Chekhov and Hemingway

Recently I saw a passing reference to “Chekhov’s Gun” and “Hemingway’s Iceberg” theories of writing. The author (whose name I’ve forgotten) set them in opposition to each other, but I disagree. It’s comparing a microscope to a scalpel – different tools for different goals.

Anton Chekhov believed in relevance of detail:

Remove everything that has no relevance to the story. If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off. If it’s not going to be fired, it shouldn’t be hanging there.

Ernest Hemingway wrote in a pared-down manner, but his “iceberg theory” involved deliberately leaving out important details or events. His idea was that if the writer knew about the important event, the readers would recognize they were seeing only the tip of the iceberg. The readers would puzzle out what was below the surface, and their effort would deepen the meaning of the story for them.

DIY writer’s retreat: Setting goals

I read with interest the description of a 12-week course in writing a first draft of a novel. Pacing, plotting, building tension – these are familiar topics to me. I see the instructor intends to explore the writing theories of Chekhov, Hemingway, et al.

No me interesan. Seriously, these things interest me about as much as the driver’s manual interests a driver on race day. I want to move!  For me, the intriguing part of the writing course is the last two weeks listed on the syllabus: setting goals and maintaining a routine. Continue reading

For Love of Books

There’s been a discussion of movies-versus-film (specifically The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug) and the problem of politically-motivated book reviews over at author John C. Wright’s blog. I’ve been reading his essays and reviews since he had a livejournal account.

Despite trolls (both occasional and persistent), the commentary has been consistently good. Although Mr. Wright writes SF, he and his audience are well-read in various genres. Their recommendations introduced me to interesting authors like Ted Chiang and Cordwainer Smith.

But I haven’t read any of Mr. Wright’s novels.

Why? Continue reading