English Language; Drama & Speech; Social Etiquette. Est. 1986, Hong Kong


26 February 2016

Brevity is the Soul of Wit: The Value of Very Short Stories

“Therefore, since brevity is the soul of wit,

And tediousness the limbs and outward flourishes,

I will be brief.”

So said Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

Often we think that a long piece of writing is better for students; however quantity does not always trump quality. A short piece of writing means that the writer must get to the “nitty gritty” (the main idea or idea in the text) and not waste words on “padding” (unnecessary words).

Inspired by Hemingway’s famous boast that he could write a six-word story, he came up with the following: “For sale: baby shoes, never worn,” the “six-word story” has served as a writing prompt for decades of students and fledgling writers.

“For sale: baby shoes, never worn” one can imagine the story behind this classified advertisement in the newspaper; the heartbreak of the parents. Newspapers often have short “news roundup” pieces that brevity necessitates that the story behind the incident is left untold. Reading these newspaper stories can serve to stimulate other six-word stories. Use these for inspiration.

A six-word story should provide conflict, action, and resolution that give the sense of a complete story in a brief reading. The following examples were found on the Internet:

The lived happily ever after, separately.

I asked; you answered with silence.

“Freeze, don’t move!” “I’m just”, BANG!


This kind of activity whets the literary and creative appetite!