1. afatelgrand
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    afatelgrand New Member

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    Decreasing Quality

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by afatelgrand, Feb 5, 2011.

    Hi everyone(again),

    (To frame this better and thus to get a better answer I have separated the posts.)

    Conversly, what do you think, as a reader, reduces a story's quality? What was the main factor that made THAT story boring, or tedious to you?


    Some say, too fast paced, or some say the characters weren't real; they didn't make realistic decisions. Others say the writing was to sloppy.

    What do you think?

    Thanks!:)
     
  2. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    I hate huge infodumps about the character's backstory.

    I also hate beginnings that go on for several pages about what the setting looks like (unless it's a story like 1984 where the setting plays a bigger role).

    I also hate annoying cliches, like when it begins with the MC waking up in the morning and describing his/herself in a huge infodump when he/she looks in the mirror.

    Mary Sues.

    When female characters lose all independence and strength as soon as she falls in love and lets her lover do all her thinking/action for her. It can go both ways, of course, but it's usually the girl who is the sap in stories. It's fine if it's portrayed as a flaw, but it better not be romanticized by the author.

    Lots of passive voice. It has its uses -- when you want to create a detached tone for example -- that's it.

    Unrealistic dialogue.
     
  3. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    1) Infodumps, yes.

    2) Authors who are over-fond of their characters.

    3) Stories where the plot and characters are sacrificed to the "lesson" that the author is trying to teach. If the lesson can't coexist with a complex plot with shades of gray, then it's not worth teaching.

    4) Stories where the author is determined that you will agree with him on some point, and is humorlessly incapable of accepting disagreement.

    (Come to think of it, points two, three, and four are all part of the same thing, I just can't seem to express the larger point, whatever it is.)

    5) Stories written to appeal to some generic reader preference. If you can envision a focus group, something is wrong.
     
  4. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    The one thing I hate the most is bad writing. Everything else I can deal with.
     
  5. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    The OP was asking what specifically constitutes bad writing. ;)
     
  6. twopounder
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    twopounder Member

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    In technical writing, anything that Microsoft press does. Especially when they have size 6 font, but only use a single column and half a page. Do we really need a 6" margin on the right? I swear they do that to artificially inflate the price of the book.

    Heh, in the fiction genre, I'd say cliches and poor voice. Nothing is worse than a paragraph with 6 lines starting with "The."

    Also, being different for the sake of being different. Yes, you need to be unique. No, you don't need to be "acid trip" unique.
     
  7. Trilby
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    Trilby Contributing Member Contributor

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    Spot on! Couldn't agree more.

    I would add, authors that don't do enough, or any, research and thereby get their info. incorrect - I know we're talking fiction, but some people will believe anything that is written down, 'It's in black and white' being behind their logic.

    Coming from a minority group that is always being misrepresented I find this irksome to say the least.
     
  8. Unit7
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    Unit7 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I once started a NaNoNovel with my MC waking up. But the thing is, I don't remember ever describing that character at all. well a couple times but it was more about him becoming more clear and detailed in a different characters dreams.

    But I agree. Nothing more annoying then a giant info dump on what the character looks like. I don't mind the occasional small glimpses but if there is something unique about the characters looks then I really don't need to know the full details. I can use my imagination.


    Other then infodumps on looks and well infodumps in general I can't think of anything else at the moment.
     
  9. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    Poor story for me - I don't really mind the rest. Waking up is fine, there are often things about Mary Sue characters I quite like, would rather have an infodump description in the mirror than not have the basic eye colour, hair colour, body build and what the character is wearing etc I also need to know the character's name quickly.

    I don't like characters I can't relate to and a dull story.
     
  10. Trilby
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    Trilby Contributing Member Contributor

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    I sometimes think that on this forum info-dump and back story are classed as one and the same. I don't see it that way, info-dump for me in many cases is a whole load of unnecessary info. whereas well written back story can be both informative and interesting.

    Unless it is relevant to the story/plot I don't see the need to be told the eye/hair colour or body size. Your readers are not infants - they don't need to be spoon fed every single morsel. Tread your readers as equals and they will respect you for it.

    Listen to radio drama, there is no voice-over telling you what the character look like or what they are wearing.

    Leave somethings to your readers own imagination - they may see your characters diffirent from the way you do, what does that matter if they have enjoyed the story.
     
  11. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    For me?

    Useless exposition. I don't need to know the placement of every crack and blemish and molecule and atom and quark or gently vibration subatomic superstring of the antique Roseville creamer sitting on the brick-red surface of mother's vintage fifties bistro table that transports me to thoughts of yesteryear and halcyon days.

    See? Did that last paragraph not make you skip to this sentence right here?

    Yeah. That.
     
  12. afatelgrand
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    afatelgrand New Member

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    Hi everyone,

    Thanks for replying, I couldn't have thought of these myself.

    Well I think silliness lowers a story's quality. You know, you can be funny sometimes, but not silly...

    Do you have anymore?( let's be creative on those who aren't... hehe:p)


    Thanks!:)
     
  13. Show
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    Show Contributing Member Contributor

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    I used to try and it and people always told me I gotta tell them more about what the characters look like. :rolleyes:

    For me, I hate it when a story just plain drags. I dont care about infodumps or cliches much; just keep me interested. I guess I also hate it when somebody hands me a book(figuratively) and tells me I have to acknowledge it as good literature just because it's widely considered such. Usually that makes me resent a book more than anything.
     
  14. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't read the same way you do. I like to read basics about a main character. I want to have an idea of name, eye and hair colour, basic build, idea of the sort of things they wear. Also basic personality, all by end of first chapter. I would personally much rather have too much than too little. Whilst I will read and enjoy stories without that - I have yet to be entranced by one. OK with the exception of Gervase Phinn but he had a picture on the back and I knew what he looked like and sounded like off the TV.

    All the books in my top 10 give some idea of physicality to the character. Mist Over Pendle my favourite book has some amazing descriptions of clothing, the main character and her family. My favourite books have me captured by the end of the first few pages, part of that is their ability to describe the character in all their facets. A book without descriptions may take a couple of chapters to warm up.

    When I write I include what I like to read. Personally would rather have an infodump (and I mean a Patricia Cornwell style this is what the character looks like infordump), at the beginning of the chapter than none at all. Which is why so far the first word in all my books has been the name of the main character.
     
  15. evelon
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    evelon Active Member

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    In my best-selling novel - which is still in mss form in the drawer, I deliberately didn't over-describe my characters. I gave the completed ms to two friends to read and comment on - both identified immediately with the mc
    and when I asked them what they thought the mc looked like, they described themselves.

    So, I concluded, that, in order to your readers to identify with a character, you have to leave room for people to put their own interpretation on it.

    Doesn't work for everybody of course. Each writer has a his own style and all styles have merits and fans.
     
  16. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm not saying anyone else has to read or write the same way I do.

    However a book without that description would not make it into my top level of reading. I read and enjoy them but not to the same transported away right from first page.

    I write what I like to read and its that simple. I haven't infodumped my descriptions - if I use a mirror I find a reason for self appraisal or comparison with a second face in it etc. However if I was to choose between reading a book which over described vs under described I choose the over described.
     
  17. Ellipse
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    Ellipse Contributing Member Contributor

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    Heh, Robert Jordan is guilty of this. You could easily cut out two hundred pages of details and it wouldn't effect the story. :)

    ------------

    The things I feel that decrease the quality of a novel are scenes that do nothing to explain or further the plot. Or do so poorly. A Spell For Chameleon is guilty of this.

    Worse yet, books in a series where there is no resolution or do little to advance the overall plot of the series. Chainfire in the Sword of Truth series is guilty of this. It's also the book that made me stop reading that series. :mad:
     
  18. Heather Munn
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    Heather Munn Member

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    What I hate most hasn't been mentioned yet (or if it was I missed it) and that's pretentious writing.

    I don't mean literary prose, that's fine if you have a good ear for it and know how to do it.

    I mean when you're trying to make your prose literary or dramatic or impressive in one way or another, and you don't know how, so you commit one or all of these crimes:

    - exaggeration--everything has to be the most beautiful or most powerful or most breathtaking or most tragic thing the world has ever seen. (Also extreme feelings--going on at length about what horrible suffering or incredible ecstasy something is for the character, in language that implies that no one has ever experienced anything approaching it before or since.)

    - super-floweriness--long sentences crammed with "beauty adjectives"

    - the Big Words syndrome, where someone thinks big words = good writing and thus uses all the longest words they know

    - historical jarring--someone picked a period of history they thought would be colorful and impressive but they don't know a thing about it so their characters are named Heather and Holly and talk like modern teenagers (saw this in a published book!)

    - gratuitous violence--they think someone has to get shot to make it exciting, so someone gets shot on every other page

    - complete nonsense: long, convoluted sentences (because long convoluted sentences are literary, right?) that you have to read three times and they still don't make any sense.
     
  19. impure
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    impure Member

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    A story should be crisp and concise.
    I hate it when people write more than they need.
    Back story is OK as long as it is done right.
     
  20. Ellipse
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    Ellipse Contributing Member Contributor

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    One more thing I forgot to mention:

    Sci-fi stories set in the future that try to explain technology with a bunch of techno mumbo jumbo that has absolutely no bearing on reality. Star Trek, I'm looking at you!
     
    1 person likes this.
  21. evelon
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    evelon Active Member

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    Yeah, I get that. And I imagine the books that you write demand more description, both of character and setting, because they are fantasy and the reader needs more detail to be able to 'see' the world you are creating.

    But I think in a world that we are familiar with and can imagine more easily, too much description can become tedious.

    Again, it's how it's done. I love 'Under Milk Wood' by Dylan Thomas. The descriptive passages in there are wonderful to read. Dickens could paint amazing images of London, even if sometimes he took pages to do it.

    It's all a matter of how the writer wants to write and what the reader wants to read.
     
  22. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    My fantasy doesn't require too much, the world has a level of familiarity about it. The races are varients on humans, my horses can run a bit faster and my cats smile. You are absolutely right you don't need to say 'a round wheel,' However you may need to mention it if they are square.

    I agree - I don't overly like the infodumps either it can be done much better. However if they just do Patrcia Cornwell style and include a paragraph early on and leave it at that I can live with it, and would rather have that than no physical description. I'm much more forgiving of another author with it than I am myself lol Jane Eyre is my favourite example all we really know about her is she is plain, and small but it is enough to endear you to her.

    My favourite and I think it was another thread I mentioned him on, forgive if I am repeating myself lol Is a writer called Robert Neill he finds ways to make descriptions fit into and be an integral part of the story. Which is my goal.
     
  23. evelon
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    evelon Active Member

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    Just read the latest Patricia Cornwell. Or didn't read it I should say. There are so many department names that she shortens, I can't keep up with them all. Think I read three chapters before the story really started.

    I used to love her books, but I think she's (literally) lost the plot a bit.

    She's getting far too technical for a simple soul like what I am.

    Never read Robert Neill, but I'm up for a challenge. Is there a title of his you'd recommend?
     
  24. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    I agree she is a bit like a science report to read, personally prefer Kathy Reichs. Patricia Cornwell was just the most famous physical description infodumper I could think of lol

    Yes Mist Over Pendle (about the Pendle Witches) has just been printed again. Sadly he has been going out of print, but the reviews of his work on Amazon seem to have sparked a revival.

    For me I love the way he sneaks in loads of geeky historical detail and you don't notice. His descriptions of the clothing are wonderful. Can't think of another writer who's work is so colourful to read.
     
  25. evelon
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    evelon Active Member

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    I'll give him a go then. I've been trying to read things I wouldn't normally read to try and broaden my horizon a bit. But I'm finding time to short to read anything I don't take to within the first few pages. But this sounds interesting, particulary regarding the Pendle Witches.

    Thanks for the info. Let you know what I think.
     

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