Spare Writing Styles
Gertrude Stein taught Hemingway to write, and Hemingway taught a generation. J.D. Salinger hated Hemingway's style; he considered it too telegraphic and insufficiently emotional. Yet Hemingway has become the modern writer's mantra, and there are more people trying to write like Hemingway than any other writer. Whether or not you wish to join their ranks, it certainly is important for any writer today to understand Hemingway's style and aesthetics.
If you want to write like Hemingway - and not everyone does, I understand that - but if you do then the following guidelines will get you started:
- Use short sentences.
- Avoid adverbs and adjectives.
- Instead use concrete nouns and verbs.
- Occasionally drop in an adjective or adverb like good or extraordinarily.
Another one of Hemingway's tricks was to consider the way a page looked. He didn't like a lot of fat paragraphs. Instead he liked a skinny column of dialogue. It looked better and was more inviting to readers. James M. Cain used the same approach. Consider this page from Cain's The Postman Always Rings Twice and notice how much white space there is. The dialogue makes the page flow from top to bottom, drawing your eye in and inviting you to enjoy the experience of reading.
You can use the same technique whether you're writing fiction or nonfiction. Just remember to step back and examine the way your pages look.