The poetics of six-word stories

David Fishelov*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Six-word stories present an intriguing case study to theorists of literary genres and narratologists alike. Despite the popularity of this peculiar narrative form—probably the latest newcomer to the club of narrative genres—and the fact that it has produced many captivating texts, there is almost no critical discussion of this fast-growing literary phenomenon. After explaining why six-word stories deserve the title of a narrative genre, I offer a brief comparative discussion of such stories alongside traditional short literary forms like aphorisms and proverbs. I then discuss seven important characteristics of six-word stories. The first three comprise the “hard core” of the poetics of the genre, the next two are very common among six-word stories but are not an essential part of its poetics, and the last two are related to the reception and production of the genre: (1) A represented chain of events (the narrative element); (2) The tip of the iceberg principle; (3) The punch-line structure; (4) Poetic, rhythmic structures; (5) The realism of the stories; (6) The “contagiousness” of the form; and (7) The strong connection of the genre to English, the language in which it was first introduced. I conclude by pointing out that while many six-word stories illustrate witty, artistic achievements, there is also the risk that practitioners of the form will mechanically produce dull texts.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)30-46
Number of pages17
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2019 by The Ohio State University.


  • Ernest Hemingway
  • Flash fiction
  • Literary genres
  • Microfiction
  • Narrative genres
  • Short literary forms
  • Six-word stories


Dive into the research topics of 'The poetics of six-word stories'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this