Hemingway’s principle of the iceberg

photo of Hemingway by Man Ray

photo of Hemingway by Man Ray

There’s a wonderful interview with Ernest Hemingway up on the Paris Review’s site. There are so many gems in this interview, but this passage stood out to me the most:

If a writer stops observing he is finished. But he does not have to observe consciously nor think how it will be useful. Perhaps that would be true at the beginning. But later everything he sees goes into the great reserve of things he knows or has seen. If it is any use to know it, I always try to write on the principle of the iceberg. There is seven-eighths of it underwater for every part that shows. Anything you know you can eliminate and it only strengthens your iceberg. It is the part that doesn’t show. If a writer omits something because he does not know it then there is a hole in the story.

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~ by Valerie Palmer on July 10, 2013.

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