Image of parchment paper rolled up at bottom, next to a feather pen

6 Word Stories

Impact Storytelling

This activity gives participants an opportunity to practice their writing, improve their communication skills and discuss the challenges they experience with writing. It can help participants overcome their potential fear of sharing their work/writing or the feeling that they “aren’t good writers” as well as start to overcome any fears of public speaking in a comfortable and supportive environment. 

  • Six word story examples individually written on paper 
  • Tape
  • Post its/paper
  • Pencils/pens

Write out different 6 word stories on different papers and tape them around the room. Write out Hemingway’s six-word story on a piece of paper and keep it near you to show the participants. 

  • Gather in a big circle and ask participants questions about writing: What kind of writing do you do on a regular basis? Who writes on a regular basis? Who blogs? Who writes on social media? What do you write about? What do you like to write about?

  • Ask how comfortable they feel about writing. On a scale of floor to your height, point to somewhere on your body how comfortable you feel, feet being uncomfortable and head being very comfortable sharing something you wrote?

Frame 

  • Explain to participants that today you are going to spend some time learning about each other’s stories – and also practise our communication skills. Segue into purpose of activity: your words are powerful, we hope today you begin to feel more comfortable with writing.

  • Explain who Ernest Hemmingway was: Ask if anyone has heard of Ernest Hemmingway. Explain to participants that he is a world famous writer, but he had a very different style than most. Whereas most writers try to describe in great detail what they’re writing about, he would try to use as few words as possible.

  • Explain the 6 Word Story. Explain that in the 1920’s, Ernest Hemingway (a world renowned writer) was challenged by a colleague to write a complete story in just six words. Hemingway wrote, “For sale: baby shoes, never used.” The colleague lost the bet and Hemingway considered it his best work. Since then an online movement has started and thousands of people worldwide are sharing their own six word stories.

6 Word Story Gallery: Post up pre-made posters of different famous 6 word stories.

  • Give participants 2 minutes to take a walk around the room and read the 6 word stories taped to the wall. 
  • Tell the participants to choose one story/title that resonates with, challenges them or interests them and stand next to it.
      • Have participants share what they think it means and why it was intriguing in pairs. Gather around in a bigger circle and share.

  • Have participants write their own. Hand out paper (or post it notes) and pens and explain to participants that you want to give them an opportunity to create their own 6 words.
      • Play soft music to prompt inspiration and give them a few moments to craft their own. 
      • Encourage positive messaging, while allowing participants to be authentic.

  • Break it down. If easier for participants, explain to them that writing and public speaking can be as easy as three steps:
      • Caring: caring enough about an issue to dedicate yourself genuinely to it and seeing it through to the end
      • Preparing: actually writing, editing and practice speaking if applicable
      • Sharing: finding a platform that works for you (online vs. in person) and that reaches your intended audience.

  • Write your own. Model the way by writing your own 6 words on the spot on the board as an example of committing to the activity and share it with the group.

  • Ask for folks to share. Ask for participants to share popcorn style and positively reinforce every 6 words verbally. Embrace the silence if necessary to give shy participants the time they need to build courage.
      • Encourage all to share, but let those who haven’t shared know that you would love to read theirs at the end of the day if they are comfortable.

Objective of Debrief: To get participants to think about the importance of communication, as well as the benefits of opening up and sharing your thoughts and creations. 

  • How was that activity for you?
  • How was reading the stories vs. sharing the stories?
  • Did you like trying to write 6 word stories?
  • What’s the advantage of writing a 6 word story over a novel? (less attention needed by reader, less intimidating, more interpretation from the reader, filling in the gaps)
  • How did it feel to share?
  • What can we learn from this activity?
  • How can we apply this to our writing going forward?

APPENDIX: 6 Word Story Examples

And finally, the publisher said “yes!”

Lost in the woods, I found myself.

Out of prison but not free.

Painfully, he changed “is” to “was”

Home run. Catch. eBay auction. Rich!

He won argument. Lost best friend. 

Born a twin, graduated an only child. 

Strangers. Friends. Best Friends. Lovers. Strangers. 

“Wrong number” says a familiar voice. 

Sorry soldier, shoes sold in pairs. 

First heartbreaks. Nineteen years wishing. Reunited!

Home late. Doors locked. I’m caught. 

Siblings argue. Salt in his cereal. 

Smoking my very last cigarette. Again. 

Humans free. Robot slaves. Human slaves. 

Breaking: Simulated beings realize they’re simulated. 

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Source(s)