Watch me fit the Hemingway Challenge, the lengths of different types of fiction, and several prompts in one post.

First, you have to understand what the Hemingway Challenge is. Hemingway reportedly considered his finest work to be his shortest: only one sentence. A friend once challenged him to write an entire story in six words. After much thinking, Hemingway came up with this response:

For sale: Baby shoes, never used.
~Earnest Hemingway

Over on the Holy Worlds fantasy forums, there is a thread for writers to try their own pens at this challenge. It’s been open a couple weeks, and two authors have been unanimously declared on par with Hemingway.

One revolver. Six bullets. Seven enemies.
~Jonathan Garner

I am the President’s orphaned daughter.
~Aubry Hansen

Take these slowly. There’s one problem with six-worded masterpieces; they’re over so quickly.

Bet you think the prompt is to write something for the Hemingway Challenge, don’t you? Well, it is certainly challenging and will make you think in new ways, but my actual prompt is to take one of the three above sentences/stories and turn them into a longer piece of fiction. After all, there is so much more (and yet nothing else) to tell!

This is where the lengths of different types of fiction come in. My chart is by no means an indisputable table, but it at least very close to any definitions you will find.

Twitter Fiction: 150 character limit
Flash Fiction or Vignette: Under 1,000 words (presumably over 150 characters)
Short Story: 1,000 to 7,500 words
Novelette: 7,500 to 20,000 words
Novella: 20,000 to 40,000 words
Novel: Over 40,000 words

These six-worded stories are already “Twitter Fiction.” Don’t use the actual sentences, just be inspired by them. First, write something under 1,000 words, telling more of the story. If you’re still interested, create a whole new tale off those six words the size of a short story. It would be fantastic if you found inspiration for a novelette or larger, but I won’t ask you to go quite that far.

For my part, I’m using “I am the President’s orphaned daughter” because I’m feeling morbid today. (That’s a joke. I like political thrillers.) Do you dare take my challenge?

OK, that didn’t come out right. Prompts are rarely scary.


About Kathrine Roid

I'm an science fiction and fantasy author living in Texas with an undead parakeet and teleporting cat. Think about that for a moment.

Posted on January 16, 2011, in Creative Writing Prompts, On Writing and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 12 Comments.

  1. This is a great idea, Kat! Thanks for using my story as one of the prompts.

  2. Oh, yes I dare!
    I will base it off of…Jon’s prompt! I will hope that it gets to 5k, but not sure if I will…

  3. I’ll try, I guess. =) I’ll try on Aubrey’s.


  4. Abby aka PrincessoftheKing

    Those are both really good, Jon and Philli!

    I’m not sure that a have time to actually use the prompt, though. πŸ˜›

  5. Thank you so much for featuring my story-esque sentence! I love your idea for a challenge, and I can’t wait to see what people come up with. If I have some free writing time this week, I’ll try Hemingway’s.

  6. I’ll totally use the first one!

  7. I’m glad my first “true” prompt post is so popular! I wish you all story-success.

    Thank you, Phila and Jonathan. I’m glad you two like how your stories were used. πŸ˜€

  8. My challenge: “On trial: witch with healing hands.”

  1. Pingback: Day 1: Proof I Am CrAzY | Scribbling On The Computer

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