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.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.
The earth moved.
Musical ChairsThree women.(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”.)
CrowBarGot hammered.. 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!]