Why Flash Fiction is like Advertising

We’ve talked about how poetry helps your professional writing skills, but what about flash fiction and advertising? My favorite flash fiction of all time is attributed to Ernest Hemingway:

"Baby Shoes" Flash Fiction
“Baby Shoes” -Ernest Hemingway. Graphic courtesy of BuzzFeed.

I noticed that just like the punch line of a commercial, my sister and I reference this flash fiction a lot. (Although it usually sets off a round of tears rather than the chuckles that result from a funny commercial.) And as I was browsing through ads online, I realized that many advertisements reach for the same achievements that flash fiction does: They tell a story that makes you laugh or cry or just think—in as few words as possible. (Remember how much we all cried at last year’s Superbowl commercial with Budweiser’s horses and the yellow-lab puppy?)

Here’s another favorite:

"Daily Planner" flash fiction
“Why I Don’t Keep a Daily Planner” -Stace Budzko. Graphic courtesy of BuzzFeed.

In 15 words, I’m reminded of the suddenness of death and the importance of reconciling with loved ones. Just like in 30 seconds, a car commercial can make me think of how society is crumbling into relativism, even in sports. (Okay, maybe that’s too cynical. But you catch my drift)

So really, advertising is often just flash fiction with a product attached to the end. (Think: Many of the commercials we love don’t even include the product until the end (e.g., Monster’s first Superbowl ad).) It’s about subtlety, brevity, and the ability to sum up the heart of an issue in a matter of seconds.


If you want to see examples of unintentional flash fiction, check out PostSecret. The concept has incredible thrust. (Fair warning: This site is rated PG13.)

2 thoughts on “Why Flash Fiction is like Advertising

  1. This is such a cool post. Consider that the baby shoes for sale, never used is actually pretty benign. I’ve had two children and babies get tons of shoes and NEVER wear them. I’ve sold baby clothes and shoes that have never been worn. Instead of assuming the worst–assume the mundane :).

    • Thanks for the comment, Claire! I guess I never thought about how “Baby Shoes” could also be a little less depressing sounding. Perhaps it’s a commentary on how we spend too much money on clothing that we outgrow too quickly. 😉 Thanks again!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s