As a regular (probably too regular) lurker on reddit, I’m subscribed to all the bookish/wordy/writing subs I can find, including r/books, r/publishing, r/booksuggestions, r/libraries, r/proseporn, r/fiction… the list goes on, there are literally HUNDREDS of booknerdy subs to get stuck into if you fancy a sift through. Whilst browsing r/writingprompts the other day I was linked to a sub that I hadn’t yet seen before – r/sixwordstories.
Clicking through, I then proceeded to lose an entire 2 hours of my evening to reading people’s submissions, and now have it on my list of favourite subs of all time. SixWordStories is simply, well, six word stories – a sentence of six poignant or sad or funny or nonsensical words that create the tiniest ‘story’ imaginable, a ‘hint’ of a story that your brain is free to fill in or change or ignore or interpret however it wants.
SixWordStories is inspired, apparently, by Hemingway’s famous original effort - ‘For Sale. Baby Shoes. Never Worn.’, (although there IS some speculation/controversy that it wasn’t Hemingway himself who penned those distressingly sad words after all). However, a lot of people believe that he did, and did so to win a bet that he couldn’t write an entire story in one line; either way it’s a brilliant little piece of prose and a great source of inspiration for people to invent their own miniature tales – a pastime that takes little to no time at all and can be done whilst daydreaming, commuting, making a cup of tea, walking, during an advert break, whilst in the shower…. all in all, a great brain exercise for the budding writer!
Here are a few of the best recent submissions from r/sixwordstories:
Everyone sounds the same under water.
She died doing what he loved.
Happy stories take too many words.
I lit the fuse. Your turn.
See that shadow? It’s not yours.
Friendships ruined. I blame Mario Kart.
Thought you said there’d be magic.
Admittedly, most submissions are sad, confusing, and/or melancholic, and no-one could pretend their submissions are great works of fiction, or even, in some cases, all that great – but the point of this sub is to play with words, to play with what imagination can do when it’s denied the chance to explain itself properly. Can you come up with any six word stories?
Of course, this isn’t the only place online to have a browse/gather inspiration for flash fiction or similar exercises, there are many, many sites that update regularly with short stories and sentence prompts; a few of my personal favourites being 365tomorrows, Every Day Fiction, Tiny Stories, Fictionaut, and The BookTrust. Whilst writing this post I also Google searched flash fiction, to see if there were any popular sites I was missing, and came across this article published in Wired back in 2006 where famous authors, game designers and TV writers were instructed to create their own version of Hemingway’s Baby Shoes – here a some of my favourites:
Failed SAT. Lost scholarship. Invented rocket. – William Shatner
Gown removed carelessly. Head, less so. - Joss Whedon
The baby’s blood type? Human, mostly. – Orson Scott Card
Epitaph: He shouldn’t have fed it. - Brian Herbert.
Do you like reading short stories? Do you agree that flash fiction has a place in narrative, or do you think that it’s ‘writing for the lazy’? All comments and opinions welcome!