1. Education
Richard Nordquist

Hemingway's Iceberg Theory of Prose

By September 17, 2008

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You don't have to be a budding novelist to benefit from some of the advice offered by professional writers. Consider, for example, Ernest Hemingway's famous iceberg theory of prose, which he first articulated in his nonfiction book on bullfighting, Death in the Afternoon (Scribner, 1932). . . .

For the complete article, go to Revision Strategies: Hemingway's Iceberg Theory.


September 28, 2008 at 3:50 pm
(1) Ann says:

What the heck is Hemingway talking about? What’s with all the animals? And, the iceberg? Apparently he has omitted enough to leave me, his reader, dumbfounded, which actually may not be hard to do … if he’s talking about math! But, I don’t think he is.

May 8, 2009 at 9:11 am
(2) Mike says:

He’s just saying you shouldn’t spell everything out, you should give the reader enough information to draw their own conclusions, often the same ones you would have drawn but there is no need for you to say it if you have done a good job setting up the story. Just like at the end of For Whom the Bell Tolls, you never actually see Robert Jordan die, but you know he does. I don’t always agree with this style, because sometimes it makes too many details be left out and muddles the clarity of the plot, or leaves out the nuances of story telling, but Hemingway came at writing from a very journalistic standpoint.

December 16, 2010 at 11:02 pm
(3) Josheroni says:

I think his theory is quite amazing. It’s his minimalist style that makes some of his work so great. By taking out everything unnecessary, you leave only words that are full carry meaning. Pretty awesome writer that guy is.

August 8, 2011 at 7:40 am
(4) paul degagne says:

This article is helpful.

There is so much beneath it (just like an iceberg) I almost get frozen thinking of where to begin.

I am not that fond of Joseph Campbell but I like that expression of his -”Follow Your Bliss.” (Even if your bliss leads you into a dark-thicket!)

I realize no one can really teach another “How to write or more to the point – Understand Confusion” if they cant drum up certain qualities within themselves?

The difference between Hemingway and all these Professors is that Hemingway had a life or lived-experiences! He knew what he was speaking of.

What is blowing my mind and continues to blow my mind is some of Maurice Blanchot’s essays about the nature of “Language” itself for itself.

I don’t know. It’s like I am “tracking’ some phantom animal called marvelous. Good old Paul Shepard!

I think the guy who was responsible for building either the Brooklyn Bridge or whatever never had a formal education.

Can you believe that. All self-education through experience probably locked up in some lonely room until he got it.

I think if he went on to become a professor it would have ruin him? Who Knows?

All I would like to know is what’s in those “hollow” spaces the author of this article brought up?

February 1, 2012 at 7:10 am
(5) Margot says:

So in other words, don’t over write. Is that the gist of this Iceberg Theory?

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