The one story I would like to revise is Hemingway's "Hills Like White Elephants." It feels like an abstraction, more screenplay than story. I had to work too hard to understand the characters and their conflict. I had to backtrack and reread. I couldn't connect with the characters because I felt distracted by the sparsness of dialogue tags, of setting, the lack of sensory detail and absence of contextual clues.
For a story to be satisfying it needs to evoke realism to transport me to the place and time of its characters. People don't live suspended like Christmas ornaments, talking at each other; they interact with their environment and respond physically to each other's words and actions in ways that convey their emotions. Following is a brief excerpt, shown first as published in the story, followed by the same passage in italics, with my edits:
"They look like white elephants," she said.
"I've never seen one." The man drank his beer.
"No, you wouldn't have."
"I might have," the man said. "Just because you say I wouldn't have doesn't prove anything."
The girl looked at the bead curtain. "They've painted something on it," she said. "What does it say?"
"Anis del Toro. It's a drink."
"Could we try it?"
The man called "Listen" through the curtain. The woman came out from the bar.
"They look like white elephants," she said, looking away at the line of hills.
"I've never seen one." The man drank from his beer and kept looking down.
"No, you wouldn't have," her eyes searched his face, then returned to the hills.
He frowned at her. "I might have. Just because you say I wouldn't have doesn't prove anything."
She stared at the bead curtain. "They've painted something on it. What does it say?"
"Anis del Toro. It's a drink." He slumped in his chair and looked down the tracks.
"Could we try it?"
He called "Listen." through the curtain. The woman came out from the bar.
The sensory clues I've supplied give the reader a greater sense of presence with the characters, and through them, a greater connection with the story. A sense of reality emerges as the characters become less wooden and their emotions more accessible. The reader doesn't have to struggle so much to comprehend or invent subtleties of plot and character.
(My apologies, Ernest.)
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