Hemingway vs. Austen

Writer Unboxed has a recent post on warm versus cool writing which made me rethink some of the things that I’ve heard and read about writing.

Cool writing, as illustrated by the work of Ernest Hemingway, is dominated by ‘showing, not telling’; action and narration are prominent with the reader left to infer what the characters are feeling.

Warm writing is the other end of the spectrum, delving deeply into the interior worlds of the characters and focussing on emotion. It is the style used predominately in the romance genre and is illustrated in the article by the work of Jane Austen.

The Writer Unboxed post asks who is the better writer. I don’t think I could honestly say who was the better writer, given that they are separated by time, geography and subject matter. I enjoy the works of both but I prefer Hemingway, which indicates that I am a writer on the cool end of the spectrum and could use some warming up.

The spectrum of warm to cool is an interesting way of looking at different styles of writing that gets away from arguments about good and bad writing. I think the next time I read a romance novel I might have better insight into the style of writing.

2 thoughts on “Hemingway vs. Austen

  1. Okay, I've been thinking long time about writing a post about how men and women experience books so differently, but your post here has compelled me to do it for sure.You have two writers with such different styles – and you can't help but assume that it's because of each writer "works."Women tend to experience books in a more profound way. Hence books that delve "deeply into the interior worlds" appeals to women more.Men like stuff to happen. The interesting this is, women are much better at shifting gears. Men are stuck at plot driven books with strong narration and action. And women CAN go there so much better.I couldn't pick one writer either, because it's not a totally fair question. But I will say, I've read more Hemingway!

  2. I'm not sure I would say an emphasis on interior worlds and exposition leads to a more profound experience. Reading is very gendered – books are clearly marketed for either girls or boys. Women can be more flexible because there is more stigma on boys liking things that are for girls than the other way around. I just finished Others by James Herbert and I would say that is a book very much on the warm end of the spectrum.

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