Tuesday, December 30, 2008


What makes a movie/book/painting/song unforgettable?

Is it the brilliant ideas?

Is it the acting/writing/brush-work/musical technique?

You need technique, but only to make the artifice of construction invisible.

Looking back there are movies that have stayed with me for thirty years, paintings that have haunted me, books that I have finished and then wondered about the characters' fate, as if they were friends, and music that moves me no matter how many times I hear it. And it is not the technique that makes it memorable.

I believe it is the emotion. The four creative mediums are very different. Music seems to bypass logical thought and play straight to the emotions. Some paintings have left me with images that seeped into my subconscious so that they become part of the way I filter the world. Some movies combined images, music and dialogue to create characters and capture their dilemmas in such a way that I was captured. Some books have done this with nothing but words.

If, several days later, I am still in that book's head space, still engaging with the characters, then they have become real to me.

What makes a creative work unforgettable? I think it's the ability to bypass thought and engage us on an emotional level, to make us think and to make us wonder.

It's been a long day. I've spent the last week trying to do a final read-through on my Shallow Sea book. I don't know if it is working. I've had so many interruptions (kids and school holidays), and I've read it so many times that I'm blind to it now. All I can see are construction tools of my writing craft.

That's why I need to finish the book and put it in front of my writing group, ROR. They'll come to it fresh. They'll tell me what works and what doesn't. And because they are fellow writers, they'll make suggestions to help me use the tools of our craft to improve it.

One day I'd like to write something unforgettable. Until then, I'll keep trying.

Cheers, Rowena.


Dave Freer said...

If one of my own books cannot make me laugh and cry... I've failed. If it's only worth reading once... I've failed.
I set high standards for myself, and I'm still not sure if I have succeeded. But if doesn't even stir emotion I KNOW I have failed.

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

The best books can be read over and over. Sometimes I read books 20 years later. As I grow the book grows with me and I discover new layers that I missed the first time.

John Lambshead said...

I wish I knew how to write a classic book, Rowena.

Sarah A. Hoyt said...

Me too, John.

Dave Freer said...

Classic books? Have you two considered writing them in Latin? ;-)

John Lambshead said...

I was ejected from the latin class in the third year for non-performance.