Flash fiction—that is, prose of extreme brevity—has a long line of roots that literary nerds (like us) can trace back as far as Aesop’s Fables. Modernist writers like Kafka were fans of it; so were H.P. Lovecraft, O. Henry and Kurt Vonnegut. But it was perhaps Hemingway that dazzled us with the flash-fiction concept in the 1920s when his friends bet him that he couldn’t write a complete story in six words. Whether or not it’s true, the story goes that his colleagues each dumped 10 bucks into a pot. If Hemingway’s story wooed them, he’d pocket the money. Once the money was pooled, he grabbed a napkin off the table and nonchalantly dashed off six words: For sale. Baby shoes. Never worn. Then he slid it across the table and collected what was due to him.
The story seems suspiciously mythological, but it’s still fun to think about—and more importantly, it’s an activity you can use in the classroom to help illustrate the rhetorical power of a strong, economical sentence/story/paragraph. To make flash fiction even more fun, you might try having them work with these 3 newspaper headline generator apps and share their results with the class.
The Newspaper Clipping Generator
This newspaper generator gives your students enough space to add, by my estimation, somewhere around 1000 characters. Your students can name their newspaper and give their story a headline and date. Once they’re done, they can download the image to their computer.
Your Good News
This one allows you to create a 35 character headline and a 675 word article. When you’re done, simply right click and save the image to your hard drive.
Image Chef is essentially a headline generator. There’s no room for body text, so this app would be best suited for the six-word story activity. Change the tint of your newspaper or add emoticons. Unlike the previous apps, Image Chef generates what is essentially a thumbnail image with a watermark (which you can crop off). If you want to generate larger images, simple “donate” $10 to their Paypal account.