What is beautiful writing? What kind of sentence (or paragraph, or page), makes us pull out a pencil and underline? When we see a quote on Pinterest or Twitter, what makes us pin or retweet it?
There are many different kinds of writing styles, and we all have different tastes. But I think there are four things in particular that make us all read a passage over and over again.
1. Beautiful writing makes you think
I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do.
—To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
We’ve all heard the classic titles tossed around as examples of beautiful writing, but why are they considered classics? Often they’re ahead of their ahead of their time like To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee or 1984 by George Orwell.
They tackle topics that make their readers think and reconsider the world they’re living in. And they often inspire their readers to do whatever they can to change it. That’s what makes them timeless. That’s what makes the writing so beautiful.
2. Beautiful writing makes you feel something
She looked like art, and art wasn’t supposed to look nice; it was supposed to make you feel something.
—Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
Think about a book that made you laugh recently, or cry. A book that can make you do something like that is a work of art. If it incenses you, evokes tears, or makes you feel something so strongly you end up thinking about it even when you’re not reading it, that’s amazing. The books I end up recommending to my friends are ones that have made me weep or laugh so hard I’ve almost woken up my dog. (They’re usually full of pencil marks, too.)
3. Beautiful writing paints a picture
Using words to talk of words is like using a pencil to draw a picture of itself, on itself. Impossible. Confusing. Frustrating … but there are other ways to understanding.
—The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
The best descriptions are the ones that make you see something clearly without needing a picture. When you can see the warts, hooked nose, and crooked fingers of the evil witch. When you can smell the fresh, warm cookies and bitter lemonade at the summer picnic. When you can hear the creaking of the shuddering house, the tapping of bare branches against the dusty windows. When you get swept up in the beauty of the story that you forget you’re reading a book instead of walking through a completely different world.
4. Beautiful writing inspires you
Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should it mean that it is not real?
—Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling (By the way, this is my all-time favorite quote from my all-time favorite book.)
What book inspired you to write? What author became your role model? Those books are the books that matter. The ones that inspire you to create something and share it with the world. Anything that touches you–whether it be a person, a book, or a song–is important. It doesn’t matter if others think it’s trash or cliche. Beautiful writing is ultimately subjective. But if it makes you do some good in the world, that’s all that matters.