Hemingway on Good Fiction


Ernest Hemingway“All good books are alike in that they are truer than if they had really happened and after you are finished reading one you will feel that all that happened to you and then afterwards it all belongs to you; the good and the bad, the ecstasy, the remorse, and sorrow, the people and places and how the weather was.”. -Ernest Hemingway.

This has the ring of truth for me, but what exactly does he mean that good books are “truer than if they had really happened”?

What do you think?


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About the Author

Brian WaskoBrian is the founder and president of WriteAtHome.com. One of his passions is to teach young people how to write better.View all posts by Brian Wasko

  1. Sean

    Be nice to them? Or to you?

    Like almost every discussion like that, you have to agree on the definition of the terms first.

    I don’t think “True” in this context means “actually happened.” If they think it does, I would probably ask them to show why it does mean that, and then just go from there.

    I just don’t think the evidence supports it, and, like Mike said, you don’t have to go beyond Jesus’ use of fiction to see a pretty clear argument in favor of it.

    If that all fails, I would just start laughing really hard and repeating everything they said, then act like I was texting somebody and walk away.

    • Brian Wasko
      Brian Wasko06-27-2011

      I meant be nice to them, but you can be nice to me too.

      • Merri Larsen
        Merri Larsen07-07-2011

        Your blog always teaches me something and leaves me smiling – quite a grand combo! Many thanks, Brian,

  2. Mike

    I think Ernest (he told me to call him that) might be getting at the human need for a coherent narrative; how a random collection of reported events can’t be called a “story” or bring any relevance to you without the assumption of shared universals or definite shared particulars.

  3. Mike

    It would be interesting to hear from those who eschew fiction about their views on Christ’s use of parables. Or Nathan the prophet’s parable to David. Or any hypothetical statement at all (like this reply).

  4. Brian Wasko
    Brian Wasko06-25-2011

    Sorry. I actually appreciate and agree with your perspective.

    I occasionally run across Christians who don’t read or write fiction because they see it as a violation of Paul’s command in Philippians: “Whatever is true…, think about these things.” How would you respond to that? (Be nice).

  5. Brian Wasko
    Brian Wasko06-25-2011

    What about Facts with a capital F?

  6. Sean

    Love that quote. Truth with a capital “T” transcends “facts.” You can easily relate a flat series of “actual events” without a drop of bigger Truth in it. I think most of my favorite works are trying to get at the biggest Truths through fiction.

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