Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Can You Tell a Story in 6 words?

Image result for Ernest HemingwayImage result for Ernest Hemingway
Ernest Hemingway young and old

Ernest (Pappa) Hemingway was famous for his economy with words, which he turned into his own iconic style.

He often said that a story should be like an iceberg, with most of the story beneath the surface. At one point he put it, "If a writer knows enough about what he is writing about, he may omit things that he knows. The dignity of movement of an iceberg is due to only one ninth of it being above water."

Of course, Hemingway said a lot of things, some of them insightful, "Cowardice... is almost always simply a lack of ability to suspend functioning of the imagination," and some of them prescient, "There is no lonelier man in death, except the suicide, than that man who has lived many years with a good wife and then outlived her. If two people love each other there can be no happy end to it."

Hemingway was allegedly once challenged to tell a story in 6 words and came up with, "Baby shoes for sale, never worn." He allegedly proclaimed it was the greatest story he ever wrote.

I've never been a big fan of the super-short story, but then again, I've never been accused of having "an economy with words," despite having penned a few terrible attempts at the mythological 6-word story, like;

"Lost keys, locked house," and "Boat sinks, 6 onboard...toddler survives" and my favorite, "I'm a dick, so are you"...which isn't so much of a "story," but a misguided attempt some Confucian humor.

While I DID very much like A Farewell to Arms and The snows of Kilimanjaro (and a few other Hemingway offerings, like A Clean Well Lighted Place and A Way You'll Never Be), BUT I think that (1) his journalistic styled economy with words (in his day, journalists conserved words to send stories across the new Trans-Atlantic Cable) has inspired every modern-day "journalist" to consider (or ill-consider) him/herself to be a "gifted novelist" at heart AND (2) That "economy with words” DID often eviscerate much of the prose that once made great writing...well, GREAT!

No comments:

American Ideas Click Here!