Category Archives: Writing


The Work of Creating an Iceberg

Something a little different this morning. I’m working on a writing project, currently, and I just need to get some thoughts down to try and spur myself on. I’m a firm believer in the Iceberg Theory, particularly as it applied to my favorite (and directly applicable) genre, science fiction. If you are unfamiliar with the theory, it’s a Hemingway-ism spawned by this quote:

If a writer of prose knows enough of 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. A writer who omits things because he does not know them only makes hollow places in his writing.

—Ernest Hemingway in Death in the Afternoon

I didn’t plan on this, actually, when the idea hit me. I was going to just start writing, in fits. I might still do a little of that, but I need to get on this idea, actually, as it is relevant to some world events (most of the time my writing ideas are, I just don’t have the discipline in place to sit down and write them yet.

At any rate, it’s turning in to a research project (which I enjoy, so don’t let that sound dull) and the stories are beginning to spill in. I have a couple of the characters, of whom there are very many, squared away, and I have a very clear order of events, but I’m still working on the plot. I differentiate between plot and events, by the way, because you can write a story that has a clear series of things happen, and never actually develop a plot in which characters evolve.

If you are a writer, how do you begin a story (I’ve worked both out from the climax, in a time-line, and from slugs, but I’ve yet to find a really good method of beginning a story from a concept.) Also, if anyone has any experience with alternate histories, or rewriting historical events in alternate settings, I’d love to hear about it.