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Ernest Hemingway’s Six-Word Story: A Review

October 9, 2014
Ernest Hemingway, possibly leaving a stain on his six-word story. (image via wikimedia)

Ernest Hemingway, possibly leaving a stain on his six-word story. (image via wikimedia)

It’s tough to write a review of Ernest Hemingway’s six-word story that’s shorter than six words.  I think I’ve already failed, so I won’t even try.  It’s also hard to review a six-word story without SPOILERS, but I can make an honest attempt.

Supposedly, Ernest Hemingway won a bet by writing a six-word story on a napkin.  The story (along with background information) is here.   I would post the story, but I’m on a strict word count, and I like to review literature without any leaving spoilers.  I hate reading reviews that give everything away, so if you want to read Ernest Hemingway’s six-word story, go ahead.  But I don’t want to spoil it.

Even if the six-word story was written by Ernest Hemingway, it leaves plenty of unanswered questions, too many for my liking.  What happened to the baby?  What about the parents?  Did anybody buy the shoes?  How much did they sell for?  I know that Hemingway has to leave some facts out of the story, but the reader ends up knowing nothing about the main characters.

There wasn’t any dialogue, and I love stories with great dialogue.  Characterization was a little threadbare.  I was surprised at the lack of details.  There wasn’t even a title.  Maybe I was expecting too much.  Sometimes I get too critical of classic literature.

I guess my only legitimate complaint about the six-word story was that the Amazon Kindle edition cost me 99 cents.  I thought the Kindle edition of Ernest Hemingway’s Six-Word Story would include other Hemingway selections.  Who would sell a six-word short story for 99 cents?  Even worse, who would buy a six-word short story for 99 cents?

I should have known I was buying a six-word short story when I downloaded a free sample of Ernest Hemingway’s Six-Word Story  on my Kindle, and all it said was “For.”  I guess I have nobody to blame but myself.

For 99 cents, I should have received more than a digital six-word story.  I should have gotten at least a napkin with Ernest Hemingway’s signature.  It wouldn’t have to have been a real signature either.  I would have been happy with a forged signature of Ernest Hemingway’s initials.  It could have been stamped for all I care.  I just wanted something to show for my 99 cents.


I have to give Ernest Hemingway credit.  It’s not easy to write a six-word story.  Here’s the best that I could do.

Wrote tweet.  Nobody laughed.  Got fired.

It’s not autobiographical, but it’s based on some fears that I have.  At least I didn’t charge 99 cents for it.


What do you think?  Have you ever written a six-word story?  Have you ever read a six-word story that DIDN’T leave you feeling dissatisfied?  Have you ever purchased a book (or six-word story) and felt ripped off?  Do you even believe the legend of Ernest Hemingway’s six-word story?

  1. No never written one. I guess I could do a for sale to copy Ernest.
    For sale, wedding dress never worn.
    It leaves a lot to be desired as you so ably describe. Yes I believe the story is real.

  2. I have to say, he’s a handsome man. I’d probably be attracted because he was an alcoholic.

    • Did he have money? If he was handsome, alcoholic, and had money (and liked watching football too), then maybe even I’d be attracted to him.

  3. I love that story. I don’t know if I’d pay 99 cents for it, but I do like it. I’m going to think of a six word story.

  4. Thain In Vain does a weekly writing prompt challenge and one of those was inspired by Hemingway’s 6 word story. We had to come up with our own 6 word story. It is really hard. As for being dissatisfied with the unanswered questions raised by the story, it was 6 words! What did you expect? To keep with the no spoilers of this post i won’t put my specific thoughts on his story, but the story was all about the assumptions associated with the words he had written. It was about reading between the lines. We don’t get to have all our questions answered in life and have to make do with what we are able to find out, and work with that to fill in the gaps.

    • “It was six words!” haha my thoughts exactly. When I first heard his 6 word story I got a heart palpitation. Don’t think it was coincidence, great stories can do that 🙂

  5. Ha! Great review! There’s a blogger who invites submissions to 6 Word stories on various themes every month. It’s a fun exercise. None of them are as good as Hemingway’s, though.

    • And even if somebody DID write a six-word story better than Hemingway’s, it wouldn’t really be better than Hemingway’s (if that makes sense).

  6. That’s 16.5 cents per word whilst still retaining the rights! Who would have thought of writing as destined towards poverty…

  7. Your 6 word story cracked me. Hemingway’s is just a little piece of heartbreak, isn’t it?

  8. I actually went and looked for it on Amazon and all I found was a collection of other six-word stories. From what I saw, the whole idea is a sham. Unless you can fit a lot more into each word, like German, then it’s not a real story. For instance, one of the ones in that book on Amazon is “He paused, stopped, and kept walking.” What kind of a story is that? It’s a sentence. I could write a thousand 6-word sentences before lunch and they wouldn’t be individual stories. For the record, I like yours better. Three sentences out of six words is pretty good. 🙂

    • “He paused, stopped, and kept walking.”?

      I pause, stop, and keep walking several times every day. I agree with you. If an author writes about a sequence of events that a guy like me does every day, then it’s not a real story.

  9. Hemingway’s six word story though heart breaking, is very dissatisfying. As a reader I want to lose myself in the world that an author creates and in that aspect Hemingway leaves me craving for more. Loved your six word 🙂

  10. Love your review. Appreciated your struggle to a ensure a complete lack of spoilers. 🙂

  11. Val Mills permalink

    Oh so much easier to write more than less, I prefer to burble.

  12. Judy permalink

    Heck, I’ve never spoken or written a sentence of ix words or less. I tend to be too verbal.

    I’ve never heard about the six word story. Interesting.

  13. It appears that you paid for some of the classic literature they give away for free on Kindle.

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