Monday, May 11, 2009

The Hemingway Challenge

Chiefwahoo15’s Ernest Hemingway anecdote interested me.

I can’t imagine wringing more emotion out of six words than, “For sale: baby shoes, never used.”

Maybe Hemingway never jotted those words on a cocktail napkin, but it's possible. He never published an unnecessary syllable.

So it got me thinking. How hard is it to write a single-sentence story? Could I take the Hemingway challenge?

I wasn’t able to do anything with just six words.

Some of my aborted attempts:
The pianist quit by severing her left hand.
He regretted jumping before he hit the sidewalk.

Fortunately, I found a Web site that collects one-sentence stories much better than mine.

Some of the “stories” are just droll observations. Two examples:

My online dating service matched me with my cousin. (This was submitted by someone calling themselves Probably Not Okay.)

Three years into my English major, I finally ran out of BS. (Ryan)

Some stories hinted at plot:

I found out the hard way that cucumbers are flammable. (Shamrocker)

prom sucked. (kay)

Finally, some were full stories — plot, character, all compressed into a single sentence. Some of my favorites:

It really sucked that my only friend among the dozens of people there was the one in the casket. (Lonely in Black)

As the cashier gave a knowing look to my wife as she scanned the prenatal vitamins, I realized this random girl is the first person on earth to know we are having a baby. (Kevin)

When I was 5 or so my mom would tell me to lie down before she tied my tie and I just now realized at the age of 19 that she did this because she’s a funeral director. (ferdinandthebull)

When I arrived at the memorial site, I couldn’t think of anything witty or poignant to write, so I just carved ‘I miss you’ into the telephone pole that killed you and went home. (Lost Theories)

When the strange man wouldn’t quit staring at me while I nursed my baby, I finally lost it and asked him if he wanted some for his coffee. (Sorcha)

I waited for him to hit me, instead he replied, “She’ll probably cheat on you too.” (Cowboy)

The day I built my grandchildren a sandbox, my prissy 6-year-old granddaughter announced, “Grandma, I can’t play in that, it’s got dirt in it!” (Tricia. I assume this is not my co-blogger, seeing as she has no grandchildren.)

I like all of these, but you’ll notice they’re longer than six words.

But Hemingway might have been impressed my coworker’s one-sentence story.

I hate people today. (Tracey Read)

-Jason Lea,

One final story, which is actually a poem. It was suggested by my coworker, Sandra M. Klepach:
so much depends
a red wheel
glazed with rain
beside the white
(William Carlos Williams)

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