Thursday, April 14

What Makes Good Writing Good?

I usually ask myself this as I gaze irresolutely at a blank screen and beg the muse to take pity on me.

But not today. Today, I read Roger Ebert's 2002 review of the 1974 movie, Don't Look Now. If the movie is half as good—no, an eighth as good—as the review, I must see it. I don't mean that Ebert gave the movie a good review, which he did, I mean that, as is so often the case, Ebert's own writing woke me up and showed me what writing can be, what it can do.

I believe that when writing is good it has something in common with poetry. Let me give you an example from Ebert's review:

The movie takes place entirely in late autumn when everything is grey and damp and on the edge of frost.

I can see it. I can feel it. I feel sure I have been to this place before. This not only is a wonderful description but it also has a cadence, a sense of meter; it has a heartbeat.

Another example:

This sequence not only establishes the loss that devastates the Baxters, but sets the visual themes of the movie. There will be shots that occur out of time, as characters anticipate future events, or impose past events on the present. There will be sharp intakes of psychic foresight. Christine's death by water will lead in an obscure way to Venice, where John Baxter is restoring an old church, where a killer is loose, where the police pull a body from a canal, where a child's doll lies drowned at the water's edge.

Specifically the sentence, "There will be sharp intakes of psychic foresight." The sentence itself is like the gasp it brings to mind.

Now that is good writing.

I subscribed to Roger Ebert's twitter feed a few days ago and am enjoying his tweets and the links he gives. If anyone would like to see for themselves, here is a link to it. Enjoy!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Because of the number of bots leaving spam I had to prevent anonymous posting. My apologies. I do appreciate each and every comment.