Often attributed to Ernest Hemingway, the six-word story, "for sale: baby shoes, never worn," has merited its own Wikipedia entry and started the #sixwordmemoir trend.
It also subtly (but masterfully) adheres to a storytelling template popularized by Randy Olson in his excellent book, Houston, We Have a Narrative (and elsewhere).
Olson contends the best stories follow a simple, yet brilliant, three-part structure:
- And: "A typical story begins with what is called exposition, meaning a laying out of a few facts. The simplest and most common connector is the agreement word and."
- But: "Then it comes time for the story to start (a story begins when something happens). This is where the word but comes in.
- Therefore: "Once we have established the problem, which points to a question, then we want to head off on our journey in search of an answer to the question, which we do with therefore, a consequence word.
And that’s what makes those six words, "for sale, baby shoes, never worn," such a complete, albeit emotionally wrenching, story. Our minds only require those six thoughtfully selected words to intuit a story that might sound something like this with all the blanks filled in:
"We learned we were expecting a child and we joyously started getting ready for the blessed event by preparing the nursery, finding cute clothes and buying baby shoes, but something went terribly wrong and we lost the child. Therefore, our only recourse is bravely to move on with our lives after this loss."
Amazing, right? The genres of twitterature, drabble and other forms of flash fiction exist because brilliant stories can be told quickly and well. Yours should be one of them.