One of the Masters

Ernest Hemingway was told that he could not write a short story in six words. He took that challenge and bet his friends $10 that he could. He scribbled quickly on a napkin and passed it around. Everyone nodded in agreement that he had won the bet.

Here is his short story: For sale. Baby shoes. Never worn.

In the past I’ve challenged my students to do this, and here are a few that they scribbled:

Ate fish. Drove all night. Died.

Mary was happy at his funeral.

Three roses. Both wives were confused.

Very green grass. Blood fed it.

It was his dad. Joyful tears.

Absent from class, Terri sun bathed.

Her memory faded, holding his hand.

Like most students, when asked to produced something after showing them an example, they will unknowingly mimic style or word usage. For example, show them a Shakespearean sonnet and ask them to write in iambic pentameter and you’ll get a ton of “thou” and “shall” sprinkled in. It gives me an opportunity to discuss voice and style. Willie Nelson can’t sing, but he’s unique.

What short story could you come up with in six words or less?

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