Nugget #4: What do Hemingway and Schwarzenegger Have in Common?

Paper Coach : Teach Yourself to Write (A Fiction Writing Course)

I was reading in my Mentoring and Encouragement selection (Ernest Hemingway on Writing), and I came across this nugget (paraphrase):

"...make the person who is reading them believe that the things happened to him too...make the story so real beyond any reality that it will become part of the reader's experience and a part of his memory. There must be things that he did not notice when he read the story or the novel which without his knowing it, enter into his memory and experience so that they are a part of his life. This is not easy to do." - Ernest Hemingway

Is Hemingway advocating a sort of guerilla warfare of the spirit? People form opinions and beliefs on the basis of their experience. If writers can insert experiences into people's lives, then writers can change peoples opinions and beliefs.

Does it makes sense to try to do this with our work? Or would the very act of trying sabotage the story's effectiveness in this regard? Or would we just wind up preaching to the choir? And does that suggest we should trick our readers: try to write the kinds of stories we wouldn't normally write and infuse them with the potentially revolutionary experiences we would normally write? Thus luring the non-choir into a literary ambush of the spirit, so to speak.

These thoughts reminded me of Terminator 2, where the underlying moral message is, suprisingly, that it's bad to kill people. In Terminator 2?! Was this a hidden attempt to persuade a violence loving audience off guns and violence? A literary ambush of the spirit?

That is how Ernest Hemingway led me to Arnold Schwarzenegger.


At 5/09/2007 11:59 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Isn't all writing trying to share feelings and experience for the evolution of the spirit? I think it is only important to share truth as we see it. Whatever happens from there doesn't matter.

At 5/30/2007 9:55 AM, Blogger Lou Agresta said...

I'm not sure that it's that simple - and I mean that I am not yet sure.

For example, aren't we also responsible for the impact of sharing the truth as we see it? Any impact our truth has on others makes the sharing of that truth an inherently political act. So, doesn't it make sense to be consciously in command of our sharing -- if only to guard against negligence?

For example, suppose we have two ways of saying or sharing a truth. One is poetic but open to misinterpretation. One is less poetically moving but more clear.

Say we chose the more poetic and it inspires someone to shoot up a school and kill people. Are we, the artist/writer, partially culpable?

Or in a simpler example, pure truth in a personal conversation can insult and wound. If there isn't a need for the insult -- if it doesn't serve a useful purpose -- aren't we simply being gratuitous? Should we be held accountable for hurting someone's feelings?

I'm not arguing for a position here, but I am asking questions. And the act of asking makes me feel that the formulation "Say truth, nothing else matters" is overly simplistic.

Of course, I'm not smart enough to elucidate the non-simplistic version; so, what do I know?


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