How I Keep Action Active and Suspense Suspenseful – Using Hemingway’s “Iceberg Theory”


“We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.”

– Ernest Hemingway

Those who have followed my blog for some time know I idolize Papa Hemingway.  That picture is his writing desk, preserved in his house.  Someday, I will visit that house and tour it.

I try to emulate “Iceberg Theory” in my own writing, with my own stylistic choices.  Iceberg Theory, or, as English Majors like to call it, “The Theory of Omission”, came from Hemingway’s time as a journalist.  Hemingway started his writing career as a newspaper reporter with no formal education or experience as a journalist or writer.  His first editors impressed upon him the idea of reporting only the facts and avoiding editorializing the story.  Because of size constraints, it was encouraged to only report the relevant facts and avoid the background information.  Hemingway grew to respect this style of writing and believed it was “real”.  He adapted it for use in his short stories and novels.  He believed you could omit anything from a story and it would only strengthen the story in the mind of the reader – leaving the reader to read between the lines to fill in the blanks.

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