What are micro stories?
Micro stories are miniature stories that you can tell in a surprisingly few number of words. Micro stories show up as a single word, couple of words, or a short phrase.
Clearly, these aren’t just short or condensed stories. They need to express an entire concept and feeling within just a few syllables.
the 2-word micro story
| “Successfully kickstarted”
Before we even break this down, you probably already have a general idea of what this might mean. Maybe, you even have a visual in your mind.
If a business owner tells you he “successfully kickstarted” his latest product, you can probably infer the following:
There is a vested interest in this product of his
This business owner knows how to market his products
The product has a perceived value that is equal to its actual price point
The business has made a return on investment from this process
Now, we do we know all of this 👆 just from two words?
Because we have a shared understanding of these two words and how they fit together to create a new meaning.
Let’s break down the definitions:
/səkˈsesfəlē/ | adverb
In a way that accomplishes a desired aim or result.
/ˈkikˌstärt/ | verb
Provide the initial impetus to start.
Now, of course, there’s another definition for “kickstarted” because this is a brand name as well:
/ˈkikˌstärtər/ | noun
A crowd-funding platform that enables individuals and businesses to raise funds in an attempt to turn a project idea into a complete product or experience.
Clearly, we can totally go down the rabbit hole with definitions for things like ‘crowd-funding’, ‘impetus’, and ‘accomplishes’ to get even more specific, but I think you get the idea here.
Jam-packed into these two words is a wealth of ideas that we bridge together to create a new meaning. The result is a micro story.
The Tagline micro story
The idea of proposing without a diamond is not only a rare occurrence, but for some, it’s downright ludicrous.
All thanks to some well-written copy and an excellent advertising campaign.
A century ago, nobody proposed with a diamond. Men were asking for the hand of their beloved with a love knot or a simple wedding band. If any stone was present at all, it was far more likely to be an emerald or ruby, than a diamond.
But all that changed with one simple tagline.
“A Diamond is forever”
The jeweler, DeBeers, worked with a NY advertising agency to invent the notion that diamonds are rare, eternal, and synonymous with romance — all with this simple and elegant tagline.
The phrase itself starts with the word “a”, as in just one. You only need one diamond for this proposal, because you’ll only have one marriage. And therefore the investment is worthwhile and more meaningful.
Of course, the word “forever” calls to mind the romantic connotations associated with the marriage vows a couple takes on their wedding day.
The use of present tense “is” also implies the endlessness of the diamond and what it came to represent — true love.
Embedded into these four words is a concept that has become embedded into our culture of love and marriage, and it has revolutionized the wedding industry.
the hashtag micro story
Just like a single word or short phrase can tell a story, so, too, can a hashtag!
Think about the most popular hashtags you’ve seen or that you use. They tend to embody a movement, emotion, or story, right?
Let’s think back (way back!) to what a hashtag did when it was first introduced to the world and became the twitter-charged superpower that it is today.
A hashtag was a form of metatag that programmers and website nerds (myself, included) could use to label messages based on a specific theme or content. What is a story if not a themed piece of content?
There are so many examples of story-based hashtags, but one of my favorites is #CupforBen. Here’s the whole story:
“The hashtag that touched the world. Ben, who suffers from severe autism, had been drinking from the same blue Tommee Tippee cup since he was two years old.
Refusing to drink out of anything else, Ben once went for 120 hours without liquid and ended up hospitalised with severe dehydration.
When the cups were then discontinued, his dad, Marc desperately tweeted a picture, appealing to people who may have a spare!
Marc managed to find Ben another cup and after going viral, Tommee Tippee agreed to find the original cast and make a batch of 1,000 cups, just for Ben!” — Web Bureau
As you can tell #CupforBen doesn’t tell you the whole story. Instead, it creates a summary of the story, expressing a single theme.
The use of “for” between “cup (the object) and “Ben” (the subject) indicates possession through the process of gifting. We know that the goal of this hashtag is centered around Ben getting or having a cup.
As naturally curious humans, we want to know more. Does Ben already have a cup? Does he need a cup? What kind of cup is it? Why is this special?
Hashtags are micro stories because they give us just enough information to want to know the whole story — requiring us to engage with that hashtag.
Why you should use micro stories in your copy
You’ve probably noticed that a micro story won’t tell your reader everything.
Even in the “successfully kickstarted” example, we don’t have a complete picture of what went down and how. The same is true for the #CupforBen hashtag.
Micro stories aren’t meant to express every detail.
Instead, they’re best sprinkled into a larger context to create intrigue and capture an emotion that will both engage and inform your reader.
Use micro stories to enhance a message you’re already writing, and consider how stringing together two (or more) words and their definitions can create a new meaning altogether.
Can you think of any micro stories you’ve seen or created?