Sunday, November 05, 2006

Brevity

Ernest Hemingway once wrote what must be the world’s shortest short story:

For sale: baby shoes, never worn.


According to Wired Magazine, he considered it his single best work. I’m not sure if it’s really Hemingway’s best story – certainly it wouldn’t work well as a summer vacation read, except perhaps for a very short visit to the beach – but one must admit that in six short words, Hemingway managed to imply a much longer story, with genuine emotional impact. (With its combination of pathos and brevity, it could, perhaps, serve as a bedtime story for constitutionally cheerful narcoleptics; so even in purely practical terms, the story is a winner of sorts.)

There is a lesson here for writers – a lesson that Hemingway himself understood well, even though most of his work was more prolix than his six-word masterpiece: Don’t try to say everything.

Wired Magazine invited a bunch of science-fiction, fantasy, and horror writers to compose their own six-word stories; here are some of my favorites:

Margaret AtwoodLonged for him. Got him. Shit.

Corpse parts missing. Doctor buys yacht.

Starlet sex scandal. Giant squid involved.

David Brin


Vacuum collision. Orbits diverge. Farewell, love.

Mind of its own. Damn lawnmower.

Orson Scott Card

The baby’s blood type? Human, mostly.

Howard Chaykin

“I couldn’t believe she’d shoot me.”
[This one resonates with me, considering that I’m an outgunned husband.]

Brian Herbert

Epitaph: He shouldn't have fed it.

Robert Jordan

Heaven falls. Details at eleven.

James Patrick Kelly

We kissed. She melted. Mop please!


Steven Meretzky

He read his obituary with confusion.

Time traveler's thought: “What's the password?”

I win lottery. Sun goes nova.

Steve ignores editor’s word limit and

Parallel universe. Bush, destitute, joins army.

Richard K. Morgan

K.I.A. Baghdad, Aged 18 - Closed Casket


Rockne S. O’Bannon

It’s behind you! Hurry before it


Richard Powers


Lie detector eyeglasses perfected: Civilization collapses.

Charles Stross


Osama’s time machine: President Gore concerned.

Vernor Vinge


Epitaph: Foolish humans, never escaped Earth.

Some of these are telegraphic plot summaries; others take the form of news headlines, epitaphs, and the like. Many of them made me laugh, and one – the one about a soldier killed in Iraq – approaches Hemingway’s masterpiece in its terse description of tragedy and bereavement (although I’m not sure if counting “K.I.A.” as one word constitutes cheating).

I am not a writer of fiction; I’ve tried, and I simply don’t have the knack. However, if Papa Hemingway and all these others can write six-word stories, I don’t see why I can’t try my hand at writing some six-word blog posts. Given my tendency to blather on, I’m sure the multitudes reading this blog (and while they are indeed very small multitudes, they are most definitely multitudinous) will appreciate my valiant effort to achieve brevity.

So without further ado, I present my first three attempts at writing The Great Six-Word Israeli blog post:

  • Free Palestine! Limit one per customer.


  • Caroline Glick: All is lost! Panic!


  • No Cabinet ministers indicted – slow day.

Elegant, no? And while the first may be more of a bumper sticker than a blog post (I may have more to say about potential bumper stickers, but that’s for later), the second and third seem to me to make rather good blog articles all by themselves.

And so, an invitation: Submit your six-word blog posts! This may* become a contest! There may be prizes! Stay tuned!


* (if enough of you submit entries)

Categories: , , .

12 Comments:

At Sun Nov 05, 09:03:00 PM GMT+2, Anonymous VSW said...

Would-be Jihadi trips boarding bus; PIJ trained!

 
At Sun Nov 05, 09:59:00 PM GMT+2, Blogger lisoosh said...

Punctual today, of all possible days.

Room to let: must be flexible.

Three dead, two wounded, one missing.

 
At Sun Nov 05, 10:51:00 PM GMT+2, Blogger superstar said...

life just good

 
At Sun Nov 05, 11:01:00 PM GMT+2, Anonymous hot coffee girl said...

Coffee, unlike her heart, was warm.

She stopped the tears forever … again.

Shortly, she longed to be tall.

She understood confusion with perfect clarity.

 
At Sun Nov 05, 11:33:00 PM GMT+2, Blogger Don Radlauer said...

So, we're off and running...

V.S.W.: Nice try; bad math.

Lisoosh: Interesting...

Superstar: Kudos on th' brevity; doesn't tell much of a story, though.

H.C.G.: Strong contender. Blogrolling me makes a good bribe!

Keep 'em coming, folks - at this rate, we'll have a real contest. Which means I'll have to find a prize. Anyone want a cat?

 
At Sun Nov 05, 11:42:00 PM GMT+2, Anonymous VSW said...

Blogger dead in flame-war with wife.

 
At Mon Nov 06, 07:57:00 AM GMT+2, Blogger Batya said...

How about four words?
Sun shining, changed plans.

 
At Tue Nov 07, 05:05:00 AM GMT+2, Anonymous highlights said...

notes of change, soul music

 
At Tue Nov 07, 06:53:00 AM GMT+2, Anonymous highlights said...

notes of change, orchestrating soul music

a bit more of a story ?

 
At Thu Nov 09, 09:52:00 AM GMT+2, Anonymous Melissa said...

Your first one reminds me of a very old apartheid era one:
FREE MANDELA! ... in every cornflakes box.

 
At Tue Nov 21, 03:45:00 AM GMT+2, Blogger T.Z. said...

Freedom is best when hard earned.
Toner

 
At Tue May 15, 10:41:00 AM GMT+3, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Life IS Life......
toner

 

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