Shelley Widhalm

Writing Beautiful

In 52: A Writer's Life, Good Books, Shelley Widhalm, Writing on September 22, 2013 at 11:00 am

There are two levels of writing: the craft of writing and the beauty of writing.

In the first instance, books successfully execute plot and character arcs to tell stories with beginnings, middles and ends.

They fulfill all of the craft elements with an engaging plot, interesting characters who talk in entertaining dialogue and settings that set the story in a particular time and place, balancing detail with story.

These books offer a satisfying read through a character’s compelling personality and behavior patterns, plus at least one quirk, and a plot that balances pace with tension. The pace slows or speeds up where necessary to bolster the tension among characters, forces and the ticking clock of time’s forward movement and suspense of what happens next.

The story moves at a nice clip without dragging along and boring the reader with the beat of a metronome.

Perfectly crafted and executed writing, however, can lack magic, or the ephemeral within and arising out of the beauty of writing. Beautiful writing starts at the sentence level and unfolds out to character, story and message.

A radiant and clever sentence inspires awe, stopping the reader for a second read to comprehend all of the nuances of language and meaning. Such a sentence could compare unlike objects in a new way with unusual details, but not too many to the point of being flowery.

For example, this sentence stopped me in my reading:
“The sweet, cotton-candy scent of a hundred blooming irises rides the breeze.” (“Such a Pretty Girl,” Laura Wiess)

A beautiful sentence could capture a life lesson in a few words, known, unknown or something the reader already knows but doesn’t fully understand.

I was caught by this sentence: “It seems to me that growing older means a growing collection of paths not taken. More and more ‘what-if’ left behind. (“Real Life and Liars,” Kristina Riggle)

A sentence with beauty could give an unexpected detail: “There was avocado, wrinkled and grumpy on the outside …” (“The School of Essential Ingredients,” Erica Bauermeister)

Beautiful stories enlarge upon the craft elements of writing through a balance of literary, poetic sentences with text that tells, without exaggerating that beauty and, thus, exhausting the reader with endless strings of neon bright words. The characters, the story and the setting resonate, echoing into readers’ other lives, making them think, reflect and mentally return to the story time and again.

These stories have a message that changes readers, giving them new experiences, life lessons and ways of seeing the world that they can tuck into their hearts as they search for, and hopefully find, the next breath-taking book.

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