World, Writing, Wealth discussion

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All Things Writing & Publishing > Definition of good writing.

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message 1: by Mehreen (new)

Mehreen Ahmed (mehreen2) | 1911 comments How can we define good writing? Is all of it subjective?


Tara Woods Turner | 2063 comments Very much subjective, thankfully. One man's comic book is another man's Shakespeare.


message 3: by Denise (last edited Jun 16, 2016 02:54AM) (new)

Denise Baer Agree. It's subjective yet, an interesting discussion. I always like reading about what others consider good writing. What kind of writing makes it good for you? The important aspects of the writing.


Tara Woods Turner | 2063 comments To me there are talented writers and skilled writers. Talented writers please their readers. Skilled writers satisfy a multitude of subjective criteria that most literary professionals seem to agree on. Of course the two are not mutually exclusive but neither are they the same animal. Both deserve respect.


message 5: by Denise (new)

Denise Baer As a reader and writer, I look for well-developed characters, and a plot that's taking me along without tangents. I dislike the elitist writings, where the book is drenched with description and the characters drown in it.

I also want a balance of show vs. tell. Many authors argue that stories have been told for years, and that's how they write. They're telling a story. I won't buy and/or finish one that tells me everything without allowing me to create a vision in my head and live it.

And, even though I've been a little guilty of it, if a plot continues on a path of repetition and doesn't deviate much, I put it aside.


Tara Woods Turner | 2063 comments Denise
You have deftly described the type of books that meet your definition of talent and skill. That's what makes the subjectivity of the definition so very interesting, in my humble opinion. It's all so very personal. I can read a 'White Trash Zombie' book and concede that the author is talented because I am thoroughly entertained. Yet I know the book has little skill involved. I can also read 'The Persian Boy' and be completely bowled over by the unsurpassed skill, technical perfection and prosaic beauty of the work. I have read skillfully executed books that have garnered critical acclaim but failed to resonate with me. I would say the author lacks talent. I have also read throw-away books that I enjoyed but will never make my re-read list. To me these books lack skill.


message 7: by Marie Silk (new)

Marie Silk | 1020 comments I would take a comic book over Shakespeare any day :)

As a reader, good writing is whatever can hold my short attention span.

As a writer, I think good writing means entertaining, informing, convincing, or inspiring your target audience. If the writing is not doing these things, then it is probably bad writing.


Tara Woods Turner | 2063 comments Marie
You've aligned the definition of good with the intended audience/readers. I think this approach is probably the only accurate one.


message 9: by Denise (last edited Jun 16, 2016 04:47AM) (new)

Denise Baer Tara wrote: "You have deftly described the type of books that meet your definition of talent and skill. That's what makes the subjectivity of the definition so very interesting, in my humble opinion. "

I agree it's subjective, but I like hearing what people like when it comes to writing--the details of the writing, not a broad concept. That's what I was looking for when I said, "What kind of writing makes it good for you? The important aspects of the writing."


Tara Woods Turner | 2063 comments Ah, yes. I love writing where the author is able to write about common emotions and situations with uncommon clarity and depth I love it when a book can produce a whirlwind of reaction from me with only a few words or a precisely turned phrase - using the elements of a world I do not inhabit to draw surprising parallels to the world in which I do. It gives me a sense of kinship and connectivity to humanity without invading my sense of boundary. I don't have to be an English governess to feel a complete sense of empathy with Jane Eyre. I don't have to be constantly on the run for my life to understand Arya Stark's sense of loneliness and isolation. For these reasons I am drawn to books with a heavy emphasis of character development. I can't deal with books that ask me to compromise. If a book expects me to overlook plot holes, for example, because the world building or pacing is excellent, I just can't. I may finish the book and I may find things about it to like but I'll never love it or consider the writer to be truly skilled.


message 11: by J.J. (new)

J.J. Mainor | 2151 comments Agree it's all subjective. A lot of those we think of great authors today were sometimes considered average if not failures in their day. In the back half of his life, every time Mark Twain needed money, he would write another book. His name alone would sell copies, but readers didn't think much of the works and he could never recapture the success of Tom Sawyer, yet we today consider some of those later works as some of his greatest and most important.


message 12: by Ginger (new)

Ginger Bensman (dispatchesfromamessydesk) I think the kinds of stories and topics that appeal to each of us are subjective, but I also think the best writing feels effortless--prose so smooth and well constructed and error-less that the writing itself becomes invisible and a reader can be totally immersed in the story or concept (for non-fiction) and not even think about the writing.


message 13: by Nik (new)

Nik Krasno | 13751 comments If I need to define 'good writing', I'd go with something like "the ability to come up with a good story, moving characters and deliver it in an easy and engaging manner, appealing to a broad audience".
Of course, everything's subjective, but there has to be some readership that likes and cares for the style and story, because the objective, in a sense, is an aggregate of many subjectives. Take Irvine Welsh, for example. The guy writes his stories in some Scottish slang that it takes time to any English-speaker, unless his Scottish him/herself, to understand and still has about 100K ratings with a good average on Goodreads for 'Trainspotting' only. Or Nietzsche. I bet the readership that is able to enjoy his writing is not that big and to spell his name properly - is even narrower -:).
I'm not overly excited with Harry Potter (yes, I know, who the hell am I, to criticize such a mega-hit?), but I can understand why it's so popular - easy style, cute characters, not too violent, not too boring - perfect mainstream to which a lot can connect.
If I don't like classical music, it doesn't mean that Mozart sucks, as long as he has a huge army of fans.
But if only few people like a certain type of writing, let's say 5 out of 100, does it mean that the book is bad? Kinda hard to call it 'good', yet still - not necessarily bad, but very niche for sure. However the tastes, like everything evolve.
At his time Giordano Bruno was burned at the stake, and nowadays he's considered quite a prominent multi-disciplinary scientist... So, there is always hope even when there are no objective reasons for it -:)


message 14: by Yelena (new)

Yelena Lugin (ylugin) | 35 comments Tara wrote: "Ah, yes. I love writing where the author is able to write about common emotions and situations with uncommon clarity and depth I love it when a book can produce a whirlwind of reaction from me with..."

Yes! I feel the same.
If I laugh or cry or scream at a character while reading then I think the book is well written. :)

I agree in that "good writing" Is all subjective... to a point.
It depends on peoples preferences.
I think anything that captivates me is good. I tend to focus more on the story being told and when engrossed in the story I don't notice issues that a lot of others might.
I accept that I like certain stories or books that are considered by manny as "Poorly written" But hey, if I liked the story then its good right?

If I hate a book and others like it does it mean the book is not good writing? I don't think so. If others like it than clearly something is done right. I wouldn't even consider the book as bad writing, just as something that didn't interest me.


message 15: by Mike (new)

Mike Robbins (mikerobbins) | 264 comments Tara wrote: "Very much subjective, thankfully. One man's comic book is another man's Shakespeare."

That's a lovely way of putting it, Tara!


message 16: by Eldon (new)

Eldon Farrell | 685 comments I agree...definitely comic book over Shakespeare


message 17: by Eldon (new)

Eldon Farrell | 685 comments Great question and lots of awesome discussion so far. My thoughts on this are that while subjective there are certain elements that makes writing great depending on what it is. A textbook can be said to be well written if it is informative and educational whereas a novel can be said to be the same if it is engaging and entertaining. Defining great writing depends a lot on what is being read. One thing I think we can all agree on though is that we all hope our writing can be described as great


message 18: by Mehreen (new)

Mehreen Ahmed (mehreen2) | 1911 comments I love Shakespeare. Lyricism; characterisation; plot. However, there is always room for originality. "Comic book over Shakespeare" is indeed a very original idea. I just hope he isn't turning in grave.


message 19: by Eldon (new)

Eldon Farrell | 685 comments Nothing against Shakespeare or anyone's opinion of him but to paraphrase Neal Adams; if you take the world's greatest writer and the world's greatest artist, together they will produce the greatest work of art and you know what you'll call it...a comic book. Food for thought...


message 20: by J.J. (new)

J.J. Mainor | 2151 comments Eldon wrote: "I agree...definitely comic book over Shakespeare "
I always though the problem with Shakespeare back in school was the teachers always choose the same few plays to cover. While I didn't mind MacBeth or Hamlet, it wasn't until I Shakespeare course in college taught by a professor who went a little outside the box. We read Henry IV Part 1 and Prince Harry was someone I could relate to at the time. While it's Henry the V and his St. Crispin Day's speech that is the more famous of the quadrilogy, it was his first major speech in H IV P1 (I know you all...) that really stuck with me and gave me an appreciation.

Same professor covered Hamlet, but instead of presenting it as a tale of revenge as all your other teachers do, he taught it as a piece about love and love lost. Hamlet isn't driven by revenge for his father's death, he's angry because he believes everyone in his life has betrayed him in some way. His mother has already moved on from her first husband, his girlfriend chose her father over him, and his best friends are using their friendship to spy on him for the king. He doesn't lash out at his step-father, he lashes out at those he loves, and I really identified with that version of Hamlet at the time.

Another one for me that I took up on my own because it's not one of his top tier plays, was Coriolanus. I would make a comparison to some of the other discussions we've had here, especially why workers are so happy. The title character is the hero of his city-state. Coriolanus is the single individual preventing the city from falling to their neighbor, but the leaders grow afraid that his popularity and his hero-status could prove a threat to their own status. They conspire to turn public sentiment against him, and because he's someone who speaks his mind with no filter, all they have to do is stir him up and let his own mouth do the work for them. Exiled, he decides to turn to his most bitter enemy and form an alliance, and without him to defend their walls, the city predictably falls.

There is a reason his great plays are great, but for me, it was getting away from the popular that drove my love of Shakespeare.


message 21: by Nik (new)

Nik Krasno | 13751 comments J.J. wrote: "There is a reason his great plays are great, but for me, it was getting away from the popular that drove my love of Shakespeare.."

There are not so many writers that cause people come in droves to the places where their characters supposedly lived. Sherlock Holmes museum on Baker str is one example. Another - is Juliet's house in Verona, where you can barely make it into the inner yard where thousands of people daily come to touch Juliet statue's breast, believing it will help them in love. Comics based on tragedy...


message 22: by William (new)

William J.Roby (Consta) | 16 comments For me good writing has to be engaging, we can't pretend that we are enjoying a book, although some people might. I think it's a bit like what Walker Percy said on discovering John Kennedy Toole's Pulitzer prize winning 'A Confederacy of Dunces'- 'I couldn't find a reason not to go on.' ( Kennedy Toole's mother had badgered him to read her son's work. ) Good writing must surely therefore be compelling, and in this sense it is a very personal thing.

Having said that, I still think there are certain templates of what good writing should be. I can't see how you could call somebody a good writer if you are left wondering about meaning, or where the grammar gets in the way ( this can either be by an author paying too much attention to it or too little. ) I think good writing also must be clear and stylistically consistent, always.

Originality I would say is very important too, since as George Orwell noted in his essay on the English language, expressing oneself should never be akin to a lego set of clicking together well known phrases, that way writing becomes dull and predictable.

'Brevity is the soul of wit,' as Shakespeare observed, must surely also be a factor when aiming to write well. In this regard, Roald Dahl said he hated the use of unnecessary adjectives such as, 'a blazingly hot summer's day, instead of just, 'a hot summer's day.'
( My example there by the way ) and I think he was making a very good point.


message 23: by Ginger (new)

Ginger Bensman (dispatchesfromamessydesk) William wrote: "For me good writing has to be engaging, we can't pretend that we are enjoying a book, although some people might. I think it's a bit like what Walker Percy said on discovering John Kennedy Toole's ..."
Well said, William. I agree with everything you've said about what makes good writing, especially the unnecessary adjectives!
Thanks.


message 24: by William (new)

William J.Roby (Consta) | 16 comments thank you, glad I'm not alone in that regard


message 25: by Nik (new)

Nik Krasno | 13751 comments William wrote: "For me good writing has to be engaging, we can't pretend that we are enjoying a book, although some people might. I think it's a bit like what Walker Percy said on discovering John Kennedy Toole's ..."

Hi William and welcome to the group!
Excellent insight. I think most would agree with your characteristics of the good writing. Although I prefer a snappy style, some might argue about brevity, bearing in mind authors like Tolstoy or Grisham even, who boast many virtues, but brevity is probably not one of them.
Amazing how you've managed to cite Percy, Orwell, Shakespeare and Dahl in just 4 paragraphs -:)
Hope you'll enjoy and with your pan-European and Middle-Eastern experience, I'm sure, you can contribute a lot to the discussions


message 26: by William (new)

William J.Roby (Consta) | 16 comments thank you Nik, I'm pleased to be a member of the group, and it's all been a lot more interesting than I at first thought. 'Oh to see ourselves,' as Shakespeare once said, since I hadn't realised I'd crammed so many references into my post.


message 27: by Nik (new)

Nik Krasno | 13751 comments William wrote: "thank you Nik, I'm pleased to be a member of the group, and it's all been a lot more interesting than I at first thought. 'Oh to see ourselves,' as Shakespeare once said, since I hadn't realised I'..."

References are cool and a good way to make a point.
Yeah, it should be fun to meet new people from around the globe and engage in discussions on the themes one finds interesting. A good way to learn new things too...


message 28: by William (new)

William J.Roby (Consta) | 16 comments I'll give that my full endorsement.


message 29: by Annie (new)

Annie Arcane (anniearcane) *awakes another zombie*

FEELS.

Just gimme lotsa feels.

And hugs,
Ann


message 30: by Alex (new)

Alex (asato) We should separate out the idea of a good story from good writing--that is, the mechanics, style, expression, metaphors.


message 31: by Nik (new)

Nik Krasno | 13751 comments But then they should re-unite into a good book -:)


message 32: by Mehreen (new)

Mehreen Ahmed (mehreen2) | 1911 comments Nik wrote: "But then they should re-unite into a good book -:)"


On that note, why don't we all write an anthology together?


message 33: by Nik (new)

Nik Krasno | 13751 comments You're most welcome, guys.
Mehreen, please, feel free to open a thread and see whether there is a sufficient number of participants


message 34: by Mehreen (last edited Jul 27, 2016 01:01AM) (new)

Mehreen Ahmed (mehreen2) | 1911 comments Nik wrote: "You're most welcome, guys.
Mehreen, please, feel free to open a thread and see whether there is a sufficient number of participants"


Okay. If you can do a better job, please do so; open a new thread.


message 35: by Alex (last edited Jul 27, 2016 01:17AM) (new)

Alex (asato) Nik wrote: "But then they should re-unite into a good book -:)"

good poetry is the ability to expertly manipulate and use language to express ideas and feelings.

a good story is the ability to develop plot in such a way as to provide a structure for poetic expression and to develop characters as the vehicle for poetic expression, together which lead to the evocation of catharsis--for example, "feels"--in the reader.


message 36: by Graeme (new)

Graeme Rodaughan I strive to make my writing a plate glass window so that the reader can forget that they are looking through it at the action of the story.

Communicating an emotionally rich, immersive reading experience is my writing and storytelling goal.

Basically I want to share a strong emotional experience and the story is my vehicle for connecting with my readers.

If they read what I write and get the intended emotional resonance than I'm happy.


message 37: by Graeme (new)

Graeme Rodaughan I use adjectives, but focus on having the verbs and dialogue tell the story.

What the character says, what the character does...


message 38: by Tim (new)

Tim Rees | 732 comments Marie wrote: I would take a comic book over Shakespeare any day :)

As a reader, good writing is whatever can hold my short attention span.

As a writer, I think good writing means entertaining, informing, convincing, or inspiring your target audience. If the writing is not doing these things, then it is probably bad writing.


I agree with everything Marie said except the comic book over Shakespeare line. I remain in awe of Shakespeare, or rather Christopher Marlow, whom I believe really wrote the stories... Okay, okay, I'll start another thread on that subject rather than rob this thread! :D


message 39: by Mehreen (new)

Mehreen Ahmed (mehreen2) | 1911 comments Tim wrote: "Marie wrote: I would take a comic book over Shakespeare any day :)

As a reader, good writing is whatever can hold my short attention span.

As a writer, I think good writing means entertaining, in..."


Seconded. Although Marlowe might have made Shakespeare.


message 40: by Tim (new)

Tim Rees | 732 comments Mehreen wrote: Seconded. Although Marlowe might have made Shakespeare.

In what way do you mean made? We do know Shakespeare was a real person, so I don't think Marlowe would have falsified his death and then created the Shakespeare character as a disguise? Although, it could have been Shakespeare who was really killed mistakenly for Marlowe... ? I've started another thread. We need to take this there... :D I love theorising this stuff...


message 41: by Michael (new)

Michael Fattorosi | 477 comments As a reader and a writer...

Grabbing hold and not letting go.


message 42: by Mehreen (new)

Mehreen Ahmed (mehreen2) | 1911 comments Michael wrote: "As a reader and a writer...

Grabbing hold and not letting go."


Good on ye'


message 43: by Daniel J. (new)

Daniel J. Nickolas (danieljnickolas) | 111 comments Alex G wrote: "We should separate out the idea of a good story from good writing--that is, the mechanics, style, expression, metaphors."

I agree. Both are worth looking at separately. Great execution can completely compensate for not so great "story" (by which I mean plot). Since Shakespeare is already present, I'll use him for an (hopefully not very controversial) example.

Romeo and Juliet has a strange, sometimes nonsensical plot. This would be great if it was a comedy, but it's not (though it does have a lot of humor in it). When it's broken down into an honest "this happens, then this happens, then this happens" synopsis, I feel as though you aren't left with a premise that could ever be emotionally moving, but centuries of time proves that it absolutely can be, because its just so well executed.

Reversely, bad execution can make a seamless and intriguing plot confusing and listless.


message 44: by Annie (new)

Annie Arcane (anniearcane) Michael wrote: "As a reader and a writer...

Grabbing hold and not letting go."


Handcuffs work.

Daniel J. wrote: "Reversely, bad execution can make a seamless and intriguing plot confusing and listless."

I totes agree that it can . But, then again, even execution is subjective, imho.

٩(๑•◡-๑)۶ⒽⓤⒼ❤


message 45: by J.D. (new)

J.D. Cunegan (jdcunegan) | 62 comments Tara wrote: "Very much subjective, thankfully. One man's comic book is another man's Shakespeare."

Furthering the subjectivity of it, I love comic books and don't care for Shakespeare. :)


message 46: by Annie (new)

Annie Arcane (anniearcane) @Mr JD: *fist bump*

Now for the real question: Marvel or DC?

Cuz that'll make or break any potential friendship ^_~


(I dig Shakespeare too haha!)


message 47: by J.D. (new)

J.D. Cunegan (jdcunegan) | 62 comments Annie wrote: "@Mr JD: *fist bump*

Now for the real question: Marvel or DC?

Cuz that'll make or break any potential friendship ^_~


(I dig Shakespeare too haha!)"


Both... cause both companies have their share of good titles and bad. I never bought into the one-or-the-other argument that others keep having.


message 48: by Eldon (new)

Eldon Farrell | 685 comments J.D. wrote: "Tara wrote: "Very much subjective, thankfully. One man's comic book is another man's Shakespeare."

Furthering the subjectivity of it, I love comic books and don't care for Shakespeare. :)"


I agree with everything J.D. says here


message 49: by Annie (new)

Annie Arcane (anniearcane) @Mr JD: Well, you keep sitting on that fence of yours while I cuddle right up to my old buddy...

*hugs Marvel*

^_^


message 50: by Eldon (new)

Eldon Farrell | 685 comments Annie wrote: "@Mr JD: Well, you keep sitting on that fence of yours while I cuddle right up to my old buddy...

*hugs Marvel*

^_^"


No Annie say it isn't so!! DC over Marvel lol


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