In today’s Journal
* Quotes of the Day
* 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 email@example.com.
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:
https://archive.org/details/backwash_of_war_2006_librivox.” So there you go. Thanks, Mark.
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 https://www.thepassivevoice.com/is-it-time-to-hit-the-pause-button-on-ai/.
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.
See “Your Favorite?” at https://deanwesleysmith.com/your-favorite/.
See “How to Get Emotion on the Page: 2 Most Critical Tactics” at https://www.thepassivevoice.com/how-to-get-emotion-on-the-page-2-most-critical-tactics/. A pretty good post.
See “3D printing living cells inside human body becomes a reality” at https://interestingengineering.com/health/3d-printing-living-cells-human-reality.
See “Scratching the Surface” at https://killzoneblog.com/2023/03/scratching-the-surface.html. Nostalgic and interesting.
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 https://hestanbrough.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/12/My-Best-Advice-for-Fiction-Writers.pdf.