Thursday, 13 March 2014


I hadn’t been a good reporter because I didn’t care about getting the story before the general public had it.  I didn’t care about being the first one on the scene, the first one at the accident.  I also started to feel the limitations.  Obviously, in journalism, you’re confined to what happens.  And the tendency to embellish, to mythologize, it’s in us.  It makes things more interesting, a closer call.  But journalism taught me how to write a sentence that would make someone want to read the next one.  You are trained to get rid of anything nonessential.  You go in, you start writing your article, assuming a person’s going to stop reading the minute you give them a reason.  So the trick is: don’t give them one.  Frontload and cut out everything extraneous.  That’s why I like short stories.  You’re always trying to keep the person interested.  In fiction, you don’t need to have the facts up front, but you have to have something that will grab the reader right away.  It can be your voice.  Some writers feel that when they write, there are people out there who just can’t wait to hear everything they have to say.  But I go in with the opposite attitude, the expectation that they’re just dying to get away from me.

The Art of Fiction #176 [The Paris Review #166, Summer 2003]


Click HERE to read In The Cemetery Where Al Jolson Is Buried, a short story by AMY HEMPEL.  You can also click HERE to read the full AMY HEMPEL interview by PAUL WINNER posted in the online archive of The Paris Review.

You might also enjoy:
WRITERS ON WRITING #29: Annie Proulx
WRITERS ON WRITING #26: Gina Berriault

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