Iceberg Theory Of Writing

October 18, 2012 by  

Iceberg Theory Of Writing, The Iceberg Theory (also known as the “theory of omission”) is the writing style of American writer Ernest Hemingway. Hemingway is best known for works such as The Sun Also Rises, A Farewell to Arms, and The Old Man and the Sea. Hemingway began his writing career as a journalist and in the 1920s, while living in Paris, worked as foreign correspondent for the Toronto Star.

As a journalist he learned to focus only on events being reported, and to omit superfluous and extraneous matter. When he became a writer of short stories, he learned to write a surface story in which he omitted or hinted at the point of the story. Hemingway believed the true meaning of a piece of writing should not be evident from the surface story because the crux of the story lies below the surface.

Critics such as Jackson Benson claim his iceberg theory, or theory of omission, in combination with his distinctive clarity of writing, functioned as a means to distance himself from the characters he created.

Like other American writers such as Mark Twain, Stephen Crane, Theodore Dreiser, Sinclair Lewis and Willa Cather, Hemingway worked as a journalist before becoming a novelist. After graduating from high school he went to work as a cub reporter for The Kansas City Star, where he quickly learned that truth often lurks below the surface of a story.

He learned about corruption in city politics, and that in hospital emergency rooms and police stations a mask of cynicism was worn “like armour to shield whatever vulnerabilities remained”. In his pieces he wrote about relevant events, excluding the background. As foreign correspondent for the Toronto Star, while living in Paris in the early 1920s, he covered the Greco-Turkish War.

He wrote 14 articles for the newspaper, but his biographer Jeffrey Meyers explains, he wrote in such a way that “he objectively reported only the immediate events in order to achieve a concentration and intensity of focus-a spotlight rather than a stage”. From the Greco-Turkish War he gained valuable writing experience that he translated to the writing of fiction. He believed fiction could be based on reality, but that if an experience were to be distilled, as he explained, then “what he made up was truer than what he remembered”.

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