July 29, 2019

Monday, July 29


This week, because we stagger in the throes of a suffocating late-July heat, brains and bodies moving in slow motion, I am tossing your way a simple task: write a six-word story. Six words. You can come up with six words. I know you can.


The challenge: to make it a story. The first acknowledged six-word story is said to have been penned by Ernest Hemingway. “For sale: baby shoes, never worn” drips a drop of ink onto the page. We have no other detail. But we have intrigue. That is what I ask of you this week. An inkling of intrigue. 


If you run into writer’s block on this one, check out sixstories.net, Tumblr or Reddit. The following examples are from the last two sites:


“Ring. Church. Groom. “Where is she?”


“Is anyone here not an informant?”


“I was hungry. He was there.”


“My dads met at Bible camp.”


“Lovely spring weather. Bubonic plague raging.”


And so on. 


Give it a shot, or many shots. This is a fun, writing-muscle exercise designed to get you to use brevity and a plot plan – and six words, not five, not seven – to create a story. Have fun! Share your work with someone willing to listen. If you are one of my Candlelight Writing workshop students, sent it along. I promise to read it.


And for a bit more fuel, a poem for a summer day, by William Matthews:


Morningside Heights, July


Haze. Three student violists boarding

a bus. A clatter of jackhammers.

Granular light. A film of sweat for primer

and the heat for a coat of paint.

A man and a woman on a bench:

she tells him he must be psychic,

for how else could he sense, even before she knew,

that she’d need to call it off? A bicyclist

fumes by with a coach’s whistle clamped

hard between his teeth, shrilling like a teakettle

on the boil. I never meant, she says.

But I thought, he replies. Two cabs almost

collide; someone yells fuck in Farsi.

I’m sorry, she says. The comforts

of loneliness fall in like a bad platoon.

The sky blurs—there’s a storm coming

up or down. A lank cat slinks liquidly

around a corner. How familiar

it feels to feel strange, hollower

than a bassoon. A rill of chill air

in the leaves. A car alarm. Hail.


Write! Any words, anywhere. As long as you are writing, you are a writer.