Perhaps a sentence should leap, not plunge. Should it cut through a fog of confusion or shatter the reader's complacency? But I don't want my sentences to cut or shatter. I don't want to lull readers into boredom, but I'm not sure I want to jolt them either.
Can good writing be gentle? Perhaps it doesn't have to be if it isn't cruel. I don't like the adage that writers aren't supposed to have a heart, aren't supposed to care who they hurt with their revelations. Why be a mommy dearest kind of writer? Why expose your friends' and family's worst moments to the world's curiosity?
Does the reader need to know how your friend Janet betrayed you ten years ago? Can you disguise the betrayal well enough that no one will know whose betrayal it is? Does every betrayal give you the right to betray the betrayer?
What is a beautiful sentence, anyway? Do clouds sing? Do mountains scream? Do streets break your heart? Do people you might have loved float away like balloons? Does purple comfort you?
How can writing be beautiful? Meanings can be beautiful. If we care about meaning, the most beautiful words are "I love you." Most people would rather hear them than hear the finest metaphors or alliteration.
If a writer manages one beautiful sentence, or even a few, it will be jarring in the midst of plain prose. So she must cut it out. But how is it possible to write page upon page of beautiful writing that flows together? True, some writers can do that, but most of us cannot.
Occasionally the dawn will appear over a foaming sea or purple mountains, but even that is difficult to describe in new words. Occasionally a new image will fling itself at us like an eager puppy, but generally the writer is all too safe from such assaults.
It feels so much safer to express oneself in dialogue. If the character fails to speak in original language, that is the character's fault, not the writer's. It's so comfortable to write, "Get away from me, you creep," "Impertinence was his middle name," or "You'd better take my advice or you'll be sorry." Isn't that ever so much more appealing than a description? It is to me. And people seldom say beautiful writing to each other, so no worries.
If dialogue comes easier to me, should I be a playwright? But I am learning a little about playwriting, and it is not as simple it seems. It is dialogue, but every word, every character, every scene has to count, unlike fiction, where you can get away with some words that aren't about the main point. In a play, every character has to have a specific aim in every interaction, or so a teacher told me. I suppose characters in novels also have some aim in every interaction, whether to gossip, chide, or conceal their objective, but the action does not have to be so tightly wound. Mrs. Brown can complain about young people, but that does not have to mean that Mrs. Brown is secretly poisoning them. There is time for characters to appear and disappear, as they do in one's life. Beauty can be created without beautiful words when the curmudgeon does a gratuitous good deed.
Oh, beautiful writing. I have no use for it because I can't do it. But I still hope to learn.