It is not any mystery that my favorite authors are Earnest Hemingway, Nathan Englander and George Orwell. Why do I love those writers more than I love other writers? I love them because they write in a way that allows me to be drawn into the world, where I can easily see the Ministry of Truth and Obrien’s face, that I can’t picture myself as Winston but I can see everything he is doing like I’m one of the people tasked with watching his telescreen feed.
What these writers do is they show us what is going on rather than tell.
Nathan Englander from The Tumblers
Mendel toasted her silently and, and after the blessing, sipped at his scotch, his first in so very long. He let its smoky flavor rise up and fill his head, hoping that if he drank slowly enough, if he let the scotch rest on his tongue long enough and roll gradually enough down his throat, then maybe he could cure his palate like the oak slats of a cask. Maybe then he could keep the warmth and the comfort with him for however much longer God might deem that they should survive.
George Orwell from 1984
He took down from the shelf a bottle of colorless liquid with a plain white label marked VICTORY GIN. It gave off a sickly, oily smell, as of a Chinese rice-spirit. Winston poured out nearly a teacupful, nerved himself for a shock, and gulped it down like a dose of medicine.
Earnest Hemingway from Hills like White Elephants
‘Would you please please please please please please please stop talking?’ [the girl said]
He did not say anything but looked at the bags against the wall of the station. There were labels on them from all the hotels where they had spent nights.
‘But I don’t want you to,’ he said, ‘I don’t care anything about it.’
‘I’ll scream,’ the girl said.
The woman came out through the curtains with two glasses of beer and put them down on the damp felt pads. ‘The train comes in five minutes,’ she said.
‘What did she say?’ asked the girl.
‘That the train is coming in five minutes.’
The girl smiled brightly at the woman, to thank her.
As you can see, they really go out of their way not to say anything directly to the reader. You can see from Englander that Mendel hasn’t had any scotch in so long and that he might not have eaten any food in a while also that he is savoring the drink because it might be particularly good scotch. And Orwell has Winston drinking some terribly disgusting gin that he doesn’t want to drink but seemingly needs to. Then there is for your review, Hemingway’s very famous Hills like White Elephants where you can see so many different problems going on with these two including the apparent age and maturity difference between the man and the ‘girl’ as well as their knowledge difference and the apparent change in language.
All of these passages are subtle. They don’t just throw out the information for you, it makes you a detective and places you actively in these stories and makes it into a story that you can read again and again.
Now as a contrast let us look at something from Twilight: New Moon.
I skipped breakfast, in a hurry to get out of the house as quickly as possible. I wasn’t entirely able to avoid my dad, and so I had to spend a few minutes acting cheerful. I honestly tried to be excited about the gifts I’d asked him not to get me, but every time I had to smile, it felt like I might start crying.
There are so many ways that she could have written this in order to show the reader that Bella is upset and wants to get away from her father rather than this. So many ways that I might just show you what I would do. Of course who am I to bash Stephanie Meyer apparently bad writing makes big bucks.
To compare lets check out Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finnwhich is written in the first person as is New Moon.
I didn’t answer up prompt. I tried to, but the words wouldn’t come. I tried for a second or two to brace up and out with it, but i warn’t man enought — hadn’t the spunk of a rabbit. i swee i was weakening; so i just gave up trying, and up and says:
Did you see the difference, how unlike the way Meyers just puts out how Bella is sad, Twain makes you work a little to realize that Huck is scared and nervous and trying to secure himself in the lie hes about to tell but Twain never just out and out says that he lets you picture it in your mind more.
So for the exercise:
You can try writing the paragraph above over into as many or as little paragraphs as you want. Or you could try the below situation with as little telling as possible.
A husband has just been fired but does not want to tell his wife but he comes home early. The wife has her lover upstairs but doesn’t want him to know about that either.
Try it and enjoy!
Will post my effort next Monday.
Also post your efforts and send a link so we can show the efforts of budding writers.
And remember buy from Amazon.com because Barnes and Nobel sucks.
In college, the classes I hated the most were ones that began with a scheduled amount of writing. Usually somewhere between 5 and 10 minutes each class time, it seemed so structured and I hated it. I hated it because for me, I felt that writing was like art, like a cool riff that people produce from nowhere. That writers would just walk down the street and suddenly be struck by the writing bug and sit down and write all 200 or so pages of a novel.
It never occurred to me that, Orwell and Hemingway did not have the ability to carry a typewriter with them. Moreover, even if they were just struck with an idea while walking down the road, they probably still spent time just writing because it takes practice.
What finally changed my mind about it was when I had the privilege of hearing Nathan Englander speak to my creative writing class about his writing process. He said that he carved out time in his day to write and to sum up a perfectly awesome and inspiring conversation that he sits there for two hours no matter what and just tries to write something, because maybe after 1 hour and 40 minutes you are struck by inspiration. Nathan Englander is the greatest writer of this century. His short story The Twenty-Seventh Man was inspiring to say the least; I have to listen to him.
Seriously, I have not yet read his Novel The Ministry of Special Cases but his collection of short Stories For the Relief of Unbearable Urges, which contains The Twenty-Seventh Man, is amazing. So amazing that I list my favorite Authors as George Orwell, Earnest Hemingway, and Nathan Englander, if you have not read at least one story by each of these authors I implore you to do so. However, if you have read every single twilight novel and none of the great authors I have listed, I suggest that you remedy that situation and I weep nightly for you.
Now a professor of mine suggested to me once, when I questioned him about how to release myself of my block that I use pictures and images to create a story.
Below are two images: That I hope will inspire you. One should be the beginning picture and the other should be the ending image, I will leave it up to you to choose the order. The Goal is to start the story at one picture and get it to the other. Enjoy!
Look for books by Nathan Englander on Amazon.com (I’m not loving BN right now, I’ll tell you soon.)