In today’s Journal
* Quotes of the Day
* Some More Thoughts on Ernest Hemingway
* You Can’t Make This Shup
* Of Interest
Quotes of the Day
“Ernest Hemingway’s signature style broke the mold. His short, declarative sentences, intentional repetition, and general absence of adjectives were a departure from the style of every previous novelist.” Jessica Leader
“It’s hard to imagine a writer who hasn’t been affected by him. He changed the furniture in the room.” Author Tobias Wolff
“It is enough that the people know there was an election. The people who cast the votes decide nothing. The people who count the votes decide everything.” Joseph Stalin
“Ideas are more powerful than guns. We would not let our enemies have guns, why should we let them have ideas.” Joseph Stalin
Some More Thoughts on Ernest Hemingway
I don’t think Ernest Hemingway wrote into the dark, not that it matters. I’ve heard others whom I respect say that he did, but I don’t believe it. His output wasn’t large enough for one thing. But more importantly, much of what he wrote wasn’t even fiction. More than anything, I believe, he engaged in reportáge.
Certainly he wrote some fiction, most notably The Old Man and the Sea, For Whom the Bell Tolls, and some of his short stories. I’m certain he himself never actually lived those two experiences, at least not to the extent that the characters lived them, and I’m almost certain he wasn’t the “Nick” in the diner when the two killers came in in the short story “The Killers.”
But mostly he wrote memoir in both his long and short fictions, although he certainly fictionalized the names of most of the characters.
That said, I see nothing wrong with it. A story is a story is a story. Writing fiction is a way of remembering something that hasn’t happened yet. As I used to tell students in my seminars, even memoir is more akin to fiction than nonfiction because it’s how only one person remembers an event or a series of events.
If you don’t believe me, write a memoir about an event in your childhood, then send it around to your siblings. They will quickly point out where you “erred,” which means where you remembered something in a different way than they remembered it.
Neither of you is wrong, of course. You simply remember the same event differently, having experienced it from a different perspective.
I can almost hear some of you wanting to say “But a memoir is of an event or series of events that actually happened.” You’re right, of course. And so is a fiction an event or series of events that actually happened, at least to the characters who lived it.
But I digress. There is still a difference between fiction and memoir, slight though it may be. Parts of Hemingway’s memoirs were fictionalized, maybe to take the memory in a direction in which perhaps he wished it would have gone. Or more likely, maybe just to enhance the story.
Hemingway’s contemporaries (and therefore his literary rivals) were the likes of William Faulkner, John Dos Passos, Gertrude Stein, and F. Scott Fitzgerald among many, many others.
But whereas those great novelists were writing fiction informed to one degree or another by their own lives, prejudices and observations, Hemingway mostly wrote the events of his life. The biggest fictions in most of his stories and novels were the names of the characters.
A Short Story Memoir
I became interested in exploring Hemingway all over again because yesterday I wrote a short story memoir—a combination of the two forms—and I had an epiphany.
And yes, before you ask, I still wrote that story memoir into the dark. I didn’t plot or plan anything or even devise where or when to insert memories of actual events. They just popped in where the characters wanted them.
I also decided not to publish the story until after it appears as a story of the week. Yesterday I went through my files. I formatted and uploaded all of my unpublished stories to HarveyStanbroughWrites.com as pre-scheduled posts, then uploaded the same stories to release from my StanbroughWrites substack 15 minutes after they go live on the website.
The story memoir, “Ten Tight Indians,” is currently scheduled to post on June 17, both at StanbroughWrites and on the Substack account by the same name, so you’ll see it then.
Anyway, the epiphany—as I finished that short story memoir, it occurred to me that many if not most of Hemingway’s “fictional” works were that same hybrid form.
To me, that’s fascinating, especially because I teach that even when writing “pure fiction” the writer’s only job is to “report” the story as it’s unfolding. And as I’ve mentioned before, even Stephen King agrees. He calls himself his characters’ stenographer.
As an aside, my novel Confessions of a Professional Psychopath was also a hybrid. It was roughly one-third memoir and two-thirds fiction. But unlike yesterday’s short story memoir, which I intentionally set out to write in that form, I wrote Confessions without realizing that’s what I was doing.
But the great writer’s primary legacy isn’t even what he wrote but how he wrote it, his bare-bones, straightforward style. And at least some folks believe that style actually was pioneered by a writer named Ellen N. La Motte (see “Of Interest”). Regardless, La Motte and Hemingway were still different writers, and therefore would have delivered that style in different ways.
As I mentioned recently, I strongly recommend reading The Complete Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway: The Finca Vigia Edition. (The new paperback is actually less expensive than the Kindle edition.)
After that, I recommend reading all of his novels (there are only 10) and all of his nonfictions, of which there are only 9, including Ernest Hemingway on Writing. At the moment, that paperback is also less expensive than the Kindle edition.
I’ll end this awkward essay with Hemingway’s 4 Rules for Writing Well:
1. Use short sentences.
2. Use short first paragraphs.
3. Use vigorous English.
4. Be positive, not negative.
I will immediately add that Hemingway himself often broke rules 1 and 2. But I also assert that those two are the benchmarks of his style, the techniques that so vividly flavor his works.
I have to note also that in addition to the overall story, Hemingway focused on perfecting individual sentences. One of his more famous bits of advice is, “All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.”
Focusing on the sentence level is not something most writers would be able to do well, if at all, and still manage to write a smooth, cohesive story into the dark. If you want to try it, more power to you, but don’t let it drag open a door through which your conscious, critical mind can enter. If you have to choose, focus on Story and let the sentences take care of themselves.
You Can’t Make This Shup
See the article, “Does ChatGPT produce fishy briefs?” in which ChatGPT is prompted to produce legal briefs regarding the California Court of Appeal, Third District, decision that “bumblebees are in fact ‘fish’ because they’re invertebrates.” You know, like all other fish.
Okay. Well, that’s California for you. Actually, bees don’t have a spine because they have an exoskeleton. You know, like most other insects. One would think that wouldn’t be difficult to understand even in California.
Talk with you again soon.
See “Did a censored female writer inspire Hemingway’s famous style?” at https://theconversation.com/did-a-censored-female-writer-inspire-hemingways-famous-style-113722. About Ellen N. La Motte. She “wrote a collection of interrelated stories titled The Backwash of War.” I bought the collection, and I can hardly wait to read them.
See “Elisa Lam’s Ghastly Death at the Notorious Cecil Hotel in L.A.” at http://dyingwords.net/elisa-lams-ghastly-death-at-the-notorious-cecil-hotel-in-l-a/.
The Journal…………………………………… 1300 words
Writing of “Five Tight Indians” (memoir/story)
Day 1…… 4862 words. Total words to date…… 4862 Done
Writing of Wes Crowley: Deputy US Marshal 2 (WCG9SF4)
Day 1…… 3231 words. Total words to date…… 3231
Day 2…… 2990 words. Total words to date…… 6221
Day 3…… 1805 words. Total words to date…… 8026
Day 4…… 2025 words. Total words to date…… 10051
Total fiction words for February……… 5951
Total fiction words for 2023………… 52824
Total nonfiction words for February… 20050
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 40400
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 93224
Calendar Year 2023 Novels to Date…………………… 1
Calendar Year 2023 Novellas to Date……………… 0
Calendar Year 2023 Short Stories to Date… 0
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)…………………………………… 72
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)………………………………… 8
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)………………… 217
Short story collections……………………………………………… 31
Disclaimer: Because It Makes Sense, I preach trusting your characters to tell the story that they, not you, are living. Duh. See My Best Advice for Fiction Writers at https://hestanbrough.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/12/My-Best-Advice-for-Fiction-Writers.pdf.