Legendary American novelist Ernest Hemingway, author of The Sun Also Rises, For Whom the Bell Tolls, A Farewell to Arms and many other classics of American literature was having lunch with friends Hemingway’s writing was known for its clipped, short sentences where no word was ever wasted. His friends should have been cautious when he bet them each $10 that he could write a complete story in six words.
When all the money was on the table, the author passed around a napkin on which he had written: Baby shoes for sale. Never worn.
He collected his winnings and the incident added another piece to the puzzle that was Hemingway’s troubled life. (He committed suicide in 1961.)
Thesix words story idea
Soon the idea caught on and a story in six words became known as flash fiction. Business and marketing experts picked up on the idea and began using the technique as a way to encapsulate the idea of a brand or a product in the least number of words.
Imagine you’re the product. What six-word story would you tell about yourself that would make someone interested in hiring you? Or, if you’re in business, which words would encourage customers to give you a try?
To get you in the mood, here are some famous brand stories told in six words or less:
- A diamond is for ever. (De Beers Group)
- Have a break. Have a KitKat. (KitKat chocolate bar)
- It gives you wiiings. (Red Bull)
- Probably the best beer in the world. (Carlsberg)
- For everything else, there’s Mastercard. (Mastercard credit card)
- Keeps going and going and going. (Energizer batteries)
- American by birth. Rebel by choice. (Harley Davidson)
- Quality never goes out of style. (Levis)
Forcing yourself to offer a complete view of something or someone in so few words is a good discipline to adopt when writing any kind of business communication.
Note: Hemingway’s claim to the baby shoes story has been extensively published but never fully substantiated.