Writing Tip of the Week: Fiction Versus Actual

tjb logowhale 2kids book 2Let’s take a look at four (4) paragraphs from my old, dilapidated textbook on literature. The subject is Whaling starting with scientific fact and ending with fiction. Economics and history are in between. Try to notice the difference in content and style. Can you see a difference in the restrictions on the writers. Once you decide your format, you are harpooned like a whale.


The first is from Science:

“Whales may be divided into three suborders: the Archeocetes of the early Tertiary; and two living groups —Ordontocete, or toothed whales, and the Mysteceti or Whalebone Whales.” Alfred S. Romer

The second is from Economics:

“The physical losses in whaling resulting from the destruction of vessels, cargoes, and equipment are indeed formidable when considered in the absolute; when compared with the size of the entire fleet fleet at sea during any given year, they constituted a smaller percentage of the whole than might reasonably have been expected as a result of the nature of the industry.” Elmo Paul Hohman

The third is from History:

“Those were the full, gala days of the industry (1830 – 1860) when rugged New Bedford, in particular, was at the peak of a picturesque, salt-sprayed renown which took her name into the seven seas. This new England town which became the greatest whaling port in the world despite population figures which were unimpressive even in an era of villages, learned to blend the strange and exotic with the native and homely in a manner both alluring and ludicrous.” Elmo Paul Hohman

The last is from Fiction:

whale“And thus with orders and yells the keel cut the sea. Meanwhile, Stubb retaining his place in the van, still encouraged his men to the onset, all the while puffing the smoke from his mouth. Like desperados they tugged and they strained, till the welcome cry was heard-“Stand up, Tashtego! – Give it to him!” The harpoon was hurled. “Stern all!” The oarsman backed water; the same moment something went hot and hissing along every one of their wrist. It was the magical line. An instant before, Stubb had simply caught two additional terms with it round the loggerhead, whence, by reason of his increased rapid circlings, a hempen blue smoke now jetted up and mingled with the steady fumes from his pipe. As the line passed round and round the loggerhead, so also, just before reaching that point, it blisteringly passed through and through both of Stubb’s hands, in which the hand-clothes, or squares of quilted canvas sometimes word at those times, had accidentally dropped. It was like holding an enemy’s sharp two-edged sword by the blade and that enemy all the time striving to rest it out of your clutch.

Herman Melville

Herman Melville

“‘Wet the line! wet the line!’ cried Stubb to the tub oarsmen (him seated by the tub) who, snatching off his hat, dashed the seawater into it. More terms were taken so ling began holding its place. The boat flew through the boiling water like a shark all fins. Stubb and Tashtego here changed places-stem for stern-a staggering business truly in that rocking commotion.” Herman Melville ((August 1, 1819 – September 28, 1891) in Moby Dick.

That last one was very exciting!

Whale 1The writing from history was picturesque, but that is often not in history writing. The first two, science and economics, were factual with perhaps more interpretation in the economic writing.

So, what other differences do you see? Your essay on the subject is due next Friday. LOL

Books on Whales and Whaling

Moby Dick Classics


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