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Thursday, March 30, 2006

Motion vs. Action

From Ernest Hemingway, the advice: "Never mistake motion for action."

My attempts at housework spring immediately to mind. But when it comes to creative nonfiction, Papa Hemingway's tip is useful for reporting and writing.

Reporting: Writing down everything (or taping it) is good, but what stays in the story has to move the story forward. You have to sift through all that motion--everything said and done--for scenes that have a bearing on the heart of the story. And don't spend so long researching that you never get to writing.

Writing: A story's scenes have to have purpose--and add up to something. When I was in sixth grade, I wrote a play about life in Argentina, which we were studying. The play was full of scenes that imparted all sorts of information about life in colonial Argentina. My teacher read it and asked, "But what's the point?" Information isn't enough.

And not writing: Ever gotten to the end of a full day and not been able to cross anything off your "to-do" list? (In those cases, I add everything I did and cross them off.) Annoying as it can be, the clock keeps ticking regardless of how you fill up the time. As Thoreau put it, "
It is not enough to be busy. So are the ants. The question is: What are we busy about?"

category: craft


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