Extreme Short Stories

The November 2006 issue of Wired Magazine includes an interesting feature on extremely short stories. Specifically, they asked a bunch of writers to come up with striking "stories" in only 6 words. The lineup of writers included prominent science fiction and fantasy writers such as David Brin, Charles Stross, Neil Gaiman and others, as well as screen writers (Joss Whedon) and graphic novel writers (Alan Moore, Frank Miller and Howard Chaykin).

Surprisingly, some of the stories were quite striking. With this length, the goal seems to be to craft a phrase that, upon reflection, has a host of potential ramifications.

Now, I thought this was an interesting challenge, so I decided to try my hand at it. Here are some of the extreme stories that I came up with.

The moon shone like the sun.

If you're a science fiction fan, there are some fairly obvious ramifications to this story. First, it's night time. Second, the moon shines by reflected light, so the only way the moon can shine as bright as the sun is if it suddenly receives a LOT more light, like from a super nova. Third, if the energy from a super nova has begun to hit the opposite side of the Earth, then you'll probably be dead by dawn if not sooner.

Silently, the stars all went out.

What could make all of the stars go out? The end of the universe? Or something else?

Hungrily, I tracked down my murderer.

The idea of being able to track down your murderer is interesting, particularly since you're dead. Maybe the protagonist is a vampire? Anyway you look at it, somebody's got trouble on his trail.

Danger detected. Terminate autonomous wetware units.

This looks like the Terminator scenario, where the computer wakes up and decides that humanity needs to be exterminated.

So, there you have it. Four examples of extreme short stories in only 6 words each. It's definitely a fun writing exercise, but I doubt there's much of a market for these stories. After all, at a rate of 5 cents a word, you'll need to write a lot of these to make a living.

Note: Author Will McCarthy was one of the contributors to the Wired article on extreme short stories. He revealed that the authors were paid $20 for their 6-word stories. Still, I don't believe that there's a large market for these types of stories.    — Sep 1, 2007


David Keener By Dave Aronson on Sunday, March 25, 2012 at 09:40 PM EST

I won't spoil it by saying which, but one of these is like the end of "The Nine Billion Names of God" (which you can read at http://downlode.org/Etext/nine_billion_names_of_god.html).

David Keener By dkeener on Monday, March 26, 2012 at 12:03 AM EST

Ahhh...a science fiction fan. Arthur C. Clarke, best known for writing 2001: A Space Oddyssey and hosting the Apollo moon landing with Walter Cronkite, is a great SF writer. "The Nine Billion Names of God" is one of the classic short stories that helped make him famous.

His story was, indeed, my inspiration for that particular 6-word epic.

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