What’s your Six Word Story?


How writing a few words can create an epic

This simple exercise is fun, practical and makes people much better writers.

Small can pack a punch. A few words can distill a story as big as Alaska into the same potency as your granny’s perfume.

I teach people how to write. This is one exercise that’s fun, practical and makes people much better writers.

It’s called the six word memoir.

Perhaps the most famous six word memoir is by Ernest Hemingway who, after being challenged to write one, wrote these powerful words:

For sale: baby shoes, never worn.

There’s no doubt there’s drama and intrigue here and in just a few words there’s a beginning, a middle and an end. Which is brilliant because it shows just how important and how effective structure is in all writing, whether it’s six or six thousand words.

Here are some more examples:

About the news: World shaken like a snow globe.

About life’s luxuries: French chocolate cake. Life made better?

About skills: Writing the shit out of everything.

As you can see, you can play about a lot with tone in six words.

Polishing the diamond

Six word memoirs also show that an audience can be engaged in a short time with the right words, and – this is the important bit – that good writing requires rigorous editing. When you try this exercise you’ll see what I mean as you start to chip and chisel away at your words.

Contrary to what you might think, it’s the editing that requires the toil and patience to craft and polish your writing. More time is spent on shaping structure and playing about with your words than actually writing them.

Editing takes time. And six word memoirs are perfect practice.

Cleaning your shoes

The six word memoir is like keeping your shoes in tip top condition and helps you put your best foot forward and make a good impression.

Here are just three ways this technique can help you professionally and personally:

Got a report to prepare? It crystallizes an objective in simple, clear language. Your six words can work wonders for your audience and quickly let them know the purpose of the project.

Updating your social media? Your profile announces who you are, what you do and the difference you make. And you’ve a limited space in which to say this which means being adept at using a few words to say a lot.

Writing a covering letter and job application? Like social media, you’ve a limited amount of time to make an impression. An impression that sends a message and says, “Hey, you’ll want to continue reading this because these first few words I’ve written are the bee’s knees and you want more.”

So, think about the situations where you write: at work, on social media and in representing yourself to your existing and new networks.

What’s your six word story? I’d love to know.

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