One of the elements Athol mentioned was Symbolism. One great source of information about biblical symbolism is the Dictionary of Biblical Imagery, whose subtitle is: An encyclopedic exploration of the images, symbols, motifs, metaphors, figures of speech and literary patterns of the Bible.
Beauty is many things to many people. As I read Athol's post, Ikeptthinking that perhaps "organic" would be a better word. Using "organic" wouldanswer the question of why such writing cannot be taught. Because it's already in you. It's defeating for a writer who is just starting out to believe he or she may be incapable of beautiful writing because of a lack of enigmatic gifting. Beautiful writing is honest. Stripped of pretense, it shines with naked humanity. Beautiful writing comes from the raw experience of life on the planet, and is tended to in the soil of the writer's soul. Organic writing can be harvested by anyone with the patience to bring it up a teaspoon at a time. You can only use a teaspoon because soul matter is dense with meaning, and complex in structure. One small measure at a time is all we can handle. Yes, we must all work hard on our craft. And when it comes to our art, we must practice organic writing -- hauling up the deepest truths -- and we will find our stories will be the beauty of bare honesty which touches the soul of everyone who reads them.
I love that Bonnie connected organic writing with beauty with truth. Perhaps the best part of good fiction is that it tells the truth -- not truisms, but something real we've scratched from our own soil, at cost to ourselves. That lovely feeling we get when we read great writing may be gratitude, that someone had the courage of bare honesty. It takes faith: the writer must believe that truth is always beautiful, no matter how it looks at first glance. I have a painting in my living room, painted by a Japanese artist my husband once knew, of a burnt tree in a snowbank on a winter day. It reflects an esthetic that finds beauty in sorrow and loss. In Brennan Manning's novel, Patched Together, the main character must walk through "the dazzling darkness of sheer trust," before he reaches the "Cave of Bright Darkness," where he meets . . . Well. The novel ends on "A good day. A very good day."
When I first read Athol's post on Novel Journey, I was touched by his statement that, "Beautiful novels often take us deep into the darkest corner of the human condition, but in the end, they usually leave us with a sense of hope." I believe that as a reader and I believe that as a writer. There's no novel so satisfying to me, than a novel that does exactly what Athol described. It's that line that drew me to his post in the first place, but there was something in each of his points that spoke to me. In the paragraph on Simplicity, Athol concludes, "Beautiful novels are simple in the sense that they are easily read, but as every novelist knows, to write simply is anything but easy." That is so true. It happens when a writer is careful about every idea, every scene, and every word; the macro and the mirco of the work. Each part must count and carry its own weight. I love to happen upon a line in a novel that represents the idea that Athol put forth, when you know the author was careful to find the exact and unexpected word to make just the right point. I never pass by with pausing a moment in my appreciation.