Can you write a whodunit in six words?

There are short stories. Then there are really short stories of only six words. Writers who can boil down a mystery into a half-dozen words are encouraged to enter the fifth annual Six-Word Mystery Contest sponsored by the Rocky Mountain Chapter of Mystery Writers of America (RMMWA).


The contest opens September 1, 2021 with instructions posted here at Entries must be received by midnight, Oct. 8, 2021, MST. Six-word “whodunits” can be entered in one or all five of the following categories: Hard Boiled or Noir; Cozy Mystery; Thriller Mystery; Police Procedural Mystery; and/or a mystery with Romance or Lust. The Six-Word Mystery Contest is open to all adults 18 and over. No residency requirements.



Award-winning author and RMMWA Chapter President Margaret Mizushima said, “Follow the tradition set by Hemingway in the 1920s with your own boiled-down intriguing mystery, written in just six words and be judged by professional writers, editors, and agents. Writers from across the nation as well as Europe, Asia and Australia have entered our previous contests. We’re excited to see what big and fun story ideas are revealed this year.”


Last year’s overall winning entry from the romance/lust category was written by Sue Hinkin: “Smooth talking lothario found tongue tied.” Another previous contestant, Kathleen O’Brien, said her entry landed her a literary agent.

Read all past the finalist and winning entries here.

This year’s esteemed judges include Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine Editor Linda Landrigan; New York Timesbest-selling author Anne Hillerman; award-winning author, lawyer and activist Manuel Ramos; literary agent Terrie Wolf, owner of AKA Literary Management; and John Charles of the Poisoned Pen Bookstore in Scottsdale, AZ.


The contest entry fee is $6 for one entry (just $1 per word); or $10 to enter six-word mysteries in all five categories. The grand prize winner will receive $100 in cold, hard cash. Winners in all other categories will receive $25 gift certificates, and all winners and finalists will be featured in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, on our RMMWA website, and in our popular monthly newsletter, Deadlines.


Participants will be invited to the chapter’s annual Mystery & Mistletoe Holiday Party, which will be held live and on Zoom in December.


According to legend, the first six-word novel was born in the 1920s when Ernest Hemingway at New York’s Algonquin Hotel or Luchow’s restaurant (depending on whom you ask) won a $10 bet by writing a six-word story. His dark and dramatic submission was: “For sale: Baby shoes. Never worn.” Urban legend or no, memorable, heart-breaking, and sublime six-word stories have been penned ever since.