Why Less Is More When It Comes To Storytelling

20th October 2016 by Sophy Norris

Ernest Hemingway was once bet ten dollars that he could not write a short story which would make people cry – using only six words. Hemingway responded with the following:

‘For sale: Baby’s shoes. Never worn’

Needless to say, he won the bet (and promptly took the ten dollars off to the nearest bar).

Storytelling is bang on trend in the world of Marketing and PR right now. Good storytellers are in high demand, and engaging with consumers via a compelling narrative is very much the gold at the end of the rainbow. But how does one create an effective tale? And how much detail, exactly, does a story-spinner have to go into?

Some would argue that Hemingway’s six word epic isn’t exactly a ‘story’. It’s not going deeply into character, motivation, plot and all the rest of that great stuff you’re taught in creative writing classes. It doesn’t have a beginning, a middle, and an end. Or does it? The thing about this ‘story’ is that the reader effectively writes it themselves. Good storytelling is as much about what the writer leaves out as it is about what they put in. The author is, after all, dead. Everyone brings their own interpretations to a narrative – and the more scope they have to do this, the more (arguably) they’ll connect with the story itself. Why? Because, being informed by their own experience, it speaks to their own experience – and nothing speaks louder to individuals than what they tell themselves!

The same absolutely applies to a business narrative. Short, snappy, and intuitive is where it’s at. If you bore the customer with lengthy explanations, they’re not going to stick around for the ‘conclusion’ of your story! Instead, give them an outline, and an impression, and let them fill in the rest. Humans like to work out the shape and pattern of things. We like to put interpretations in place. Witness all that recent palaver about youtuber Marina Joyce who was – according to fairly scanty ‘clues’ dug up by her fans – variously the victim of abuse, had been kidnapped, was implicated in an ISIS terror plot, and was dead. In this case, the issue wasn’t even that ‘less is more’ – it was that the story wasn’t even there in the first place.

But that doesn’t matter when the storytelling powers of the consumer get to work! You, too, can utilize this consumer storytelling energy (hopefully more positively…) by paring down your business narratives to bare, well-crafted impressions.

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