I was already thinking about this when Beth Kephart blogged about it:
how much I've come to appreciate beautifully written prose. Plot reigns in the world of novels, and probably it should. More than anything, readers long for something to happen
. Many writers have been forgiven less-than-stellar turns of phrase for the sake of a juicy story.
But I'm finding that I want more than a good story. I also want the words to cast a spell. When the writer has carefully chosen every word, the world-building becomes seamless. I'm enchanted, immersed. I trust the author to lead me anywhere.
I recently read a book that boiled over with drama and conflict. It should have been more fun than it was. But poor word choices kept jolting me out of the story: cliches, repetition, telling what should have been shown. Characters did and said things that made no sense. I could see the cracks in the scenery.
In The Shelf: From LEQ to LES: Adventures in Extreme Reading
, Phyllis Rose criticized writing that was too poetic. Writing that was overdone, at time obscure, trying too hard to impress. She praised clear, concise writing. And I know what she's talking about. I don't want poetic gymnastics that go nowhere. I don't want a writer to show off, leaving in all her "darlings" at the expense of the story.
But more and more, I appreciate the writer who presents me with a dream-world so tightly woven that I can inhabit it fully, with all five senses. I search for the skilled, the exacting, the vivid, the original, the lush.