Posted by: patriciamar | March 5, 2016

Hemingway & Hotchner, BFFs

I recently read “After the Storm” as part of a reading challenge with a coworker. It was meant to be my Book to be Read in a day.  However, I fell in love with A.E Hotchner’s introduction, and spent a greater part of the day rereading, pondering and taking notes on the anecdotes and delicious advice for writers, writers of stage and screenplay adaptations in particular.

The short book-around 130 pages- has three sections.  First, Hotchner describes the difficulties of writing adaptations. Then, you read the short story, “After the Storm,” by Ernest Hemingway, a brief story, a mere five pages long. Then you read A.E. Hotchner’s screenplay adaption.

I most loved the first section by A.E. Hotchner.  The way he uses words to write non-fiction is nothing short of fantastic. If all informative non-fiction were written in this way, I never would have left college, but instead read my way happily from Spanish and Government to chemistry to kinesiology to computer engineering to geology to… You get the idea. Take, for example, the following tidbits:

The first is regarding the similarities and differences between Hemingway and his fictional teen character, Nick Adams.

“‘The Battler’ and ‘A Pursuit Race’ are the two stories that tell of Nick Adams’s searing adventures as he sets east in pursuit of a goal more intuitive than intellectual.”

 And on the perils and dangers of writing adaptations:

“Actually, one of the worst perils of adapting Hemingway or Faulkner, Thomas Wolfe or Dostoyevsky, is that cultists of such writers have a reverence for their works that precludes any dramatic interpretation short of reading the original prose aloud.”

He goes forward with an example.

“Although these two stories find their origins in Hemingway’s experiences at a Chicago gymnasium, where he hung out for a while in hopes of becoming a professional fighter, they are, in substance, invented; but the emotional response of the boy to seeing, for the first time in his life, the extent to which men can be battered and maimed by their experiences was certainly autobiographical.”

Hotchner’s last line before the screenplay adaption reads:514dd1qcdhl

“All grist for the adapter’s mill.”

Just before, he throws out a dozen and one questions to be asked and possibly answered during the adaption process.  This was interesting to me because it’s just how I begin writing a short story. There’s some idea, a character, a title, a room with a certain type of chair sitting below a portrait of a certainly important person; I’m already getting ideas.

In “Case by Case Basis,” there are two stories that started in this way.  First was The Argentinean Champagne Heist.  It’s virtually impossible to come up with a story that lives up to that title. Second was “Street Food for Days” or possibly, “Food Trucks for Days.”  The latter was a title that eventually became the punchline, to use the term liberally, of a story I’d previously written that had no purpose and no title. It’s fascinating how things work themselves out if the right questions are asked and the correct steps are taken.

In the end, I did finish the book in a day. It was impossible not to.

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Responses

  1. […] to be short and sweet, since I’ve already given an intro to Hemingway, and reviewed “After the Storm” earlier in the month as well!  Plus, I’m struggling with this full month of reviews. […]

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