Friday, March 9, 2012
So I was talking recently with my friend Elana Johnson (her book, btw, is totally on sale now, you should buy it) about how writing can be an art. I say "can be" because I'm not sure it's always an art--although that's a debate for a different day.
I happen to be a huge fan of painting--specifically Pre-Raphaelite paintings. (I blogged about this before, but it's been a few years. Still, if you'd like to see my original thoughts on the subject, as well as my favorite piece of art, click here.)
I suppose you could look at artistic movements like genres of written works. My favorite genre is YA, my favorite artistic movement is Pre-Raphaelite. I don't really appreciate adult literary titles, but then again, Dadaism is lost on me. While I can look at a piece of Dadaist art and recognize that (a) it is art and (b) it has value, it has no emotional resonance within me.
That said, I don't think it's really as simple as that. Because even within my own beloved YA genre, there are different styles. And so I think it comes down to this: we are each of us an artist, and our art is reflective of the things we like within art, not necessarily the artistic style.
- Beautiful execution. The paintings are vivid and realistic and beautiful to look at. Some art is meant to disturb; this art is meant to be beautiful (although there is disturbing themes--the painting of Ophelia to the left is supposed to show her at the moment of her death).
- Fantastic subjects. I mean fantastic in the literal sense--the settings and subjects of the paintings are often derived from mythology or Shakespearean lore.
- Attention to detail. In the painting of Ophelia, even the selection of flowers held in her hands hold symbolic meaning. I cannot name a single Pre-Raphaelite painting that doesn't include significant symbolism in the images.
- Beautiful execution. I say this all the time, but Carrie Ryan's THE FOREST OF HANDS AND TEETH changed the way I looked at YA books specifically because they were so beautifully written. Yes, they're about zombies. But they're beautiful.
- Fantastic subjects. I like my books to have fantasy or sci fi in them. I want the impossible to happen. I don't need to hold onto realism--I want magic and stars.
- Attention to detail. One of my very favorite literary devices is foreshadow. I want a complicated story, yes, but I want the end to surprise me. Foreshadow is the key to this. Show me all the clues in the story, and then show me how they solve the plot. Think of JK Rowling--you see polyjuice potion in Book 2, but then the plot of Book 4 hinges on it. That is brilliant. That is the detail that wins the books.