Chapter 20: Four Tricks of the Trade

The second surprise is that the four tricks of the trade I’ve described as essential to any good poem are also indispensable to any piece of good writing. For example, a good novel has a good hook: What would Moby-Dick be without “Call me Ishmael”? Each hit song has an unmistakable voice: you could play “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” loud and fast, but the version most people remember is the wistful one that Judy Garland sang. Every good play is saturated with details: if Macbeth didn’t have all those witches and sword-fights in it, it would just be a dull treatise on Scottish politics. And each of these has its own Big Idea: pride, nostalgia, ambition.