What is it that makes a piece of writing great to you?
Obviously, character and story are central. But after that? For me one of the most important things is rhythm. It's a hard thing to qualify or quantify in prose, but to me it's one of the most important aspects of writing.
I read something awhile ago about Virginia Woolf, where she talked about how hard she found writing to be... until she realized it was all about rhythm and it became easy. Now, I don't know about easy... but finding the flow in the words is key to me in finding excellence.
I try to feel that flow, the way the sight and sound of words braid together to form a rhythm. One word to the next, and the next, and the next...
Knowing when it's on can be tricky. Knowing when it's off can be obvious. You know when you read a clunky sentence. You may not know what's wrong, but you can feel the wrongness. You can feel the trip on the tongue. And it's not just about sentences.
Have you ever read stories where you feel bumped along? And yet if you examine each sentence they all seem to work? First sentence: yes, it works. Second sentence: yes, it works. Third sentence: yes, it works. Fourth sentence: yes, it works. But sometimes the question is not whether the sentence works, but whether the paragraph does...
I see writing, sometimes, where it seems as if the writer has forgotten that the sentences are interrelated, that they play off each other like the various instruments in an orchestra. Together they create an effect larger than themselves. They can't just play the right notes... they have to play them in time and in tune with the others.
Writing, to me, is the same way. It has its own rhythms, its own musicality. It's all layered, the pieces all balanced against each other. I like that interconnectedness, when the structuring of the words themselves carries you along through the story, when the sentences push you forward because there is no other way to go but that. There is no room for pause in a seamless dream.
So, what does rhythm in writing mean to you? How do you recognize it? And what are some of the other things that make you say "this is great writing"?