What makes these plots gorgeous? For a start, each says something not just important, but profoundly so—about who people are and who they might become. Each plot synthesizes behavior and thought, proving its hypothesis with events both probable and essential—each incident leading inevitably to the climax. That has the haunting power of a symphony, no?
Novels depend on plot. But the best novels contain sentences rivaling the magnificence of scenario, scene, or theme. Here’s a tiny sample.
“Ships at a distance have every man’s wish on board.” -- Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God
“All he knew, really, was digging. He dug to eat, to breathe, to live and sleep. He dug because the earth was there beneath his feet, and men paid him to move it. He dug because it was a sacrament, because it was honorable and holy.” -- T. Coraghessan Boyle, “The Underground Gardens”
“The aspects of his life not related to grilling now seemed like mere blips of extraneity between the poundingly recurrent moments when he ignited the mesquite and paced the deck, avoiding smoke. Shutting his eyes, he saw twisted boogers of browning meats on a grille of chrome and hellish coals. The eternal broiling, broiling of the damned.” --Jonathan Franzen, The Corrections
How do you start producing increasingly beautiful sentences?
- Know what you want to say—something original. Important. Yours alone.
- Listen for rhythm—in everything you read or hear. It begins with noticing.
- Explore all five senses, and “explore” never means the first thing that leaps to mind.
- Replace vague, distancing constructions like “There were” and “It is.” Tighten up. Get close.
- Take risks. But take them thoughtfully.
- Never rationalize the weaknesses you pretend not to notice in your prose. Ever.
Tip: Aspire to beauty. You’ll never let your readers down.