If there’s anything upon which literary critics and general readers can agree when it comes to Hemingway, it is this: his use of language is what endures and influences more than any other attribute of his work. The Hemingway style — clipped, allusive, laconic and hard-boiled.
From the beginning of his writing career in the 1920s, Hemingway’s writing style occasioned a great deal of comment and controversy. Basically, a typical Hemingway novel or short story is written in simple, direct, unadorned prose. Possibly, the style developed because of his early journalistic training. The reality, however, is this: Before Hemingway began publishing his short stories and sketches, American writers affected British mannerisms. Adjectives piled on top of one another; adverbs tripped over each other. Colons clogged the flow of even short paragraphs, and the plethora of semicolons often caused readers to throw up their hands in exasperation. And then came Hemingway.
To get started, write one true sentence.
Sometimes when I was starting a new story and I could not get it going, I would stand and look out over the roofs of Paris and think, “Do not worry. You have always written before and you will write now. All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.” So finally I would write one true sentence, and then go on from there. It was easy then because there was always one true sentence that I knew or had seen or had heard someone say. If I started to write elaborately, or like someone introducing or presenting something, I found that I could cut that scrollwork or ornament out and throw it away and start with the first true simple declarative sentence I had written.
Don’t describe an emotion–make it.
Close observation of life is critical to good writing, said Hemingway. The key is to not only watch and listen closely to external events, but to also notice any emotion stirred in you by the events and then trace back and identify precisely what it was that caused the emotion. If you can identify the concrete action or sensation that caused the emotion and present it accurately and fully rounded in your story, your readers should feel the same emotion.
I have always loved reading but have always written in the truncated – hard boiled style of Hemmingway. Perhaps it is because I too started in journalism.
Perhaps that is why I enjoy reading F Scott Fitzgerald – the extravagence of his descriptions.
Perhaps I enjoy these writers as muses because I too feel but am…my own lost generation. Invisible.
Perhaps it is because I too have suffered from depression since the age of 15… and the first time I tried to kill myself. My father had died the year before and my mother was dying of cancer. Life was full of dead ends.
Perhaps it is because I have lived my life – as someone who observes the world, feels it deeply but always feels outside of the window to life.
Perhaps I love Bukowski because of this too.
Being an observer, out of the rhythm of ‘how life is suppose to be’, out of sync with the timing of things…
I endure; And read the writers who speak to my soul. Muses are important. They are friends and enemy’s all in one. They show how they may have done it, or faked it or lost it. One true sentence.
Remember your muses with kindness.