Friday, August 28, 2015

The Power of a Six-Word Story

by Lori Hatcher @LoriHatcher2

Legend* has it that Ernest Hemingway boasted to his friends one day over lunch, “I can write an entire story in six words.” To make his point, he plunked a ten-dollar bill on the table and bet each that he could do it.

When all the takers had tossed in their money, he wrote this story on a napkin:

“For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”

Hemingway collected his winnings.

Perhaps the first in a genre that’s now known as flash fiction, Hemingway’s story carries a sucker punch. Images of an empty cradle, grieving parents, and tiny little booties flash across my mind. My heart aches for the imaginary family he describes.

Hemingway’s six-word story has become the inspiration for a century of writing prompts, a book series (Six-Word Memoir), and even a 2008 #4 New York Times bestseller, Not Quite What I Was Planning: Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous and Obscure. Reddit’s online bulletin board site has an active Six Word Stories page. Here are some recent examples:

My best friend's crush was me.

“She returned from their vacation alone.”

“At the funeral, Dad’s corpse winked.”

Hemingway’s six-word story came across my desk recently when a friend shared a unique twist. Each year during his son’s final school assembly, teachers share six-word stories about their students. It is a powerful send off for the students. It is a daunting task for the teachers.

 As a writer, I’m in awe that Hemingway could invoke such strong emotion with only six words. Hearing my friend describe the effect of his son’s teacher’s six words on her students confirmed again that less is often more, and minimal can be rich.

For four years I’ve been writing five-minute devotions for busy women on my blog, Hungry for God … Starving for Time. Last year Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas released my devotional book by the same name.  

Sometimes I wonder if I should be writing longer blog posts, more detailed articles, or massive books. Hemingway’s six-word story reminds me that six carefully crafted words can be more powerful than a thousand words carelessly strung together. It challenges me to pack as much spiritual truth, hope, and beauty as I can into my five-minute blog posts. And it reminds me to make every word count in whatever God calls me to write.

In the spirit of Hemingway and Six-Word Memoirs, here’s my six-word story:

I live to share His story.

What about you? Which six words would you choose to describe yourself? I’d love to hear them. Leave your six-word story in the comment section so we can all enjoy them.


*Garson O’Toole (January 28, 2013). "For Sale, Baby Shoes, Never Worn". Retrieved 19 April 2013.Lori Hatcher is the editor of Reach Out, Columbia magazine and the author of two devotional books. Her second, Hungry for God…Starving for Time, 5-Minute Devotions for Busy Women released in December. A blogger, writing instructor, and women’s ministry speaker, her goal is to help women connect with God in the craziness of life. You’ll find her pondering the marvelous and the mundane on her blog, Hungry for God…Starving for Time. Connect with her on FacebookTwitter (@LoriHatcher2), or Pinterest (Hungry for God).


  1. Beautiful. Thanks for sharing your story. My story Saved to serve the Only God.

  2. This is a very great one and I believe it was through hard work,please keep it up,It is an excellent job,you very well deserve it well done.

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  3. I share God through life experiences.

  4. Lori, this is such an unusual idea, I can't wait to try it!

    1. Definitely go to the website, Maureen. The creativity is amazing. Some of them are really funny :)

  5. Never change, Lori. I love the Hungry for God…Starving for Time format. The Day I Missed a Miracle is my favorite. I think about it multiple times every week. But I love them all: Bad Hair Days and the Kingdom of God, Eating Pocket Lint, My Latest Humiliation... They're all so powerful! The short stories you tell make the messages stick and stay. Love it! Okay, that was more than six words. My life in six words: Nothing happened until Jesus passed by.

  6. Aw, Patricia, you have blessed me with your kind words. And I love love LOVE your 6-word sentence. Well done.

  7. I've always been in awe of the six-word story. My life in six words: Crept past fear, found the sun.

  8. Yes! Perfect, Diane. Great 6 words.

  9. I'd never heard about six-word stories until recently, when The Write Practice urged its readers to write a six-word story then expand on for the daily writing assignment. I misunderstood the assignment and spent my 15 minutes writing nothing but six-word stories. It was tough getting started, but once I got past the first one, they poured out of me. It was great!

    Now you challenge me to write a six-word story about myself. Arrrghhh!! Another tough writing assignment!

    Right off the top of my head:

    Thought I knew; now in doubt.

  10. Thinking all day; no luck yet! (Ha!)

    1. There's always a comedienne in the crowd. Thanks for the laugh :)

  11. I LOVE this and just had to try:
    My journey perfected through God’s love.
    Thanks Lori!

  12. For this particular season in life I think my six words would have to be something like: Here we go again; Trusting God.

  13. She walked a crooked path alone.
    She lived never hearing his answers.