Nano Fiction

I like doing this with students to work on editing and planning their stories.  With only 6 words to use, students can’t afford to waste one – they can’t afford to use a good word, they have to use the right word.  It also takes an amazing amount of planning to make the nano-fiction vibrant.  To choose the right word, students have to have a clear vision of their story plan (for example: screaming, yelling, pleaded, whispered…all the “said is dead” words demonstrate this).  Because retooling or editing the story isn’t verwhelming at 6 words, I can hold them to the highest standard.  I typically have studetns rewrite (including grade 8 gifted) several times.  Now wordpress will butcher my carefully spaced tables so you will have to reformat them:

Nanofiction fiction


Ernest Hemingway is famous for his economy with the written word. His Sparest work is just six words: “For Sale: Baby shoes, never worn.” Legend says that Hemingway wrote this poignant line after being bet $10 that he couldn’t write a story of six words or less.

The “Story” doesn’t have a plot, resolution or a back story of its own, but it does show how effectively a few words can deliver emotional impact (and that implied meaning is not limited to poetry).

Taken from Uncle John’s bathroom reader Golden plunger awards)

Other examples of this writing style are (written for Wired magazine):

Steve ignores editor’s word limit and
Steven Meretzky

He read his obituary with confusion.
Steven Meretzky

Please, this is everything, I swear.
Orson Scott Card

Singularity postponed. Datum missing. Query Godoogle?
David Brin

Three to Iraq. One came back.
Graeme Gibson

Nevertheless, he tried a third time.
James P. Blaylock

Easy. Just touch the match to
Ursula K. Le Guin

Will this do (lazy student asked)?
Ken MacLeod

Clones demand rights: second Emancipation Proclamation.
Paul Di Filippo

Criteria for nanofiction – what makes a good one?

Look over the above stories and brainstorm a list of criteria by which they can be judged









share your list with a partner and agree on the 4 most important








Class’s most important








Writingyour own 

Nanofiction is harder than one might think. The one problem, and the reason it is both challenging and useful to students is that your entire idea has to be developed before you start writing.

  1. Think of a complete idea first.

  2. Perhaps a clear setting will help.

  3. A strong or tragic character helps.
  4. Now, six words; one surprise ending.

Now write 4













 Based on your criteria above, judge your stories



Reason (refer to criteria)

Story 1








Story 2








Story 3








Story 4








 Present your best









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