21 March 2007
Good writers are masters of brevity. They spot the dead wood and eliminate it. They make sure every word in every sentence is adding meaning.
But how short can a story be before it stops being a story? Hemingway wrote a six word tale that is poignant and has a beginning, middle and an end: "For sale: baby shoes, never worn."
Wired has challenged today's writers to tell a story in six words. Some turned out to be little more than punchlines. Others seem like the start or end of a story, but not the whole thing. It's a difficult brief, and all the attempts are worth reading.
My favourites are 'Machine. Unexpectedly, I'd invented a time' by Alan Moore and 'From torched skyscrapers, men grew wings.' by Gregory Maguire. I also enjoyed 'The baby's blood type? Human, mostly.' by Orson Scott Card.
Read the Wired article for about 90 more.
Although I've technically reproduced three of Wired's stories in full above, I'm not expecting them to have a problem with this. I think those excerpts are fair use in the context of promoting the full article.
Also, it would be rather hypocritical for Wired to get upset given that earlier this month the site published three pages of Fox Interactive Media's trade secrets verbatim. In a story about Fox preparing a news portal for MySpace, Wired included two leaked screenshots and six slides from a presentation. Since these would be copyright of Fox and this story had no public interest defence, this seems an odd stance for a publishing business to take.