Saturday, March 5, 2011

Five-Word Fiction



Just how short can a story be? Ernest Hemingway famously (or apocryphally, depending on who you ask) proved that you can pack plenty of emotion into six words, with a tale that goes something like this:

For sale: baby shoes, never worn.

But I wondered if it was possible to create a meaningful story with tighter constraints. I thought initially of trying one-word stories, but that didn't leave much room for character development, let alone things like nouns and verbs. Doubling my word count didn't help either: try it yourself and you'll see that two words on their own just look sad and lonely on the page, as if they're waiting for Godot or at least a conjunction. Three and four word stories started to get interesting. When I reached five words, I had my 'just right' moment. Because I like setting projects for myself, I thought I'd start a blog to post my efforts and you can find them here:

Five-Word Fiction

I realise that five-word fiction doesn't really lend itself to the Aristotelian ideal of a beginning, middle and end, but I'm going try as much as possible to write these as plotted stories. The whole idea came about through writing flash fiction and finding that I enjoy the process of distilling stories into strong, easy-to-swallow doses. Also, I'm lazy and I like the idea of being able to write something quickly. There probably already is an official name for five-word fiction (pentanano fiction?), but I don't know of it, so on I go.

To make sure I'm not stepping on anyone's storytelling toes, I'd like to credit a couple of similar projects that are already out there:

Six Word Stories
5 Word Story

Both of these sites (the second one is Twitter-only) take submissions. So if you're interested in writing your own very, very, very, very short stories, but don't want to shackle yourself with a blog, they might be a good place to send your work. If you know of any more, please give me a shout.

Oh, and the baby? That's Hemingway before he grew his beard.

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