Author Archives: gmnorris

Hemingway’s Iceberg Theory

by Ryley Harris

One of the things that makes Ernest Hemingway such an amazing fiction writer is his use of ambiguity. “Indian Camp,” one of his famous earlier stories, is especially difficult to figure out at first. This is due to the fact that Hemingway writes according to what he calls the iceberg theory. As he explains in Death in the Afternoon,

If a writer of prose knows enough about what he is writing about he may omit things that he knows and the reader, if the writer is writing truly enough, will have a feeling of those things as strongly as though the writer had stated them. The dignity of movement of an ice-berg is due to only one-eighth of it being above water.

This approach can lead to some difficulties since Hemingway omits some useful information that would help advance the reading to fill in the gaps. On the other hand, omitting the information makes the readers infer what is happening and create new theories or ideas of what’s happening. One notable instance of the iceberg theory in “Indian Camp” has to do with Nick’s Uncle George, whose connection to the native woman in labor is suggested in several ways.

There are several different moments in “Indian Camp” that suggest that Uncle George is actually the baby’s father. The first moment occurs when Nick and his father come to the camp to help the pregnant woman give birth. When they arrive, we read that “Uncle George gave both the Indians cigars.” Traditionally, this is something a father would do. The second moment occurs when everyone is holding down the pregnant woman, and “[s]he bit Uncle George on the arm…” This action could be read as revenge against the man who impregnated her. This reading can be supported by the fact that the “father” of the baby killed himself when the baby was born, as if he knew that the baby was not his own. The last bit of evidence that supports Uncle George

being the father of the baby is that he stays behind at the Indian camp, which can be seen as a sign of fatherly love or obligation .

A story written according to the iceberg theory creates a lot of ambiguity. If the writer knows what they are doing—it can lead to fascinating fiction that makes the reader more involved.

If you want to read “Indian Camp,” click on this link:

Click to access Hemingway%2C+Indian+Camp.pdf

If you want to read Death in the Afternoon, click on this link:

How Holly Jackson Wrote the Perfect Mystery Novel

By Skylar Hart

Over the summer, I indulged in reading many books; however, Holly Jackson’s A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder was one I could not put down. The young adult novel follows a 17-year-old girl, Pippa, who decides to dedicate her school project to diving deep into a local murder-suicide that took place and was considered a closed case by her town. While the story is primarily a thriller or perhaps, a murder mystery, it also remains heartwarming, sweet, and somehow still leaves you guessing the killer with Pippa until the very end.

I believe the true power of Jackson’s writing lies in her ability to keep the reader in a position of just enough “not knowing.” While we get the thoughts and dialogue of the protagonist, Pippa, and those around her, we are left in the dark about the world around her and the truth of the mystery she is trying to solve, who killed Andie Bell and why? Pippa believes the boy accused of her friend’s sister’s death is not to blame and she becomes more sure of this when bad things begin to happen in her own life as she slowly uncovers more. At one point in the story, Pippa grows closer to uncovering the murderer and soon, her dog is found killed in the woods behind her home. Bad things begin to follow Pippa, and she cannot help but believe she is getting warmer to the truth. There are so many moments you think you figured Jackson out and suddenly, you are thrown for another loop. You have your narrative in mind and you are sure of it and suddenly, you are wrong.

“Not knowing” has a power of its own. “Not knowing” leaves the reader guessing and coming up with a narrative of their own that makes it interesting to figure out the truth. In the how-to book The Making of a Story, Alice LaPlante writes, “All this, of course, is simply another way to say that we should write about what we don’t know about what we know. Without using this sense of not-knowingness, or mystery, as a starting point, anything we write will be lifeless and predictable.” Jackson’s emphasis on not-knowingness makes the reader want to keep flipping pages and reading lines. I quite literally wanted to jump into the book and start filing through cold case files myself. The “not knowing” almost puts you right there with the protagonist and leaves you just as unsure as them.

If there is one book I wish I could unread so that I could read it again and get the same experience, it would be A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder in a heartbeat. It is funny, charming, thrilling, and truly a book to be read by true-crime lovers (like me) everywhere!

Jackson, Holly. A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder. 2019.

LaPlante, Alice. The Making of a Story: A Norton Guide to Creative Writing. Langara College, 2019.