As both a writer and a publisher, people ask me what I look for in another author’s writing. I attended symposiums and sit on panels that have discussed and debated the issue. The usual answer I hear, “Well, I look for good writing.”
Then I look around the audience and see the eye rolling, usually from the people who are the most struggling writers. Yeah, it’s a sufficiently vague answer. As a writer, I heard it often enough. Then, when I sit on the other side of the table, so to speak, I realized I had to find a better means of defining the term. It took a while, but I finally did. When it came my turn to speak at a panel, my answer was different.
If you look at any great work: books, movies or television shows, the common thread is passion. Passion can override weak writing any day of the week, although many publishers would deny that. If you consider some recent hit books, movies and television shows, it’s clear that it’s the truth.
My daughter and I read the Harry Potter books. Although we loved them, we did have issues with some aspects. Rowling relied on the old “ly” words, the adjectives, a bit much.
Rowling did leave some plot holes. Why did Harry never ask about using a time tuner to go back and save his parents? Yet, none of the problems, with the series, mattered to fans. We knew that Rowling put her whole heart and soul into each book; she loved those characters as much as we did, and she cried when she killed some of them off.
Now, I’m no fan of the “Fifty Shades of Grey” books, but I know plenty of people who are and, yet, these same people admit that the books are not exactly high quality literature. Yet, they’re still popular. Why? Passion, the stories manage to convey it, even when the writing is less than stellar. It’s also the reason the movie was not a hit; the two lead actors had no chemistry, which is just another type of passion.
Think about that. How many times have you heard that term and phrase used regarding a movie or TV show? Such and such was a hit because the cast had great chemistry. Many of the classic TV shows going back to the early days of television are classics because of that simple concept: chemistry. I know this one from personal experience. Back in the carefree days of my youth, I was in quite a few stage plays and musicals. All were good, a couple of them were great and a select few were truly awesome. It was as if the stars fell into perfect alignment. The right crew came together with the perfect cast in the ideal show at the optimum time and place to create an experience that touched people.
If you want to create a truly memorable book, a hit movie or a long-lasting television show, don’t ask yourself what’s popular now. Don’t focus on boy wizards, lovesick vampires or teen dystopias. Find your passion.
No, ask yourself one simple question: what do I love more than does anything else. It doesn’t matter if it’s differential equations or spelunking. If you love it and can put that passion on the page, it’ll be a bit. Remember the words of Ernest Hemingway. He said writing was easy. You put paper in the typewriter, and then just bleed all over it.
Now that’s passion!
Combining the gimlet-eye, of Philip Roth, with the precisive mind of Lionel Trilling, AJ Robinson writes about what goes bump in the mind, of 21st century adults. Raised in Boston, with summers on Martha's Vineyard, AJ now lives in Florida. Most of the time he writes, but sometimes he works at Disney World to renew his fantasies and get a few dollars more. AJ writes, with insight and passion, about his family and his dog. His liberal, note the small "l," sensibilities often lead to bouts of righteous indignation, well focused and true.
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