So you can read my books

Sunday, June 23, 2013


{"We are all losers,

defeated in the end by death.

But in the long run, defeat is as revealing

and fundamental as victory."
- Ernest Hemingway.}

I am Hemingway. I am a ghost.

Who are you?

Can you answer in one sentence? If not, how then will you write a fictional character well?

What is the basic truth of life? Do you know? You need to in order to write a good novel.

The basic truth of life is to be found in the human soul:

the will to live, the will to persevere, to endure, to defy.

It is the frontier mentality -

the individual is on his own, like a Pilgrim walking into the unknown with neither shelter nor guidance, thrown upon his own resources, his strength and his judgment.

My truth shapes my style which is the style of understatement since my hero is a hero of action, which is the human condition.

And it is that human condition that your characters will take with them no matter where your pen leads them. A weakling will always draw the bullies no matter which town he runs to. He will have to face his flaws himself, refine his own nature, and then face the exterior dangers.

All my life I was obsessed with death. I was seriously wounded at midnight on July 18, 1918 at Fossalta, Italy. I nearly died.

I was the first American to be wounded in Italy during World War I.

I felt my soul go out of my body. In the blackness of midnight, I died and felt my soul go out of me, go off, and then come back.

Perhaps that near-death experience is why I am now a ghost. I do not know.

I do know that I became obsessed with death:

Deep sea fishing, bull-fighting, boxing, big-game hunting, war, -

all are means of ritualizing the death struggle in my mind -

it is very explicit in my books such as A Farewell to Arms and Death in the Afternoon, which were based on my own experiences.

And again, briefly, in In Our Time in the lines on the death of Maera.

It reappears, in another setting and form, in the image of immortality in my African story The Snows of Kilimanjaro,

where the dying Harry knows he is going to the peak called "Ngàje Ngài",

which means, as I explained in the introductory note, "the House of God."

Yet, it takes more than being haunted by your inner demons to write well.

It takes imagination.

Imagination is the one thing besides honesty that a good writer must have.

The more he learns from experience, the more truly he can imagine.

If he gets so he can truly imagine, people will think that the things he relates all really happened -- and that he is just reporting.

If a writer of prose knows enough about what he is writing about he may omit things that he knows and the reader, if the writer is writing truly enough, will have a feeling of those things.

What is the truth of the heroes in my novels?

They are so much their own agents that they do not hesitate to jeopardize life itself to be true to their own nature, their own code.

If you can't have a near-death experience, the next best training for being a good writer is an unhappy childhood.

And thanks to parents being all too flawed, most people have had that.

But forget your personal tragedy. We are all damned from the start so join the club.

It is a sad fact that you have to be especially hurt like hell before you can write seriously.

It's a law of nature. Human nature. And like most laws, you don't have to like it. You just have to live with it.

Dostoevsky was made by being sent to Siberia. Writers are forged in injustice as a sword is forged in the furnace.

Perhaps that is why I suffer like a bastard when I don't write. And why I feel empty and f____ out afterwards. And why I feel so good while writing.

Writing is something that you can never do as well as it can be done.

It is a perpetual challenge, and it is more difficult than anything else I have ever done -- which is why I do it. And it makes me happy when I do it well.

And after each novel, I feared I would never write as well again.

That is why I loved to cover war as a journalist. Every day and each night, there was a strong possibility that I would get killed and not have to write.

Writing is like a disease. I have to write to be happy whether I get paid for it or not. And that makes it worse.

That changes it from a disease to a vice.

And then I want to do it better than anybody has ever done it which makes it into an obsession. Even though I am dead, I still write. Look at me here in this blog.

How is it for you out there?


  1. My 10th grade teacher loved Hemingway. We did a whole semester on him while everyone else did Faulkner, Steinbeck, and others. I love the Code Hero. My favorite book is The Old Man and the Sea. And some of his short stories.

    I have a weird thing, too, for titles. I don't remember much about the story, but the title, A Clean Well Lighted Place has stuck with me for over 30 years now.

    He's an interesting character, for sure!

  2. I've read A 'Farewell to Arms'. Another Hemingway book sits in my bookcase - 'For Whom the Bell Tolls'. After seeing the Key West house, I read works that were written in Key West and Paris.

    Guess I have the vice. I write every day. I love world building and playing with words.

  3. i am... i am not.

    i ranted on your prior post, thank you for getting me motivated!

  4. Wow, you captured the grizzly faced writer well....

  5. Words Crafter:
    Yes, I enjoy memories of teachers who made their students love the subject and made them think!

    I love world-building, too, as you've noticed! :-) Words are like music: they form in the imagination and heart.

    That's what friends are for!

    The ghost of Hemingway just gruffed at me that once again he saved one of my posts! :-)

  6. I know my characters much better than I know myself. I invented them and keep them on a tight leash. I never entirely know what I will do.

    However, I'm predictable enough that the waitresses at my favorite restaurant are never shocked by my breakfast order.


  7. Donna:
    All of us are predictable in some way! Character is everything in good novels.