Frank Fiore – Novelist & Screenwriter

July 6, 2011

Hey, I’m no Hemingway!

Filed under: Frank Remarks,On Writing — Frank Fiore @ 10:03 AM

No I’m not. But recently I figured out that I write a lot like his style.

Let me explain.

If you’ve spent any time on the different writing discussion boards on the different social networks, you’ll see that the majority of comments about writing style seem to fall into two groups. Those that believe the flowery prose of the literati is real writing and those that feel authors should write to be marketable and choose to eschew obfuscation and write simply and clearly.

One of my favorite authors, Michael Crichton claimed that medical writing is a “highly skilled, calculated attempt to confuse the reader”. Many of his novels did eschew obfuscation and wrote for purely entertainment. The story had to move.

Another way to say this is the old writing adage ‘show-don’t tell’.

Now there are those who believe that paragraphs and even pages of narrative are necessary for successful story telling.

I don’t.

I believe that the necessary information about a concept or a character should be brought out through dialogue.  A rule of thumb here is think movie scenes and not chapters.  Write the story in such a way as how it would look as a screenplay.

Think about it. Except for a few short paragraphs before certain scenes to paint the environment and the mood of the characters, the vast majority of a screenplay is dialogue.  The dialogue tells the story.

I believe that’s how novels should be written. Even Crichton honed this down in his later novels. His books were written is such a way that they could easily be turned into screenplays.

‘Show-Don’t Tell’ types of stories are looked down upon by the literati but I believe that today’s reader – the USA Today and Twitter generation – is not looking for tombs of literature but a quick and entertaining read.

Am I saying that the Nobel Prize winning novels that very few people read outside of the New York Times Book reviews will go away? Of course not.  Neither will the printed book disappear in this world of mobile publishing.

I just believe that writers should strive to make their writing economical and not have the prose get in the way of the story.

But that’s my opinion.

What I am saying is that we can lean something from Hemingway.

He had some tips for writing well learned from an editor when he was a reporter for the Kansas City Star.

  1. Use short sentences.
  2. Use short first paragraphs, I would add all your paragraphs should be short, sweet and to the point.
  3. Use vigorous language.
  4. Be positive and not negative. Basically, you should say what something is rather than what it isn’t.

I like what one commenter said about Hemingway’s writing.

After he finished “The Old Man and the Sea,” he wrote his brother, Leichester, telling him that he did not think there was single wasted word in the book. He may be right. It is a lean, powerful tale. So lean that it may well be the only book ever written to have very nearly every scene transposed into the film version.

“Nearly every scene transposed into the film version.” Hmm…Didn’t’ I say that?

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