Summarize your story to find your focus
“If you can’t summarize your story on the back of my business card, you don’t have a clear story idea.”
— R.S. Musser, professor of journalism at the University of Kansas
Decades after Ernest Hemingway famously crafted a six-word story — “For sale. Baby shoes. Never worn.” — to settle a bet, the six-word story format has taken off:
- SMITH calls for six-word memoirs.
- The Harvard Business Review suggests summing up your leadership style in six words.
- sixwordstories.net is dedicated to publishing prose in six words. (Some are almost unbearably compelling: “Family’s tears hurt more than chemo.”)
- Harper has published Not Quite What I Was Planning: Six Word Memoirs by Writers Famous and Obscure.
When my speaker e-zine announced a six-word speech contest, I had to wonder whether the six-word format had jumped the shark. Still, boiling your bigger piece down to six words is a great way to find your focus.
Can you summarize your angle in five words or less? If so, you’ve got an idea.