A while back I wrote a guest blog at Leanne Dyck’s site called the Rewrite Meltdown http://sweatercursed.blogspot.ca/2013/08/the-rewrite-meltdown-by-sylvia-mcnicoll.html
In it I mentioned how a panel of editors all agreed that it could be a single line of writing that captures them in a work. As I was in the thick of rewriting Dying to Go Viral for one of those editors (Christie Harkin), I worried that I might accidentally delete that magic clump of words that sold her. Next day I put her on the spot and asked which clump it might be. A look of panic came over her face.
Beautiful writing is, I’m guessing, not what I’m known for. Premise, plot, interesting characters, bare bones story telling? Someone else can fill me in on the qualities of what I do–I’m not even going to try to guess those.
But the other day I reviewed a couple of books and was trying to explain to my husband why I was such an easy marker in regards to the number of stars I gave a story despite some problems I had with it. Sometimes it’s difficult as a craftsperson to stop looking for ways you might have written a story differently.
That night we watched a film called A Late Quartet and one of the musicians complained that an early age he played badly for a master and was praised none the less. Many years later he
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demanded an explanation from him. The master talked about various elements he enjoyed in his playing, a masterful bow stroke etc. Then he said he looked for the transformative moments.
That’s what I look for in a book. It could be that I feel I’m sitting with the character in front of the fire warming my hands and sipping hot chocolate or perhaps it’s when there’s a sense of vulnerability, of naked honesty in emotions. Surprise and recognition.
Those hot fudge and caramel moments that make you draw in a deep breath…and exhale slowly. It’s what we need to focus on in all aspects of art and life.