Aesthetics (beauty): An assemblage or graces or properties pleasing to the eye, the ear, the intellect, the aesthetic faculty, or the moral sense.
What is aesthetics and how does it interact with and affect the outcome of the final product? What is the difference between an aesthetically pleasing fiction manuscript versus an inferior one?
Aesthetics is perhaps the single most important aspect of writing anything, whether it be fiction or non-fiction. It is what determines whether the work is exalted or shunned. By definition, aesthetics is the philosophical study of beauty and sense of perception. In writing, when we speak of a work being aesthetically pleasing we are talking about the reader perception of beauty through the art of storytelling.
Inferiority in writing is easy to spot, discerning that inferiority is by a lack of training or of skill is usually evidenced by age and time spent practicing the craft of writing. Now inferiority can creep out simply through negligence – not paying attention to what or how you are writing. Through simplistic writing (when not meant for children) – John played chess is an example of simplistic writing. By itself, simplicity may not be cause for concern, but when the entirety of your writing are simple form sentences (i.e. noun-verb, with an independent clause) then there exists cause for concern.
Mediocrity versus mere training can be more difficult, especially when referencing an individual who is still learning to write. Though, normally, word choice, grammar, and conveyance of presentation will begin to show prominently by early adolescence, which allows a reader to begin to discern the difference in skill levels. By early adulthood, those with talent above and beyond training and practice will begin to emerge through their superior use of aesthetics.
Superiority in writing emerges mainly from aesthetic prowess. Training can bring one an academic understanding and with sufficient time and comprehension, an acceptable level of storytelling ability. However, to be able to use aesthetics in writing properly requires an intimate understanding of the rules of grammar, advanced emotional cognition, and an innate ability to curate those familiarities into an emotionally pleasing and gratifying presentation.
The best works are able to transcend through different genres usually by superior emotional conveyance and plot.
Let’s talk about emotional conveyance momentarily. What is it?
Plainly, it is an author’s ability to convey emotional impact to a reader through the author’s writing. It’s what brings the reader into the action and the intricacies of the story. It is what makes the characters believable, if not real to the reader.
Presentation is a complex mixture of point of view, directness of description and dialogue, effective balance of description and dialogue, and originality of story plot. Unfortunately, it is possible to create a superior story with an infinite combination of presentational foundations, making it nearly impossible to say exactly what the right mix is.
Here is where we go back to the basics:
1. A strong an engrossing introduction moves the reader through the story’s setup.
2. Balancing characterization and dialogue push the reader through the body of the story.
3. Plot, inherent throughout the work, is most influential in the lead-up to and successful completion of the climax.
4. If the climax was successful, the emotional release, and it’s delivery, is highly dependent of POV and the aim of the closing, i.e. is the work meant to cliff hang the story in preparation for a continuance or bring actual closure to the work for the reader.
Now do we know this why is this important?
The difference between mediocrity and superiority in aesthetic use can be difficult to understand as both get the point across to a reader. The difference is often in the delivery (overall) of emotional impact, which is where superior writing is most indicative. Depending on an author’s writing flow the raw, directness of grammar will vary, as will word choice. How direct or flowery the words are will also vary with the gender of the author (men tend to be more direct than women) and the genre of the work (romance tends to be more flowery than direct)
When you write, you will want to keep an eye on the foundations of how you present your work:
1. Point of View
2. Directness of Description and Dialogue
3. Effective Balance of Description and Dialogue
4. Originality of Story Plot
These aspects, you can control for; but beware: over-actively attempting to control for these aspects can cause a substandard final product. Those who fully understand and are able to innately control and work with the four foundations are usually able to produce work that is intellectually, emotionally, and visually gratifying.
Some authors will go through and control for a specific foundational aspect during the course of their revisions. Editors are intimately familiar with these issues and will actively control for these concerns during the course of a substantive edit review.
The best way to control for these aspects yourself is to fully understand their purpose, and have a librarian (or other individual that is NOT your friend) read your work. Ask them if the work is intellectually, emotionally, and visually stimulating and gratifying. If it is lacking in one or more of these areas, ask them why. Use their feedback to improve on your deficiencies.
The goal of aesthetically writing is strong emotional conveyance to the reader. This is how you progress as an author, and this is how readers discern what is and is not worth their time. Remember, readers won’t waste their time, so don’t waste yours. Learn to become intimately aware of how your writing flow is impacted by your strengths and weaknesses where presentation foundations are concerned.
“An artist is an artist only because of his exquisite sense of beauty, a sense which shows him intoxicating pleasures, but which at the same time implies and contains an equally exquisite sense of all deformities and all disproportion.” — Charles Baudelaire