The best story ever written wasn’t measured in pages.
In fact, it didn’t even come close to one full page — it was six short words.
Penned by the great Ernest Hemingway, the following six-word story challenged the world to think simpler, and to this day, still inspires our aim to communicate with less via social media:
“Baby shoes. For sale. Never worn.”
Of course, some might argue that it’s not a story at all. They might even call it “odd” or “peculiar.” And that’s precisely why Hendrick’s Gin loves it so much.
Hendrick’s Gin is no stranger to doing things the odd way, so it’s calling on the world’s best writers to follow in Hemingway’s “peculiar” footsteps.
To celebrate, Hendrick’s is kicking off the Tiny Tales short-story-writing contest. The contest is calling for your best, heart-breaking, heart-warming, bone-chilling, blood-boiling, emotional roller-coaster ride of a short story — all told in three sentences or less.
And here’s the best part: Three winning stories will be selected by a team of judges, including acclaimed actor and writer, David Schneider, and will be made into state-of-the-art animations, to be premiered across Hendrick’s channels.
To be completely upfront, the competition will be stiff, but that doesn’t mean you’ll have to brave this monumentally small undertaking by yourself.
Schneider has teamed up with Hendrick’s Gin to set the tone of the contest, both with his own short-story submission and short animated film. On top of that, David was generous enough to dole out six useful pointers for aspiring short-story writers.
1. Size Counts
“When writing tweets, even though there’s a 140-character limit, I always aim for 100. The shorter, the better. With anything I write, from films to tweets, I’m always asking if there are any more words I can strip out. Remember, as the saying almost goes: brevity is the central plank and the essential ingredient and the main thing of what people tend to call ‘wit,’”
2. Bring back ‘The Twist’
“The shorter the story, the more it needs to be structured as a set-up and a punch-line or twist, like Tim Vine’s beautiful joke: “Crime in multi-storey car parks — that is wrong on so many different levels” (fans of Tip 1 might suggest losing the word ‘different’). It doesn’t matter what genre your story is, whether it’s comic or not, you still need to set it up perfectly and then spin it off in an unexpected direction at the end. Give your readers the metaphorical bends. They’ll thank you for it.”
3. Don’t forget about Miss Direction
“The greater the twist, the greater the impact. But that isn’t just dependent on the twist. Use the set-up to head people off as far as you can in the wrong direction so that the final twist is that much more effective. Really pile it on: ‘Terrified, she gasped as she read it. Fear made the words swim in front of her eyes. It was a Facebook request from her mum.’ A successful mini-story, like a successful joke, is one where going from set-up to pay-off can give you the bends.”
4. 100% from concentrate
“Try to convey as much information in as few words as possible. ‘The man was getting ready for the party’ doesn’t tell me as much as ‘Reginald was getting ready for the party’; or ‘Major Reginald Paterson-Farquhar was getting ready for the party.’ And if I wrote ‘Major Reginald Paterson-Farquhar was getting ready for the princesses and fairies party,’ then (hopefully) you’ll want to know more. The ideal short story is short but incredibly dense, like a very stupid jockey.”
5. Win, lose or drawer
“Once you’ve written your piece of genius, put it in a drawer for a while. This doesn’t have to be a literal drawer, like a flat-pack one that took you 14 hours to put together and there are still several screws left over. You just have to go away from it for as long as you can — a few hours, a couple of days, whatever — and then go back. You’ll always find bits you can improve. For instance, if I’d had time to put this tip in a drawer before submitting it, I bet I’d have come up with a better title than ‘Win, lose or drawer.'”
“Writing is all about being match-fit. All the time I’ve spent on Twitter making my tweets as shiny as possible has made me, I think, a much better writer. And even if it hasn’t, I’m still going to use that as an excuse for why I spend so much time online. So write as much as you can, keep writing, ignore your family, your friends, your children, and you simply won’t go wrong*. Good luck!”
*Normal terms and conditions apply. Please write and drink responsibly.
Here’s a look at David’s short story, just in case you’re wondering how all of his advice comes together in a finished product:
Sebastian had worked for years on a time machine but he was getting nowhere.
Suddenly, there was a ring at the door and he opened it to his future self, holding some instructions.
It worked, although they had just punctured the space-time continuum.
Punchy. Funny. Smart. And you can do it too!
Now, if you’re struggling to get the ball rolling, you can always do what the greats do: Find your muse at the bottom of a refreshing beverage, crafted with Hendrick’s Gin.
When you’ve finally inked your #TinyTales masterpiece, head to hendricksgin.com on August 1st to enter the contest. Your entry will be evaluated by a team of judges including David Schneider, and potentially emerge as one of three stories to be made into a state-of-the-art animated film.