Stories happen in the listeners’ heads

There’s a story about Ernest Hemingway.

Ernest Hemingway is in a bar with a bunch of other writers. They make a little bet with each other.

They say, “How many words do you need to tell a story?”

One of the writers, he says he can tell a story in 10 words. Another writer says, “I can tell a story in 9 words.” Somebody else says, “I can tell a story in 8 words,” Somebody else says, “I can tell a story in 7 words.”

Ernest Hemingway says, “I can tell a story in 6 words,” so there’s silence at the table.

What is that story? He says, “For sale, baby shoes. Never worn.”

Now take a beat to imagine what that might mean.

Notice that that story did not take shape until it had some time to rattle around in your head. When it first started, it had no action, no movement, no life of its own. It only took shape, it only took life, in your head.

Stories don’t take life when you tell them. They take life in the heads of your listeners.

Related Posts

Slides are a crutch

Slides are a crutch

It was the most important presentation of her life. Not just of HER life. Of the lives of every single one of the people who worked for her, too. After all, their jobs at her company were how they put food on the table to feed their children. But they weren't going to...

Don’t feed the monster

Don’t feed the monster

Don't feed the monster. Kill it. You don't need prettier slides. You don't need fancy animations or most of the bells and whistles that are built into PowerPoint. You probably don't need to spend hours and hours preparing, if you're already an expert on the subject....

You don’t need more noise

You don’t need more noise

Slides are noise. There are 30 million new slides made every day. No one wakes up in the morning and says, "You know what I need more of in my life? PowerPoint slides." What the world needs more of is the ability to take a one-hour idea and crush it down into 3 or 4...