One Symptom of Good Writing

“One of the symptoms of good writing—and also one of the causes of good writing—is that it takes the reader and the writer and puts them on the same footing. For example, a bad story is usually one where the writer is talking down to the reader. Leading him around by the nose, manipulating. The reader feels that, and just like if you were in a relationship with somebody who was constantly talking down to you, you would resist. It really is just the old-fashioned stuff of being clear, residing in your text long enough to know if you’re defying logic in some way or if you’re finding the optimal path through the material.

Sometimes there’s a tendency to overdo this idea of empathy, as if you have to make every story a demonstration of selfless compassion or something. But I think the empathy, so called, is mostly in your relation to the reader. You’re trying to imagine that person as being every bit as smart and worldly and talented and curious as you are. If you do that, the level of your discourse will come up, and that person will feel honored by your attention.”

George Saunders, The WD Interview

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