This year’s Six Word Story Competition is a real reflection of life during the pandemic. Some of the stories are funny and whacky; some of the stories (in fact, maybe most) are quite dark – perhaps reflecting the national mood. Our competition sponsors at Penguin Random House had a tough time selecting an overall winner from the shortlist but we’re thrilled to reveal that winner here.
What a year it’s been.
We never envisioned having to run competitions with so few young writers actually in school because of self-isolation. Yet, despite all the doom and gloom, it was a joy to read through all the entries. The task for the Six-Word Story Competition is deceptively simple: write a story – a whole story – in just six words. And as ever, we had many original, whacky, socially conscious, and all-round imaginative stories to read this year.
We’re delighted to reveal the winner and runners up of this year’s competition as selected by our friends at Penguin Random House.
And the Winner is…
About this haunting and dystopic entry by the very talented Lucy-Jo Dalby, the judges said: “This is an intriguing story which, while simple, has hints of a thriller. And it made me chuckle! I like how the writer has taken the everyday – speaking to Alexa – and juxtaposed it with something scary like the disappearance of parents. We’re left hanging, imagining how Alexa will respond.”
We couldn’t agree more. It made us wonder whether Alexa played a role in the disappearance. Perhaps this is the start of a creepy sci-fi novel about what happens when the everyday artificial intelligence we use starts getting wild ideas of its own? Congratulations, Lucy-Jo! A really worthy winner! Lucy will be receiving a stack of books and a literary good bag in the post when she returns to school.
Second Place goes to…
About this quietly horrifying entry, the judges said: “I love how this entry is vague but still manages to imply some sort of horrific narrative, as well as the protagonist’s conflict in their decision to stay quiet – key ingredients to a good story.”
Absolutely. It just goes to show that simplicity can often be the most effective tool in a writer’s toolbox. The piece conveys how we tend to regress when frightened, keeping its language direct rather than highfalutin. Well done, Riddhi!
Third place goes to…
Our third place entry was also the Young Ambassadors’ Choice. While our top three entries are dark, this one is perhaps the darkest. The judges said: “This story opens up a world of possibilities, and I enjoyed imagining how it might play out were the story to go on. What has happened to this street? Did the change happen gradually, or overnight? Is the author being literal or figurative? Much to think about!” Bravo, Muhammad – a really successful use of your six words!
We also have five other entrants that made the shortlist, all of whom will be receiving a book prize and certificate in the post. So, in no particular order, here they are with some of our First Story team’s reflections on them:
This entry gives me all the feels. It’s a perfect meditation on loss and separation that so many people can connect to. The significance of a simple card with no one to send it to, but for what reason we are left to imagine. A beautiful and poignant entry that is the perfect riff on Hemmingway’s original six-word story.
The use of the two simple sentences together is effective and straight-talking, especially when teamed up with the abstract noun ‘racism’ which is named as the perpetrator. It almost personifies racism as a criminal vicious enough to suffocate someone in cold blood. This entry really captures the horror of what the world witnessed in May 2020.
From one rather American tragedy to another waiting to unfold, this short story says everything it needs to about the dangers of gun ownership. The use of ellipsis is very skilful, as it almost mimics someone holding their breath as they see a child approaching a deadly weapon. The complex stacking of adjectives in the first part juxtaposes nicely with the simplicity of the second part, as it focuses all out attention on what may about to be a victim of an awful accident.
We don’t know what this young writer was thinking when they wrote this, but it’s hilarious and a much-needed bit of light relief. The story is fun and playful. Is it literal? Is there literally a girl in a trifle? And why is that rude? It’s brilliant how cheeky and absurd this entry is. Great work Ellis!
Again, another bit of social commentary in just six words. That sure takes some skill. This young writer wants to draw our attention to the destruction of the natural world caused by humans. The cold, clinical listing effect brings home just how many environmental problems we humans cause, and the brackets emphasise the flippancy with which we cause them – as if we consider them a mere afterthought. Great job, Alejandra!
…And that’s it! Another year, another Six-Word Story Competition comes to an end. Thank you so much to everyone who entered. We appreciate many of our young people will be having a tough time with home learning this academic year, and we are so grateful that they still managed to share their lovely words with us!
And if you didn’t get a chance to enter the 6-Word Story competition, don’t panic! First Story’s 100-Word Story Competition is now open, and we would very much encourage you to enter.