My kids are fascinated by the #SixWordStoryChallenge. The 14yo has entered a few times under her own steam (she even has her own blog, although in typical moody teenager fashion she won’t tell me the URL) and just lately 7yo has also been creating a few six word stories of her own.
When Sara posted this week’s prompt of ‘Home’ (you can vote here for your favourites btw), 7yo and I had a discussion about what kind of story she might write. She loves coming up with an idea and counting the words on her fingers to make sure she’s got the right amount, and within minutes she’d come up with:
The most comforting place for me.
Cue heartmelting maybe-I’m-not-absolutely-failing-at-this-parenting-lark-quite-as-much-as-I-think-I-am moment for mummy. It’s good to know that comforting is a word she’d apply to our messy and chaotic house. But then she looked at me seriously, and asked:
Do you think that’s a good story mummy?
I suppose I could have just said yes and left it there. But she’s an able writer and her teachers have been really challenging her lately with poetry and creative writing activities. So I decided to take a chance (there’s always a risk with this one that telling her something she doesn’t want to hear will result in a massive strop). I told her that I loved it, and it made me really happy that she thinks home is comforting. But, I continued, it felt more like a really lovely description rather than a story where something happens or changes. Luckily for me she was sufficiently interested in the idea to not mind the constructive criticism. We agreed that the two most powerful words of her first attempt were “most comforting” so maybe she could think of something else along those lines. About 30 seconds later, she hit me with:
Sometimes it’s comforting, sometimes it’s not.
Ouch. Failing after all. But only sometimes, thankfully.
I’m sharing this because it’s a useful bit of advice that I keep reminding myself when I’m tackling a six word story. The first thing I come up with is often really just a phrase that describes the prompt word. The challenge lies in creating something that hints at a plot, that has movement or conflict or change. Which is why #smugmummy thinks that 7yo’s second attempt is pretty good. The tension between the times when everything’s ok, and the times when things are a bit rubbish, makes it more interesting (and guilt-inducing). And she’s spontaneously stumbled on one of my favourite six-word-story tricks: using two discrete phrases of three words each. Rather than just writing one 6-word phrase, 2×3 can give two viewpoints to counterbalance each other, or show the consequences of actions. Like this old one on the theme of guilt:
Anger flared quickly. Regret lasted forever.
What do you think? What’s your six word story technique or top tip for success?