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Great writing is something you can’t put your finger on

typewriterAs writers, we spend a lot of time considering what makes good writing. We read and re-read our prose to ensure that we’ve got it just right. But every so often, we are reminded that discerning a truly great piece of work defies a neat explanation. They possess a certain quality that we can’t quite put our finger on.

I have been reviewing a number of new TV crime dramas recently. The programmes I have watched have all been entertaining and well written, even if they haven’t always appealed to me in every respect. But whilst watching an old Inspector Morse episode on ITV3 I was suddenly reminded of what great crime drama can be like. It’s a perfect storm of excellent script, acting and direction. But it is also something more. The story will strike you as totally believable and the characters as real as you or I.

If someone were to ask me what creates a special piece of work such as this I would be hard pressed to give an answer. But it’s one of those things that you certainly recognise when you see it. The hairs stand up on the back of your neck. You’d happily watch or read it again and again. The experience would always move you.

This is what us writers aspire to achieve. But perhaps we shouldn’t, because producing a great novel, short story or script requires an element that we can’t always put our finger on. All we can hope as authors and scriptwriters is that one day we will manage to harness it.

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