From an article about photographer Dawoud Bey:
This time he locked eyes with his would-be subject and asked if he could take a photograph. The man said yes. When Mr. Bey asked him to do what he’d been doing before, the man leaned against the railing and cupped his left hand, providing what Mr. Bey calls a “grace note.”
“I had figured out the geometry of the space and the interlocking shapes,” Mr. Bey said. “But I needed the quirky little gestures of behavior that mark the individual, the stuff you can’t make up. I needed a way to create a momentary connection that would leave viewers feeling they knew this person.”
I love that term, “grace note”. It’s what every writer works to achieve in his or her work — with character, plot, language. Grace notes, which create a “momentary connection”, or better yet, a prolonged sense of longing and satisfaction between the reader and the work. A grace note can be more than a note. It can be a melody. A piece of written music that brings the reader into an imaginary world that she wishes existed, that she connects with on a level that reality can’t always match.
A grace note can trigger a pang in the heart. Or something bigger, far more complex.
I saw a quote from Susan Sontag the other day (this page is full of them) that reminds me of this:
“The only story that seems worth writing is a cry, a shot, a scream. A story should break the reader’s heart […] The story must strike a nerve — in me. My heart should start pounding when I hear the first line in my head. I start trembling at the risk.“