Story Ideas Abound

In today’s Journal

* Quotes of the Day
* Welcome
* LaMotte vs. Hemingway
* Comment Policy
* Story Ideas Abound
* Stay Tuned
* Of Interest

Quotes of the Day

“When he could stand it no longer, he fired a revolver up through the roof of his mouth, but he made a mess of it.” Ellen N. LaMotte, opening sentence of “Heroes” from The Backwash of War

“The strange thing was, he said, how they screamed every night at midnight.” Ernest Hemingway, opening sentence from “On the Quay at Smyrna”

“That night we lay on the floor in the room and I listened to the silk-worms eating.” Ernest Hemingway, opening sentence from “Now I Lay Me”

“Of the three wingback chairs in my library, only one is upholstered in human skin. There’s a reason for that.” Charles Claymore Task in Confessions of a Professional Psychopath

Welcome to all new subscribers. If I can do anything to help with your writing or publishing, feel free to email me at

LaMotte vs. Hemingway

A few days ago I linked in “Of Interest” to a post by Cynthia Wachtell in which she posited that Ellen N. LaMotte “wrote like Hemingway before Hemingway.” I bought her only collection of short stories, The Backwash of War, and read it today.

In 6×9 trade paperback, The Backwash of War contains an Introduction and 13 short stories that run through 69 pages. From what I can tell, that is the extent of her fiction writing: approximately 400 words per page and approximately 70 pages for an estimated 28,000 words.

To be sure, LaMotte’s writing is spare, but it wouldn’t be difficult to maintain a “spare” writing style through 28,000 words. That said, LaMotte’s writing doesn’t resonate the way Hemingway’s does either. His writing is spare but full. Ms. LaMotte’s is spare but thin. It omits a lot that might be useful to know.

Then again, I’m painfully aware that I’m comparing apples and orange crates. LaMotte was a nurse, not a professional writer, so any liability in the comparison between her and Hemingway should be borne by Ms. Wachtell, not Ms. LaMotte.

Opening sentences—hooks—are all-important to fiction. The one opening sentence I included in the Quotes of the Day above was one of the only two good “hooks” of the lot. The other, the opening line to “A Citation”—”As a person, Grammont amounted to very little”—was adequate to gain my interest but not as thorougly as the one I listed in the Quotes of the Day above.

In fact, the writing in all her stories was adequate to hold my interest, but only those two openings actually pulled me in from the opening sentence. From the standpoint of possibly studying LaMotte’s work for style, I was a little disappointed. After reading that first hook, I expected great hooks in the other dozen stories.

As to whether LaMotte’s stories influenced or informed Hemingway’s style, we have no way of knowing whether he ever read any of them. If he did, it is certainly possibly that her writing helped inform his style. After all, every writer’s style is informed to varying degrees by writers who came before them.

I recommend LaMotte’s stories. I do not recommend studying them for style unless you just want to. You’d be better served studying someone who has written in the same style over a much larger body of work. If you’re looking to write tight prose—and I should add, in English (not to demean or ignore any authors in other languages)—again I specifically recommend reading and studying Hemingway’s work.

So I don’t forget, Mark left a comment that read, in part, “I downloaded and listened to a public domain recording of Ellen Newbold La Motte’s The Backwash of War:” So there you go. Thanks, Mark.

Comment Policy

Unfortunately, I also deleted most of one comment and all of a second comment by another writer who wanted to convey his apparent pleasure with AI and “neural-generated plots.”

As I explain in detail in my Comment Policy, I will never let such comments through on this website. There are plenty of other sites out there (almost all of them) that will welcome comments praising construction, whether by the conscious, critical mind of a writer or a collective of writers or so-called artificial intelligence. This Journal will never be one of them.

Story Ideas Abound

Wow. If you want half a boatload of story ideas—action-adventure to mystery to crime to dystopia to time-travel and more—read “Is it time to hit the pause button on AI?” at

I recommend reading the excerpt at The Passive Voice so you can also see David Vandegriff’s (the Passive Guy’s) comment, but you might want to click through to the original post as well.

Stay tuned. Tomorrow, I’ll be back with one of two posts I’m preparing.

One is a post on your choices as a writer: You can write like a writer (create) or you can write like a critic (construct).

The other is titled “Going for an MFA?” Spoiler alert—I’ll recommend strongly against it and explain exactly why.

Talk with you again soon.

Of Interest

See “Your Favorite?” at

See “How to Get Emotion on the Page: 2 Most Critical Tactics” at A pretty good post.

See “3D printing living cells inside human body becomes a reality” at

See “Scratching the Surface” at Nostalgic and interesting.

The Numbers

The Journal…………………………………… 900 words

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 March……… XXXX
Total fiction words for 2023………… 52824
Total nonfiction words for March… 1570
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 42900
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 95724

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)………………………………… 9
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

9 thoughts on “Story Ideas Abound”

  1. Sadly, I didn’t explain what I posted. For me, AI generated plots and stuff looks fantastically dull (that I meant with my example). It’s like conversation with a person who speaks word salad: the more you talk, the less sence is in words, even if grammar structure is perfect. i.e. in my example AI just turned it into incest story: he needed a plot twist it just offered ‘make them siblings’.
    For me it’s nothing new or interesting in it. Anyone can find same stuff just asking it in Google and checking first page.
    Stephen King mentions in his “On Writing” “The Plot Wheel” by Edgar Wallace (who wrote a lot, but is remembered mostly by his last work: scenario for first King Kong movie) that worked almost the same without any AI. I’ve even spent some time researching it. This wheel looks like a fake, but there were “Plotto: The Master Book of All Plots” by William Wallace Cook that works the same way. Also there’re same “random character generators” in Internet, mostly based on AD&D games.
    The random world salad productivity isn’t new too. I remember reading in 5 years about an author, who just checked Quora for popular questions, then googled wikipedia pages, articles and blog posts about it, polished them by sinonymiser to cheat plaguiarism checker and posted it as self-help or how-to book on Amazon. He published about 500 books a year this way without any AI, just using Google and Wikipedia.

      • For me the greatest case of author’s voice that overcomes everything is case of Alexander Volkov (this guy
        Being a professort of applied math in a geological univercity, he translated in 1939 first book of “Wisard of Oz”. He published his own fiction and popular science books as well, so the style was perfect.
        After the war editors asked him for translation of another books. But Volkov read sequels and really felt sick about them. So, finally he decided to write HIS OWN sequels.
        He published “Urfin Joos and his Wooden Soldiers” in 1963, being 72 years old. And had written 4 more books in the series and 3 standalone historical novels during next 12 years, before he died.
        Critics still discuss, was it ok to use Baum’s world for such a fanfiction (USSR copyright laws were very vague). But Volkov’s sequels are still more popular then original Baum’s and they are completely different: much more complicated characters (angry magician Urfin Joos is one of greatest anti-heros I’ve read about), much more humor and even a mysterious introduction to last book by Scarecrow.

        • Here in the US, by definition “fanfiction” is not offered for sale. That’s probably the big difference. If Volkov published and sold those stories, he at least violated the ethics that one writer doesn’t play in another writer’s world without permission. And he did indeed violate the copyright of the author whether or not that was written in the laws of the country where he lived.

          • I’ve checked it – formally Volkov didn’t break any law. He wasn’t able to ask Baum for permission (Baum died at 1919) and world of Oz was in public domain since 1956. There were official sequels by Ruth Plumly Thompson and others as well, till Reilly & Lee cancelled series at 1954.

          • Works for me. It if was in the public domain, then it was fair game. I couldn’t personally do it, but to each his or her own.

  2. Uh, I won’t use AI. I tried and disliked it. It is funny, but I want to write my own stories. As for images… Well, I don’t know. I feel there are better ways. These are just good for play, nothing else. I just can’t get rid of the idea there will be more and more people wanting to use AI. And if they become more clever, they could be useful for some of them. But for me, I don’t want to let anything like that into my writing.
    I write from my creative side. I don’t construct. Even when I stop and need some rest before the very next sentence, and when I play along what might happen in the story, I don’t let the critical side enter into the writing process. I’m curious what you have to tell us about these two side of writing.
    And I am waiting for the MFA’s article, too. It sounds interesting.

    • Thanks, Balázs. The MFA article will post tomorrow, and the other one will post the day after that.

      The biggest problem would-be writers have is a lack of confidence. I’ve known confident, highly successful business people who, when faced with writing something as silly as a short story, freeze up and lose all confidence in themselves. It’s ridiculous. I’ll address that and many other issues over the next couple of days.

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