When I read, the musicality of the prose is vital to my enjoyment of the story. Prose isn’t just words, but it’s cadence, it’s harmony and dissonance, staccato and legato. Stories must crescendo and decrescendo. Some stories fall flat, while others go sharp.
Like music, some books are simple, while others are complicated. Some authors take a simple story and then improvise around that basic story (the melody) creating a complex tune–creating beauty.
Check out the video below of Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Star Trek: The Next Generation) playing a duet of Frère Jacques. (Skip to 2:37 for this duet).
My favorite stories have a choral quality to them. I love prose that sings off the pages, characters who are multi-layered, and stories that dance around the basic plot without resolving until the end. As a musician, I know how gratifying it is to end a choral piece so well it invites spontaneous applause. My favorite novels invite the same reaction.
Like music, a well-told novel reaches past the heart to gut level. After the final notes of that novel have been played, you have been changed.
And that’s what I long to write.