Tapping into the soul of wit

There is a legend—I can’t decide whether it’s true—that Earnest Hemingway once won a ten-dollar bet by writing a six-word story:

For sale: Baby shoes, never worn.

Hemingway reportedly considered the story some of his best work. Whether the legend is true or not, the idea is intriguing. Can one write a story with six words? I shared an article that explores this with some friends and said, stupidly, “I think we should all try this.” I didn’t expect that anyone would take me seriously. But MCF, as is his wont, took it as a challenge. I figured I should at least try, since it was my idea in the first place.

The challenge with such a short story is to inspire creative thought in the reader. You can’t say much with six words, but you can suggest a lot. A single sentence can begin a story or end a story, or even hint at what came before as well as what might yet come. James Thurber used to draw single-panel cartoons of people in bizzare situations just so that readers would think, “How did this predicament come about?” Of course, since Thurber used pictures he was working with the equivalent of a thousand words as opposed to my six. I don’t know how successful my attempts may be, but here they are:

After all that, I quit coffee.

Emerged. Loved. Married. Procreated. Died. Loved.

I’m still pretty much a virgin.

It’s six fifty-nine, and all’s well.

It’s only a story, he thought.

Curious things happen when I dream.

Most people are words. I’m punctuation.

The piglet controls his bloodlust, usually.

15 thoughts on “Tapping into the soul of wit

  1. I wouldn’t say I took it as a challenge so much as I took your statement literally, as in “this would be a fun thing to do.” And it was. :)

    Not everything, a challenge for MCF.

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  3. I have to believe that conjunctions count as two words and are, therefore, cheating. I hope it is not offensive of me to point that out.

    Hemingway’s (if it’s really his) is good. It gives you a clear image and fills your mind with questions.

    I don’t think anyone else has hit it yet.

    Of course, if you want to see profoundity in few words, there is John 11:35–”Jesus wept.” That gives you a clear image and fills your mind with questions, too. God is better than Hemmingway.

  4. Curt…

    Sorry to contact you like this but I needed to tell you that your email address is bouncing. Contact me with an address that is working. Thanks!

  5. I really liked mine… You should have commented on it… How ARE YOU?? I miss you! The pix of Baby were Awesome… I am in CO for the week, meaning some free time. Would love to talk on the phone…