I probably shouldn’t admit this, but I’m a big fan of Dancing With the Stars, So You Think You Can Dance, The Voice, and American Idol. See? I like things besides movies where people lose their heads–like The Thirteenth Warrior and Sleepy Hollow. I love song and dance, too! B.C.–before children–my husband and I would drive to nearby cities if a Bob Fosse program was advertised. That’s how we discovered the joys of weekends in Chicago. Those days are gone now. We’ve gotten busier and our budget’s gotten tighter. Now, my sister and I watch the shows and call each other during commercials when something excites us. I’m a Derek Hough devotee. She’s a Tony and Maks fan, so we argue about which dance was better each week. I know, sad, but what can I say? Also true.
The thing I’ve noticed is that often, when judges critique the dancers and singers, the first line of critique involves getting the basics right–pitch, steps, rhythm. But the second, and maybe more important critique involves passion. Did the dance/song stir emotion? Did the performer connect with the audience? Did he FEEL the dance? FEEL the words he was singing? Those same standards apply to most arts, including writing.
I don’t know much about paintings or sculptures, but I know which ones move me. I can’t read a note of music, but I know which songs stir me. I can’t explain why some art doesn’t work for me. Some of it’s a matter of taste, but some of it depends on technique. I think even amateurs can recognize sloppy work, even if they can’t verbalize it. The same holds true for writing.
Readers might not be able to say, “The writer used too many passive verbs,” but they can FEEL it. Good, solid technique matters. After that? It’s a matter of passion. Did the characters connect with the readers? Did the story grab them and keep them? There’s an art to connecting with an audience, and writers need to master that every bit as well as singers, actors, and dancers.