The Six-Word Challenge

The Six-Word Challenge

True communication is based in clarity. Great writing - or speaking - is lean and muscular, and editing is an important art. Great writers weigh every word, every phrase, every paragraph and point for its value, impact, and propel-ability.

In the 1920s, Ernest Hemingway - the master of "word economy"  - was challenged to write a complete story in just six words. He won the challenge, earning $10 for his success.

His story: "For Sale: Baby Shoes. Never Worn."

So I make the same challenge to MCC members across the world: send me your six-word story. I'll ask a few other MCC heroes to judge with me, and the person with the most profound, impactful, or outrageously funny entry wins ten bucks, a "Hemingway Hero" call-out in my June newsletter, and special recognition right here on Collective X.

Linda Angér

Replies to this Topic

Alright Linda...

Since you extended the invitation, here is my story (just trying, hope it counts) even less than 6 words.

This is a DotSign philosophy based story since we get to play a role in creating the first 2 words.

" Identity = Visibility= Sales = Success "


Do I get my $ 10 ?? :)



Henry Joshua
"Gateway To Your Web Identity"


Edited Wed, May 7, 2008 6:21 PM

MCC will improve Detroit's Cooperative Attitude.

I foresee multiple entries from me

Time to go play with drea

You're lucky.  That's it for now.

Hi Henry!

Well, you get a gold star for being the first to respond...!

What I'm really after here is not business formulas or taglines, but expressions of a complete and (hopefully) profound story in only six words.

When I read: "For Sale: Baby Shoes. Never Used" for the first time, I was stunned. In six words, Hemingway created a window into a huge, emotionally-charged scene.

Why were these shoes never used?  I think of the joy and tasks of anticipating the birth of a child - preparing the nursery, buying clothes (and shoes), the excitement of feeling the baby "kick" for the first time and waiting to bring the child home in your arms. And then I think of the immense sadness when the child is stillborn, dies before it is old enough to ever wear those baby shoes, or is born without feet. Some people would keep those shoes forever as a way to hold on to the lost child. But for others - the ones who (in Hemingway's "story") placed the ad - those shoes are a haunting reminder of terrible pain and misfortune - best removed from their sight and memory.

Write a story - any story. Then take out every unessential word. Do it again and again until you've distilled it to six words.

Here are a few (less emotive, but still good) entries from Wired 14.11 "Very Short Stories" page:

Mind of its own. Damn lawnmower.

In the beginning was the word.

Dorothy: "F*** it, I'll stay here."  (this is my personal favorite)


Let your mind go wild - have fun - I can't wait to see what Charlie comes up with! 


p.s. I'm taking the challenge, too, but not the prize!

Ah, Terry!  I knew I could count on you!

These two are "in the fishbowl" - -

Time to go play with drea

You're lucky.  That's it for now.

"Rarely do I feel speechless"


Ben Speechless?  Sorry you can't count.

I can do this all night.

For you-  Happiness.  Because I won't.

Life is great.  Let it Be.

Problems Abound.  Solutions Appear. Problems Solved.

Ask.  Listen.  Connect.  You are Networking.

I gave this 5 minutes.  Bye.

You already have the answer.

Shhh.  Be quiet.  Listen.

Thank you.



6 words flow easily through me.

6 words.  why can't others count?

Use 6 words.  Tell a story.

Drea is up.  Got to go.


What great minds you all have!  Keep 'em coming!  The "judging panel" will choose and announce the winner on Friday, May 16.

Here are a few more from professional writers:

She moved her pawn. I resigned.

Found the bouquet in the garbage.

She kissed me! I made breakfast.

"We are three now," she said.

Longed for him. Got him. Shit. 

I still make coffee for two.


 6 word challenge entry....


"Talk less, listen more and understand"


Rick Reid

He spoke. She listened. They kissed.

How about....

SHE spoke, HE listened, they kissed!

Cute, Melissa!  Maybe you and Dean will have to arm wrestle for the "prize" - -


Well how about this one ...


She spoke, he listened.....Still listening !!!



and BTW I am not married yet...:o) But qualified to say that above  ha..ha.....Just joking, its all just fun.

Laughing  I love it!!!  Laughing  I laughed very much at the reality of that story.  So true, so true......

BTW Linda, the stories are prize enough!!

Edited Thu, May 8, 2008 2:11 PM


"Lonely table, just for one..."

If it wins, I'll sent the $10 to Tom Jones or the lyric writer.

Short sighted, long trip, going nowhere

I imagine the Chief Troublemaker at Curve Detroit is absorbing all of these submissions and just waiting till the last minute to submit his entry!  Charlie, we are waiting on you!

Profile Image for Natalie B. Natalie
  • Fri, May 9, 2008 12:04 AM

Green grass, blue sky, birdies singing!

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