1. MustWrite
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    MustWrite Member

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    Content V Writing,(quality), and why trash sells

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by MustWrite, May 22, 2014.

    I'm puzzling over why books most people agree are rubbish not only sell well but are liked by so many. I owe it to myself to write at the highest level I am capable of, but I also realize from what I've seen that it really doesn't matter how well I write if my content does not appeal to people. I am not suggesting that we should all start writing lower quality stuff that seems to follow trends of what the masses want at any given moment, but the tastes of the many do seem to lean towards fast food rather than fine cuisine if you know what I mean...
     
  2. FrankieWuh
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    FrankieWuh Active Member

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    "Rubbish" is a point of view I guess, and if most people really did consider them rubbish, they wouldn't sell. Guilty pleasures are really things that aren't rubbish. They have value because they provide entertainment to enough people to warrant their existence.

    The fact is, if you set out to write what you consider "rubbish" you really will, and it will be something people won't want to read, even those who are least discerning. It's like the historian who wants to write porn because it pays well. It ends up being unpublishable crap because his heart isn't in it.
    Most of these "rubbish" books are written by writers who believe they are writing masterpieces. That belief rubs off on the reader who buys into it.
    But, yeah there are exceptions to this rule :p
     
  3. Man in the Box
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    Man in the Box Active Member

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    I think it's down to the audience you want to reach. Quality works tend to have a limited audience. On the other hand, if your audience is insecure female teenagers and you give them exactly what they want (Twilight), of course you're gonna sell a lot.

    The criteria on what's "marketable" are weird, not only in the literary market.
     
  4. Burlbird
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    Burlbird Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't understand the relativisation of quality in art - IF you still consider literature to be an art form. YES there is some trully bestselling rubbish out there. It's a matter of perspective only if you haven't read anything but rubbish. You do not see such relativisation in popular music - certainly not from authors themselves, let alone critics. Does anyone consider the œuvre of Miley Cyrus high quality music, to be discussed and appreciated from a musical and musicological perspective? Or do you approach it as product of pop culture and entertainment industry, and evaluate it accordingly?

    Now, have you ever heard of a, say, jazz musician giving up his music because Miley sells more albums than he could ever imagine? No - a true musician works on the quality of his music, for the enjoyment of his audience and himself. Live for the jazz, man. (Or starve to death cause you're never gonna beat Miley.)
     
    Last edited: May 22, 2014
  5. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    novel buyers/readers are, by and large, not writers... nor are many even what we'd consider good readers... and if a reader can't tell good writing from not-so-good or just plain bad, they'll buy and read whatever is being hyped as something they think they might like, or that their friends said was worth reading, etc....

    and many simply don't care about the quality of the writing and buy books only for the story...

    if you were a good chef, would you be wondering why so many more folks eat what mcdonald's and subway put out, instead of going to a good restaurant, or eating fine dishes they've cooked for themselves at home?... the reasons given for people who buy and enjoy junk reading are the same in re junk food consumption...
     
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  6. TDFuhringer
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    TDFuhringer Contributing Member Contributor

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    There needs to be a "You win the Internet for the day" button for posts like this. Everyone on the forum should read this brilliant illustration.
     
  7. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    I think the reason lowbrow fiction is so popular is that is doesn't provoke a lot of discussions, just opinions. People like to have opinions more than discussions - it's quicker and less debatable. Even if something is lousy a person can still like it. A lot of literary stuff is more provoking because it doesn't provide you with all the answers - it's not something to just like or not like.
     
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  8. Renee J
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    Renee J Contributing Member

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    What is rubbish depends on the beholder. To go back to the music analogy, someone who's studied Opera may find rock music to be trash - even rock music that is studied in schools and praised in reviews. Likewise, someone may decide anything genre is rubbish, even if it's not.
     
  9. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    Most people don't like to think. This applies to all things, not just reading. Also, it seems that people have learned to look at literature the same way they look at movies or TV shows: to most, it's a form of entertainment. It's a way to relax after a hard day's work, and who wants to think deeply about what he's reading after a day like that?

    What most of these popular books do is pander to the lowest common denominator. They make the person unwilling to put in the effort feel like he has accomplished something good by finishing a book; they give him the false impression of being cultured and intellectual even. Perhaps as writers we take our curiosity for granted. The same curiosity that drives us to explore the world and human experience through our writing inspires us to explore new forms and genres of literature. So we're frequently exposed to good writing that makes us think, and as writers with a critical eye, I think we can all appreciate that more than the average person.

    I'll stop rambling now before my post gets even more elitist. ;)
     
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  10. A.M.P.
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    A.M.P. People Buy My Books for the Bio Photo Supporter Contributor

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    Author master race unite!

    But like a lot of people said: average Joe doesn't care to debate and this is a feature more predominant in North America than most other First World countries.
    The education system plays a large roll by not making children think critically and instead gives them yes/no questions and makes them memorize facts (Useful stuff but not always).

    Another issue is that opinions are more popular than fact. It's basically personal political-correcting.
    If anyone states something they believe in as a fact, they will be called stubborn or inconsiderate of others feelings.
    It's why dogmatic philosophy is so unpopular as it isn't without holes in its workings.
    It's better and easier to state "I think" or "My thoughts are" and take everyone's thoughts with a smile instead of telling them why they're wrong and that their whole lives are based on a lie...

    Also, think on how we raise children these days.
    It's much more...laisser-faire liberal.
    Family values and unity is down, traditions are disappearing, and kids are told to do whatever they want until they eventually make their own non-blood families.
    Everyone is a wonderful individual filled with opinions that the world isn't allowed to put down because it'll hurt their feelings.

    Yay, 21st century.
     
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  11. Man in the Box
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    Man in the Box Active Member

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    Quality literature requires education. The masses often aren't prepared to experience it because the education system fails at giving its subjects the necessary tools to think.

    I don't dismiss what could be called "lower quality", though. There's a chance someone becomes an avid reader if their first experience was with a blockbuster series.
     
  12. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    I completely forgot to mention education in my post. I do think forcing students to read a particular genre or type of books is counterproductive. There are some books, The Great Gatsby for example, that I think are best appreciated later in life. Truth be told, I don't like the idea of getting rid of some of the books we read in high school, but I'm willing to consider it if it means that more students will love reading and love thinking about what they've read. But all this has more to do with how the education system is set up, so I won't go off-topic about that here.
     
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  13. MustWrite
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    I enjoy of bit of pizza or Chinese take-aways (kiwi for fast-food) and I have read plenty of entertaining fiction that didn't demand much of me. I am totally behind getting people reading using whatever books take their fancy and I think it back-fires when Schools force kids to read stuff they struggle to understand or enjoy. I enjoy a good story even if the writing makes me wince a bit.
    I'm trying to think how to word this- If you think of the average popular movie, Rom-coms and blockbusters, family movies and thrillers, they all have to be done to a reasonable quality for anyone to enjoy them. I don't mean the story-lines are great- I'm talking about the editing, acting and so-on. The quality, not the content. I'm not talking about artsy movies here, just the average movie that most enjoy. If they were badly cut, had poor acting and the special-effects were not too special, no one would watch them, right? Do you get what I mean? I hope I'm making sense here.
     
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  14. GoldenFeather
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    GoldenFeather Active Member

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    I personally think it's because most people aren't writers, so they can't distinguish the good from the bad.

    It's kinda like musicians. I have talented musician friends who often tell me "how do you listen to this? it's so bad" but to my ear its perfectly acceptable. I don't know any better.
     
  15. ChaosReigns
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    ChaosReigns Be Still and Know Contributor

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    this whole thing with whats popular frustrates me, because a lot of people who just read for the sake of it and follow trends are becoming like sheep (for more of a word) and the reason it frustrates me is that its causing so many people to lose touch with a more creative side and a way of truly getting yourself in a position where you can think for yourself. it also has to do with the force feeding from the media of what everyone should and shouldnt like, there is too much of that going on these days for anyone to be able to discern what they actually like from what they are supposed to like (because thats what is being told of us)

    i can see your point here with this analogy, and take it from the opposite perspective here by in which someone who likes Rock may find that Opera is the most boring thing they have heard... and ok, find yes i listen to rock/metal but that isnt the point, i quite like classical music, as much as i like jazz too. i however cant abide operatic vocals because i find it grating on my ears. feel free to make the same comment on screaming vocals if you so wish, because that too can sometimes be grating if overcooked.
     
  16. GoldenFeather
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    GoldenFeather Active Member

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    By trash books do you mean poorly written? Or just bad stories?
     
  17. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    At the end of the day, good and bad are subjective. All I can offer is my informed opinion, but if someone truly likes Twilight, I can't really argue against that. So if something truly sounds good to you, you shouldn't let your friends' opinions influence you.
     
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  18. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    It is about the writing, but it's equal parts story. An uninteresting book can be well written just as a poorly written book can be interesting. If you want readers you need both, but a strong story can pull weak writing along with it.

    While "50 Shades" and "Twilight" were weakly written, they weren't horribly written. There was too much repetition in both of them and they aren't the only popular books with way too many bit lips, raised eyebrows and long fingers. Regardless, they were readable books. Some of the stuff people bring to my critique group does not reach 'readable' quality and even a good story couldn't pull the poor writing along with it.

    I believe we make a mistake to discount 'story' as a component of the whole.
     
  19. Burlbird
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    Burlbird Contributing Member Contributor

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    I am still to see a horribly written book with a story soooo good that is worth reading.... How do you reach the level of enjoying the story when you have a wall of garbage language to climb? How do you reach the story itself, for that matter, without fighting your way through the medium? There is only to look at music, visual arts, design, architecture, programming, fashion, pottery, electrical installations, or just about any single expressive form: the medium is as important, if not more important than the content.

    If you look really close to just about any book you have, you may notice that there is nothing but language in it. The story does not exist outside the language. The reader constructs the story by engaging with the language.
     
  20. Renee J
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    Renee J Contributing Member

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    There's also the fact that most people don't read books, period. So, someone reading trashy books is a step ahead of those who don't read more than a twitter feed.
     
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  21. cutecat22
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    cutecat22 The Strange One Contributor

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    You are making total sense but give me the title of any film in the world and I will get back to you within a week with a list of errors either in dialogue, setting, continuity or plot. The internet is a wonderful place to find things like that. (that was a rhetorical request, by the way ...)

    The point is, whatever you hate about a book, another person will love. There are millions of readers out there, the majority of whom are not writers and while writers will slate a particular book for having punctuation errors, plot holes or just because it's badly written (btw, who decides what's classed as 'bad writing'?) the readers will simply read the story. Yes, they may have questions about the characters and they may think 'oh, what about that bit, I never fully understood that bit ...' but they won't be as concerned about whether the writer has correctly used a comma or not, or understands the rules of full justification.
     
  22. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    "The man who doesn't read good books has no advantage over the man who can't read them." —Mark Twain
     
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  23. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    For myself, I've gone from being completely snobbish to now enjoying bestsellers again. I dunno, I mean, when I first started reading for real, I was 10 years old. Up to that point I'd been reading comics and picture books, and the switch from Chinese to English probably delayed things as I wouldn't pick up a book for about 2-3 years after the move (well, I picked them up to look at the pictures lol but not to read). Mum encouraged me to read because obviously, it's good for my English and at the time it wasn't yet at native level. There was a book sale at school and I picked up Lucy Daniel's Owl in the Office, from the Animal Ark series. It had the occasional picture but otherwise the whole thing was text - I don't think I ever realised how good my English was, I think I just assumed I wouldn't understand.

    Anyway, that was that and I've been reading ever since.

    Now, Animal Ark - would you say that's a work of literature? Of course not. Is it clever? Nah. Is it particularly original? Nah. It was a simple, good story with pretty pictures that captured what a young mind who loves art and who wasn't so confident in her English was looking for. I moved on from that to various other books on animals, and eventually at my dad's encouragement, I moved out of the "rescue animals" type stories and went onto fantasy and eventually crime and romance novels. It wasn't until university when I started reading classics by choice.

    What I'm saying is - I think there's value even in the lowbrow stuff. If there wasn't Animal Ark and the numerous, countless other books I don't remember stocked in my school library, I wouldn't have started reading and even if I'd started, I wouldn't have continued. These easier, more accessible sorts of books are a great way to get into reading and the truth is, if it's encouraging people to read, then what's the harm anyway? And those who have a keen eye for writing and story will eventually develop that critical eye and choose better stuff - those without will not, and are perfectly happy.

    I remember how my ex would look down on me for enjoying the music I enjoy, and the films I enjoy, because apparently they simply weren't artistic enough or original enough. All that kinda attitude creates is repulsion. I have no interest to study either subject in depth and I can't really care about the nuances if I enjoy it. He was the epitome of narrow-mindedness and arrogance, mind you. Anyway, I suppose most people must be similar when it comes to reading - they know it's probably not well-written, or perhaps they don't know, but either way, the fact is they don't care. And since they are not interested in the mechanics of writing, well, frankly, really, why on earth should they?

    I think it's a shame that they don't care - or rather that it's a shame they don't appreciate the finer things in writing. But in the end, what does it matter anyway? There're people who would say us writers are wasting our time by the computer when we should be out appreciating the finer things of nature or some other equally spectacular and worthy pursuit, and they'd say well that's a shame. I know many people, my husband included, who see no point in fiction and do not understand why anyone would waste their time delving into something that did not happen. To them, it must seem like pure madness to waste several years of your life working on a novel. (no my husband doesn't think it's madness - he just thinks it's a worthy creative pursuit that he himself would never engage in) It's not that they deny the fact that fiction can make you think and give you a different perspective, but if they were to read anything, they'd rather it was non-fiction. Personally I find non-fiction fairly dull in general.

    Truth is, we all care about different stuff and are good at different stuff, and that's how it should be. It's also why we find like-minded people and set up forums like this one :)

    @peachalulu - reminds me of Da Vinci Code, how the masses devoured it. I hated Dan Brown's writing before that book ever came out - I could tell it was crap when I was 17 and before I'd ever touched a classic lol. As a Christian, the book's that much more irritating. But hey, it served up what the people wanted :rolleyes:

    @Burlbird - what you said about music reminds me of Charlotte Church. She's gone from singing opera and selling millions and millions of records to singing really niche and slightly strange songs where I think she writes everything as well as directs and designs the videos etc. It's gone really fringe, basically, and out of curiosity I checked out how much a ticket to her concert would cost, and it was £15. On the one hand it's rather a shame cus she's got a beautiful voice, but on the other I gotta admire her courage to step away like that and go the musical path she feels her music is and deserves. She won't sell half as much, but she doesn't care lol (of course, she's privileged that she doesn't have to care).
     
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  24. 123456789
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    That's the more positive hypothesis. However, just like in reality there are individuals who are healthier, more attractive, smarter, and nicer than other people, I don't think the world quite works in the way you claim.

    Maybe we all care about different things and are good at different stuff, or maybe some of us just care less and or are not as good at certain things (like analysis, like critical thinking, like reading).

    It's entirely possible that more rewarding endeavors simply require more effort and more patience, maybe even more mental abilities.

    Why is the idea so shocking that a person might exist who is more or less entirely void of critical thinking? This person will laugh at the cheap jokes found in Disney movies, will bob their heads to the cheap hooks in modern pop music, and will devour simplistic novels.
     
  25. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Hmm, I didn't say there's no one devoid of critical thinking - I just said that they don't care that they're devoid of it.

    Incidentally, I LOVE Disney and certainly laugh at a number of their jokes. Monsters University cracked me up and I adore the music from Frozen. I still love pop and as for simplistic novels - I'd say Brandon Sanderson's stuff is simple enough. It doesn't really ask any questions about life, the world, or anything spiritual - it asks no questions, pretty much. It's a solid, steady adventure story - nothing more, nothing less, with equally solid and easy to read writing. Work of art? Nope. Enjoyable? Definitely. I don't think it's fair to say just because you enjoy these simple things, it means you are devoid of critical thinking :rolleyes: And other times I just shut down the critic in me because that's not what the product's trying to achieve - I'm not gonna be provoked to think about the depth and meaning of life by watching Harry Potter, and to try would only lead to frustration. High School Musical is a guilty pleasure lol - I think it's cute but it doesn't mean I don't cringe, but it's not meant for an artistic sort of audience, so why should I require artistry from it?

    However, I do agree with you that worthy pursuits take more time, more effort, and more patience - but reading isn't the only thing like that, nor writing. Ask the guy who climbed Mount Everest, or the woman who dived the deepest without an oxygen tank, or the opera singer or jazz player who's a legend, or the mathematician or the guys who found the God Particle - I don't think these things are achieved without effort, patience, time, hard work, critical thinking and, well, a lot of love for the pursuit.

    And then there're those who never put their time or effort to anything because it's simply too hard. That's rather sad because I do not believe they cannot achieve anything, but rather their attitude, life circumstances, and perhaps the economical and educational system have all served to shape them in a certain way and their own mental, emotional, and/or spiritual strength just weren't strong enough to withstand the damage.

    I just don't think we ought to be snobbish about our skills just because we're writers and it happens that writing/reading are associated with being intellectual.
     

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