is familiar with my work, you’ll know I have an unfortunate addiction to puns. Picking a play on words first does seem to help me come up with a story. And I like as well to take phrases that already exist, and give them a double meaning. Usually when you’re writing, the images are the most important part and the words themselves take second place. They’re there to evoke the scene. But I think when you’ve only got six words, the words have to take precedence. It’s not that imagery is unimportant – you’re still trying to create that scene for the reader - but every word absolutely has to count.

I don’t strictly speaking edit. I’ve had a lot of practice now, so I’m comfortable with the six word form and the available space within the story. I get to six words almost automatically because my brain knows to think along those lines. (So much so, that when I tried to write 4-word microprose, I kept ending up with six word stories.) Occasionally I’ll try an idea, and end up with 7 or 8 words. At that point I have to look at the story from a different angle and make another attempt. Rephrasing usually doesn’t work.

I rarely write ideas down – I like to turn them over in my head. The puzzle aspect of writing the stories is very appealing. Often it feels as though the story already exists, and I have to put the pieces together and find it. Sometimes the final step is a sudden leap of inspiration but I find before that, I generally have to do the groundwork of coming up with a few possible ideas for my brain to mull over.

On occasion stories will pop into my head almost fully formed and sometimes I write stories quickly that are not terribly impressive. In my gallery there are many six word stories of varying quality. But on the whole I take six word stories just as seriously as any other kind of writing. I take time over a story if it needs it: a few hours or a few days. I redraft them looking for the right words. I do research for them if necessary. I think about the perfect title.

Writing a really good six word story gives me an enormous amount of pleasure. I truly believe in the artistic worth of this delightful little form.

[If you would like to share your experiences with writing a six word story, please note the group!]
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Vanessanon Featured By Owner Sep 30, 2013  Professional Writer
It's interesting to see how other people write, form ideas and make a story. My writing has always been about trying to convey a feeling, with six word stories I try to make them have enough impact and emotion as if you have had to sit with the character and endure it yourself. It isn't always easy, but I find the effects can sometimes come across more shockingly, more abruptly; they 'hit the reader in the face' so to speak. A sudden understanding of that emotion can be powerful, well that is always my intention, even if it's not always the outcome.
Zmb216 Featured By Owner Aug 11, 2013
That was an excellently written breakdown of your process! It is very helpful too; I run into issues with six word stories because when I first started writing I wrote poetry. I strove to be as descriptive as possible in order to put the emotions I felt as I wrote into the poem. When I try to write a six word story I have trouble getting as much feeling as I want into six words.
SCFrankles Featured By Owner Aug 12, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
Thank you very much ^^

I know a lot of people do see six word stories as poetry but for me they're definitely prose. And as I say, I concentrate on the words themselves - any feelings have to come from the words, rather than the other way round.
anapests-and-ink Featured By Owner Aug 9, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
Reading this made me want to attempt a six word story. =D

This is a very helpful blog. I'm almost embarrassed to say it, but I hadn't actually pieced together the form(s) you use within your stories. The situation/commentary really lends to your unique voice. And impeccable taste in puns. :heart:
SCFrankles Featured By Owner Aug 9, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
And then I'd read your SWS and probably say it wasn't my kind of thing... ^^" (I don't know why you're still friends with me sometimes :D) But that does demonstrate the fact that there's more than one method for writing six word stories.

I'm kind of pleased you hadn't noticed the forms my stories take. ("Oh God, she's doing that 3 sentence thing again...") That you saw the story but the structure was in the background, where it should be ^^ 
And thank you for being kind about my puns... Heart Balloon Emote
fantom125 Featured By Owner Aug 8, 2013
"Often it feels as though the story already exists, and I have to put the pieces together and find it."
Crickey, that's nearly What I feel. It always feels like that I do only know the first words leading to a story (which mustn't be the first words of the story itself). Or the title. Well, mostly just this. I have an amount of titles of unwritten stories!-)
SCFrankles Featured By Owner Aug 8, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
You should write those stories :D:D

I generally come to the titles last. Though I often do have beginnings and endings knocking around for a while, before I can work out how to use them :giggle: With SWSs, it's more a case of having an idea and being almost able to see the whole thing but having to search about for a bit.
fantom125 Featured By Owner Aug 9, 2013
O my - I actually want to!
But it's that thing you wrote from my heart with "being almost able to see the whole thing" - I almost feel blindly... or my pen strikes!-)
(Aber ein blindes Huhn findet auch mal ein Korn - says popular German wisdom.))
MadxRhapsodyx17 Featured By Owner Aug 7, 2013  Student Writer
Very helpful wisdom!  Thanks for sharing.  :clap:
SCFrankles Featured By Owner Aug 8, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
I'm so pleased you found it helpful :boogie: 
And thank you so much for taking the time to leave a comment! :happybounce:
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