Single themes

When you think back to all the books you’re read over the years, and all the movies you’ve seen…which ones to do you remember best?

The stories that stayed with me are those that offered a single theme or a single goal Every chapter or theme built on to that single premise.

Stories that quickly come to mind or Aesop’s “Tortoise and Hare,” Dickens’ “Christmas Carol,” and Twain’s “Celebrated Jumping Frog.”

Aesop’s story is about a race; Dickens’ tale is about mending one’s ways; Twain’s tale is about a contest.

Today, whenever I sit down to write I ask myself two questions: (1) What is the focus of this story? and (2) What conclusion do I want the reader to draw from it?

Biography as a resume’?

Sure, I think a three or four-sentence biography can work as an addition to a regular resume’. It’s one more way to introduce yourself, or briefly discuss your expertise.

When I’m asked to write for a newspaper or magazine, I often include a very brief bio at the end of the article. But in that case, I don’t include details of my entire professional life.

Instead, I simply detail what qualifies me to write about the particular subject discussed in the article. And if it is for a professional magazine, I often include my e-mail if a reader would like more information on the technical subject I discussed.

PLEASE E-MAIL ME if you’ve got other ideas for an ultra-short biography. Then, with your permission, I’ll include it in this blog. My e-mail is

Question-Answer features

These fillers have been around print products almost as long as publications have existed. Why?

Some experts speculate that it’s hard for a reader to see any group of words that ends in a question mark without looking at the next sentence. And as you know, advice columns have long been popular in newspapers and magazines.

Of course, you could write an advice feature, or a series of them. If you’re an interior decorator, many people may already be asking you for advice. So creating a regular column in your local media could be a great way to attract even more clients.

Or — for a stand-alone story — you might begin your feature with an intriguing headline. Example: “What is today’s most popular lamp style?”

Take a look at Rix’s new book: How to Sell Ideas With the Minute Message

Write your Minute Bio today!

A friend whose parents recently died told me she wished she’d ask them more questions about their early lives.

“They grew up during the Depression,” she said, “and struggled hard just to give their children a better life. I do wish they’d written something down, so we kids would know more about the schools they attended, and the early jobs they had.”

No matter what your age, you can begin writing a “mini-biography,” a 200 to 500-word story of your life thus far. It’s something you can gift to children, grandchildren, and friends who’ve helped you along the way.

Don’t worry getting off to the perfect start. Just start writing down what you remember. You can move paragraphs around later.

Answer these questions to help you get started: What’s the greatest day of your life? What’s the first memory you have? What do you remember about elementary school? What do you like most about your career?

Take a look at Rix’s new book: How to Sell Ideas With the Minute Message

Repeat performance

Imagine yourself in an elevator. As you step aboard, you hear some old song. When the door opens again, and you walk out singing it.

Why is this? Maybe because (1) it’s simple, (2) the chorus repeats, and (3) it either surprises you, or tells you a memorable story.

Now, think back to some of humankind’s “greatest hits”…the timeless messages people repeat to one another. Want examples?

Edgar Allan Poe’s enthralling poem “The Raven” ends several stanzas with the line “Quoth the raven, ‘Nevermore.'” Or listen to some radio commercials, and hear how many repeat a phone number or web site.

Repetition can build memorability. But…I’m repeating myself, right?

Got a question for Rix? E-mail him at

What are thumbnail biographies?

  • As a trade magazine editor for about 20 years, I wrote “thumbnail” biographies.
  • Most of the thumbnails I wrote were about 200-250 words, and usually discussed a person who had either invented a new product or been named to leadership of a company. Here’s the format I followed:
  • = Primary information — I began with a sentence highlighting the individual’s name, plus his/her discovery or new position. Example: “David Author created the Paragraph Link System to help students write better, and the concept has now been purchased by a national organization.”
  • = Background — This offers reasons the inventor created a product, or details the jobs a person held prior to the position described in this story.
  • = Future — How has the inventor changed the industry, or what are the new executive’s plans?
  • = Contact info — Provides whom the reader can call or e-mail for more information on the subject.
  • Look to your left…subscribe to the Quinn Minute blog today.

Turn on your radio…

Question: Where can you find examples of captivating, brief writing?

The best place to hear powerful writing is on radio. Sure, music, talk, and interview shows abound. But next time you listen, pay special attention to the advertisements.

Here’s the reason. To be effective, a radio message must make strong, instant impressions. It can reach only your sense of hearing. It cannot be reinforced by a vivid photo, an inviting smell, or by touch or taste.

Good radio writing engages you immediately. Even if you don’t write for radio, we encourage you to pretend that you do. The best wordsmiths don’t fear their words being spoken. Accomplished writers in pre-radio times knew the power of sound. Says Abraham Lincoln scholar Charles Strozier, “Lincoln wrote to be read aloud.”

Rix Quinn’s new e-book:

10 ways to make a point in 1 minute

If you believe – as I do – that a one minute (or shorter) message is the wave of the future, how can you send an effective one? Here are ten brief thoughts:

1. SINGLE THEME – Stick to one main point, and reveal it at the first of the message. If you’ve got two or three points to make, stress the most important first…and use the others as supporting points.

2. AGE – There’s some research that claims the younger the audience, the shorter message it wants. Reason? Folks under 35 are used to receiving information in brief form.

3. MINI-PARAGRAPHS – Because people on-the-go want briefer messages, they likely want short sentences and short paragraphs too. Consider paragraphs of three sentences or less.

4. NEED IDEAS? – I think the best messages are radio commercials. Listen to how well they create images — and motivate listeners — in one minute or less.

5. EXPERT ADVICE – Most folks want – and pay attention to -advice from experts.

6. CURRENT EVENTS – Can you link your feature with a current event or popular trend?

7. PROGNOSTICATOR – Does your story predict the future of an event or industry?

8. FAMOUS QUOTE – Does a famous quote – or quote by a famous person — add emphasis to your story?

9. HEADLINE HINT – Don’t write your headline until you’ve finished writing your story. It’s easier to make the headline summarize the story than it is to write a headline, then write the story to fit it.

10. POPULAR HEADLINES – In our experience, the two most popular headlines are those that (a) ask a question or (b) present a list…like the story you’re reading now.

Rix Quinn’s new e-book:

Best samples of 1 minute writing?

During each day, you’re likely to hear dozens of 200-word writing examples. Where might those ideas come from?

Radio and TV commercials are generally under 200 words, yet they tell a complete story. Single panel cartoons are only a few words. Cartoons strips are also very short.

Jokes are often brief. Sometimes they are just a set-up sentence and a punch line. Others tell a brief story that offers a surprise ending.

How about e-mailings? Each day I receive at least one very good, brief e-mail message!

What’s the best one-minute writing you’ve seen? If you’ll e-mail it to me I’ll print it in this blog, and give you credit by name! Good writing is a community process. We can all help each other. Send your ideas to me at

See Rix’s new e-book “How to Sell Ideas with the Minute Message.”