Hemingway’s six word short story

six_wordYeah, I know there’s no proof that he actually wrote it, but it’s still one of the most impressive sentences ever written. When I first read it, I spent half an hour imagining all sorts of plausible scenarios. I even thought about expanding the thing and write a real short story.

Maybe that’s one the most impressive qualities of art: makes your mind wander, makes you imagine and consider things you normally wouldn’t.


38 comments on “Hemingway’s six word short story

  1. billgncs says:

    have you read his "Hills Like White Elephants"?

  2. Not only is it one of the most impressive qualities about Art, Cristian (with which I wholeheartedly agree), it is the sign of TRUE art, the ability to take a grain of thought and force one to build an entire beach with one's imagination. Great post!

  3. i love this. my teachers in high school gave us an exercise to create short stories in 6 words or less. it was honestly so difficult!!

  4. tragic or something that didn't fit, either way, it is a great thought provoker, personally I would use it as a title. 10- to 1, it was written by Evelyn, his cousin six times removed!~ :)

  5. mrsdeboots says:

    Truer words were never spoken. As always, well said.

  6. fransiweinstein says:

    Exactly right!

  7. Yes I've read this and thought on it as well. For me it was more humorous than impressive…at the most I would call it the shortest synopsis for a story rather than a story itself…..

  8. Powerful. Heart wrenching. Hopeless. Yearning.

  9. the Gunslinger Poet says:

    i really like that too…. not sure if Hemingway wrote it or not, but it does set my mind a reeling, for sure…. thank you for sharing!!

  10. quoted you on BlogCatalog in discussions and left a link to you. I love this

  11. jkvegh says:

    Hi Cristian, I don't know if you have ever heard of flash fiction or not. It is basically something that is as small or smaller than a paragraph or two. I wrote one for a contest. There is an art to putting together a story in as few words possible.

    • My definition of flash fiction is less than 300 words. That's something I can work with, even though I'd need about 500 words to write something that reads like a story. I've got quite a few really short stuff on Smashwords. "One" was really fun to write.

  12. What is amazing to me is that those 6 words invoke emotion in me.

  13. A six word short story; only Hemingway could make it work.

  14. Expand on it. Should be fun.

  15. I love the one he did. It's truly perfect. I like doing these types of writing exercises. I made a six word story a few days ago that went: Surrounded by zombies without any ammo. It's not nearly as good as baby shoes but it's a start at least. ;)

  16. mcwoman says:

    It makes me sad. As a mother, I can't fathom the lost of a child. That's what I got from the quote.

  17. Cristian: I know it's heresy these days but I have to say, Hemingway's influence has been responsible for more bad writing than just about any other writer. People assume that his stripped-down prose is easy to write: wrong! In the hands of a lesser writer it merely becomes bland and lacks evocative power. I wish our modern writing culture, i.e. the creative writing faculties, would finally get over Hemingway! How about a return to eloquence?

  18. 173BPM says:

    I used to have a paperback named 'The Writer's Block' which had a little note or picture like this on each page that might prompt an idea for a story. Thanks for sharing, I've never seen this before – it got me thinking too.

  19. Eric says:

    I remember reading that his story was actually: For sale: Baby crib. Never used." (Same basic idea though)

  20. Farlesworthy says:

    Call me stoopid but that is one E.H. I've never got my head around. It's not a short story, or else every classified ad since then is.

  21. My former college English professor explained that whole thing in class one time and that was the first things I actually got from Hemmingway. This is a classic tale to tell anyone pursuing a literary career.

    In fact, my professor, who's also the published author Michael Downs, found the story online with a quote reading: "For sale, Hemmingway book, never read." :)

  22. I think I will soon post part of a story I wrote from college that mirrored Hemmingway's story "The Killers" but in parody format. You inspire me!

  23. always loved this "myth" or not – a challenge one way or another and pulled off successfully. BTW, revisited Old Man And The Sea and loved it even more the second time around.

  24. This, my dear man, is why I read your blog.

  25. This is very profound. I think one of the key distinctions of art is that it takes your someplace whether it be out of your comfort zone or to some comforting place in your past. Thanks for sharing! http://www.charliemccoin.wordpress.com

  26. Wow, first time for me reading that. There's sure a lot said in those 6 words.

  27. colormusing says:

    Very impressive. (We know how much harder it is to write something short!)

  28. zuzanko says:

    One of the best sentences ever written! You could literally imagine a million different back stories to it.

  29. Julia Denton says:

    I also read about Hemingway's amazing 6-word story, in a writer's magazine that challenged readers to create a 6-word story. My two best attempts were: "It turned out not to matter" and "Evidence suggested three survived the crash." Neither one as good as the model, though. Another friend had an intriguing one: "The bride clutched a faded letter." It is difficult, but it's a great exercise in packing a lot into a few words!

  30. elainevernon says:

    Those six words tell it all. It is a tragedy.

  31. icelandpenny says:

    I didn't know that Hemingway sentence, thanks for introducing me to it. In return, here is my own all-time favourite single sentence by an author — in this case, Gabriel Garcia Marquez' first sentence for "One Hundred Years of Solitude" (translation, Gregory Rabassa): "Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendia was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice." When I first read that, my brain exploded: firing squad? discover ice? And I was hooked. Perhaps some day you will do a post that celebrates great first sentences for novels! I nominate this one.

  32. i have seen this before, but that didn't change how much i enjoyed your post. thank you for remind us that art is better than word count.

  33. Farlesworthy says:

    Just found my response to this post and realised what I wrote – next time I'll think before putting finger to keyboard. I took the title at face value without reading into it. I said "never" but hadn't even seen it, instead of saying "haven't". So yes, the stupid sticks and great post.

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