The Tale of Hemingway's Six-Word Short Story

You have probably heard of Hemingway’s famous six-word short story, which won him a $10 bet with his writer friends. The story goes that as he was hanging out at lunch with some of his friends at either The Algonquin or Luchow’s, he bet them that he can write a short story in just six words.

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He wrote the six words on a napkin: “For sale. Baby shoes. Never worn.” And started passing around a napkin to collect his winnings. It’s a legend that many writing teachers tell their students about how to write a good story. It has a beginning, a middle, and an end. The beauty and magic of it is that it engages the reader or the listener to participate in filling the gaps to the story.

Now, whether or not that actually happened may be slightly questionable, as the first instance that this story was told, was when it appeared in Peter Miller’s book Get Published! Get Produced!: A Literary Agent’s Tips on How to Sell Your Writing.

Before that, several versions of the story were already published, the earliest being in 1906, on a newspaper classified section titled “Terse Tales of the Town”, and the story read, “For sale, baby carriage, never been used. Apply at this office.”

Other versions of the story included those by William R. Kane in a 1917 essay, wherein he wrote, “Little Shoes, Never Worn.” Roy K. Moulton also wrote about it and attributed the story to someone named Jerry, and his version was, “Baby carriage for sale, never used.”

There were other mentions of the story, but in the end, Frederick A. Wright proved that there was no connection of the six-word story to Hemingway at all. Still, the legend most likely grew because of Hemingway’s fame as a writer, and how anybody who heard the story would accept is a plausible anecdote, because Hemingway was just that good of a writer.

(Image credit: Public Domain/Wikimedia Commons)

Source: neatorama

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