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  1. Nervous1st
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    Nervous1st Senior Member

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    Good/bad authors

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Nervous1st, Jul 22, 2010.

    Just wondering what it is exactly that makes a particular author good or bad. I recognise straight away when I read a good/bad author, but I have trouble putting my finger on exactly what it is that makes them that way.

    For example, Cogito, last week you suggested I read Sue Grafton’s S is for Silence, which I am part way through. She is an excellent author. Her characters are so real, that I feel I’ve met them personally. She describes everything, the scenery, the weather, the house. Every character is physically described as is the car they drive - which would normally be too much. I can’t pin point exactly what it is that makes her writing so good, not the story, the writing.

    Similarly, I’ve read a lot of Danielle Steele (Groan) where the writing and story lines are not so good. But what is it about her, specifically (and the likes of Stephanie Meyer) that make the writing so bad. At least Meyer had a good story line, Steele is the bold and the beautiful in print. How has she lasted so long, especially when the quality of her writing hasn’t improved over the years?

    I know there is a market for crappy romance novels, but seriously, if it was that easy everyone would be doing it.

    What do you think?
     
  2. RubiBell
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    RubiBell New Member

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    Well there can be plenty of different things. First off, do you even like the idea of the particular story? if not well, you won't like the book. But other things such as, not a good plot. Maybe the author didn't put enough into the plot. Had hardly anything happen until the end. Not enough character personality. Things being rushed. Maybe the story could of fitted into a much shorter book. Now I know Meyer made it big, and I love her books, but there are a few things wrong with the way she writes it. Bella, she hasn't got much personality. She doesn't seem to have many interests until she meets Edward. Her background story? Lived in Pheonix for most of her life. What did she do there? Who knows? And she doesn't think like a normal seventeen year old. Most teenagers don't use 'fancy' describing words in their thoughts the way she does. But I'm sure there's plenty more that can make an author not all that great.
     
  3. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I think the only way to tell is to read lots and lots of books. At some point you come to recognize what's good writing and what's bad writing. From there, you critique the two, and analyze what is working and what is not working. It's not going be one big difference, it will be many many small ones. And you will begin to recognize them.
     
  4. OvershadowedGuy
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    OvershadowedGuy Member

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    There are a lot of differing opinions, but generally a good author writes takes an idea and morph's it into a format where you are compelled, interested and willing to give your money/time for it.

    How you do that is the question of the ages. Like Stephen said; When asked, "How do you write?" I invariably answer, "one word at a time."
     
  5. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    To a certain extent, 'good writing' and 'bad writing' or 'good author' and 'bad author' is in the eye of the reader/audience.

    Some folks argue that the Twilight Series is poorly written and Meyer isn't really a very good author. Well, there are loads of readers who have a different opinion. JRR Tolkien's Lord of the Rings trilogy is highly acclaimed, but many who read the trilogy struggle to get through them and find them long and boring--is that poor writing?

    In theory, a novel that is picked up by a publisher that is highly selective, with effective editing, shouldn't be putting out something that all readers will find 'bad.' I am sure there are exceptions--and if a publisher has too many of those exceptions, they won't be in business for very long.

    Meet the audience's expectations, and the work will be considered 'good' by them.

    Terry
     
  6. Show
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    Show Contributing Member Contributor

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    I have to agree to a certain point here. Taste will play a large role in what people consider "good" or "bad." It will also depend on how critical a reader somebody is. If somebody isn't looking to read critically but is merely looking for some textual entertainment, they may really enjoy a book that a harsh critic might want to use for their fireplace. At the same time, a book the latter person finds intellectually stimulating might totally repel the former. So "good" and "bad" authors, like with everything else, I think, is largely a matter of opinion. Everyone has different criteria for what is considered good and bad. I know my criteria likely clashes with most others. lol
     
  7. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    Also, you have to think of popular fashion. Steel met a need in the 80s, and Tolkein's readers were used to his style in the days his books came out. Vampire stuff is in vogue at the moment, but who can tell if Meyer will stand the test of time? And if a writer doesn't stand up to this test, does it mean s/he is 'bad'?
     
  8. Nobeler Than Lettuce
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    Nobeler Than Lettuce Contributing Member

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    For me, a good author is also a good philosopher. That's strange seeing as I really hate the erudite language used in describing even the most simple of philosophical ideas, their overuse of Latin, and of course cause they jus' atalka too much.

    I could care less if the book was about vampires or if it was about unicorns living on an island made of pudding, as long as there is subtext, I'll read it, even if I hate the writer, the writing, and the story (looking at you Ayn Rand).

    I had one jagoff in my house once that pointed to my collection of European philosophers and noted how they must be as boring as the history of the sewing machine. He wants to be a personal trainer for a living. Funny thing is I agreed with him but that statement irked me to no end. It was like he was giving a proverbial noogie to Nietzsche.

    The thing is, I don't have to respect someone to understand the focus of their work. Things like Harry Potter and Twilight have no focus, at best they introduce teens to more adult ideas and feelings. They're like ABC books to me. Not that I can't enjoy a good story.
     
  9. w176
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    w176 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Books, movies and pictures all come in different shades appreciated in different ways.

    Sometimes you just want so snooze in the couch lazily half watching a movie with an explosion every now and then or a nature flick about zebras without paying much mind. Some times you look at photos that make you think about the beauty of the world or the horror of war and sometimes you raiding the internet for hot pictures of the sex you prefer to look at.

    Art isn't about good/bad. Its about needs, responses and what you get out of it. Qwzillion of teen girls got exited about the Twilight because Mayers obviously manage to write a book teen girls finds hot. They pine for hot books and in their opinion hotness is the most important quality of a book.

    If our opinion is that the important quality of a book in an interesting language and intellectual content, not hotness, we are neither more right or wrong then the qwazillion girls.
     
  10. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Then Playboy and Hustler are art.
     
  11. w176
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    w176 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yep. And shampoo commercials and cereal packet designs and...
     
  12. RobT
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    RobT Active Member

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    Playboy and Hustler ^^
     
  13. Islander
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    Islander Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think Nervous1st is trying to make the point that it is not something tangible, like the plot, the characters or the storyline, that he finds enjoyable in Sue Grafton's books, but the writing itself.

    Even many of those who love Tolkien's books admit that his style of writing is very heavy and full of unnecessary description. I think it's his themes, storylines and characters that people tend to fall in love with.
     
  14. Islander
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    Islander Contributing Member Contributor

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    Nudity shots in Playboy and Hustler are not original, but they are artistic. Things like lighting, clothing, poses and backgrounds are carefully chosen to produce an aesthetic effect. The results would be quite different if you put Joe Average behind the camera.
     
  15. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Let's not lose the context in which I made that remark:
    I responded:
    In other words, I don't believe art is purely defined by how many obsessed consumers rush to acquire it to satisfy various impulses.

    Marketability does not make art.
     
  16. Unit7
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    Unit7 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I once tried explaining that to my mom... didn't work to well. :(
     
  17. w176
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    w176 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Art is something made to express something. Making a distinction that something must be good enough or strive for certain values and not others are not meaningful.

    Expressing the human form or sexuality is considered classical religions iconery in one form in one form porn in another and 30 or 1000 years later we might view that work different, a company logo, a child drawing of her house, a book about fishing and love or a book about how to build chairs... Its awfully hard and meaningless to say that to be art something must be good enough or strive to some values but not other.

    Art is a form of trying to communicate something. We cant restrict that to things good enough and only being about certain things.
     
  18. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I think you have to decide what you think the purpose of writing is before attaching the label "good" or "bad" to a given author. It's going to be quite subjective.

    At some level, it seems that the most basic function of a writer is that of a story-teller. Establishing a connection between storyteller and reader that resonates with the reader. From that perspective, it is hard to say that someone like Meyer is a bad writer. She's managed to accomplish what is the core role of "storytelling" to a degree that the vast majority of other authors will never even come close to seeing. So, she's shown herself to be good in that sense.

    On the other hand, if you view the function of writer as artist first and foremost, and storyteller secondarily, then someone like Meyer might not be considered so good, whereas people like Peake, Carter, Durand, Bolano, etc. might well be considered great, even though their readership will never hit Meyer's levels. Of course, these people have to be storytellers as well, but their gifts lie more in the art of how they tell their stories than the storytelling aspects. Take Roberto Bolano's 2666. A great novel. He's never going to engage millions of breathless readers like Meyer, but Meyer doesn't have a prayer of ever achieving Bolano's artistic level.

    So when you ask about good/bad authors, what do you mean? And what criteria are you using to judge?
     
  19. Nervous1st
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    Nervous1st Senior Member

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    Yes, Islander that is my point. In Sue Grafton's book... it's essentially just another whodunit... the character's are cliché' as is the story line... but it's the writing. On one hand she stretches a scene out unnecessarily and then on the other hand her writing is tight and to the point. It doesn't look as though she's just slapped it together any which way but carefully crafted every sentence.

    Cogito, I would love to be well read but lack the time unfortunately... reading is a rare privilege in my household and writing is even rarer.

    Thanks for the discussion guys.

    ETA - Good points Steerpike, I agree.
     
  20. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    To some extent, certainly. Still, there is plenty of writing that is undeniably great, and plenty that is undeniably horrid.

    You can learn by studying both, and even those in between. The more you do, the better yoy will define your own scale. It will differ from everyone elses to some degree, but there will also be many similarities in the rankings.

    So don't dismiss the scale entirely, even if it has subjective components.
     
  21. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Yes, I absolutely agree. Good points.
     
  22. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    Personally I have always found the story more important, I would much rather sit down with the Hardy Boys than Thomas Hardy. I feel the same about my art, I find the the subject and prettiness of the result more important than the tecnique.

    There have been several Danielle Steele books I have enjoyed, I greeted my way through Fine Things and was it Kalideoscope that had the three sisters that had been adopted?. I have only ever read one Sue Grafton (normally I love Crime Books), it was OK but didn't have me rush back to read another of her books.

    For me the story takes priority, however the writing does play a part. I enjoy Patricia Cornwell's stories but find her writing too clinical, and her characters don't engage me. Whereas Kathy Reich's books (with the exception of Bare Bones) grip me and take me on a journey.

    I feel the same way about the Adam Dalgleish books, I love the stories but again the character doesn't really attract me and take me through the story.

    At her best Danielle Steele is capable of drawing some amazing characters.
     
  23. Evelyanin
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    Evelyanin Senior Member

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    I find it pretty interesting how everyone seems so confused about good and bad books when that isn't really a worldly view at all! In this day and age, there is no good and bad. Everything is relative, with different shades of grey. Morality depends on the day's opinion on worldly matters, and right and wrong changes along with it.

    So what makes a book good or bad? The writing can be good or bad (with different shades of grey), and the story can be good or bad (with different shades of grey.) It doesn't really depend on one aspect at all, but rather on a combination.

    Because of this, everyone will have different opinions on books. For someone with little education, the book may be well written, but for someone else, that same book may have terrible writing. Does that mean that a book well written to an educated person is a "good" book? No, because go even higher on the scale, to someone who is a genius, and that book may be garbage. No human can write a perfect book, so there is always room for improvement. Because of that, there is a huge difference between the worst book, and the perfect book. That difference is called, "The Grey Area".

    Now lets go one to the story. Billy might like Westerns, and George might like reading about knights and dragons (Excuse the clichés). So if George hates a well written book about Cowboys, does that mean it is a bad book? No, because it is all a matter of opinion.

    Combine these things, and in the end, what makes a good or bad book is really a matter of your education, and your opinion.




    Now because I am such a firm believer in black and white, let me put in my personal opinion.
    As a christian, I see that though this world loves the "Grey Area", it really is all black and white. Either God wants it, or he doesn't. Since God is perfect, there is no room for grey.
    This works with books as well. If the author writes a story that is honoring to God, then it is good. If not, then it is bad. Simple as that. It may be the most badly written book ever, but if the author tried wholeheartedly to bring glory to God through the book, then he is pleased. Unlike us humans, he doesn't care about the writing. All he cares about is our love, so from his perspective, it is good.
    Honestly, when I read a book, I often depend on my human opinion on whether on not the book is good or bad. But let me tell you, if a child comes to me with a song for God, could I honestly think that the song is bad? Yes, the grammar and spelling may be horrific, but such pure heartfelt love is something I don't think I'm even capable of. According to God, that song is good, and yes, when I see it, even I, who is always so worried about spelling and grammar, can see that it is good.

    It is the same with "good" books. If the subject matter is evil according to God, then that book is bad. Now, I understand that most of you will think that this is all backwards, and doesn't make any sense. Well, to most people, it won't make sense. But to the few out there who may understand what I'm talking about, hopefully this will encourage you to look at "good" and "bad" books from a godly perspective, instead of a worldy one.
     
  24. Nervous1st
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    Nervous1st Senior Member

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    Elgaisma – You raise some excellent points.

    Yes, Danielle Steele has some great books. One’s such as Palomino, Daddy and Star have stayed with me all these years, long after I’ve finished reading. I also fell in love with the twilight series as did everyone else. I couldn’t agree more with regards to Patricia Cornwell and that’s possibly why I’m surprised with my connection to Grafton’s characters in this genera.

    I guess what I’ve learned here is that it is a balance between good writing and a good story/story telling. Some authors will be more one way or the other and then some will be a good combination of both.

    ETA - Evelyanin, calm down. Obviously we will all have different tastes when it comes to what books are good and bad, but I'm not discussing the stories themselves but the writing. I think everyone will agree on some scale if the craft of writing is good or bad. It's similar to cooking, we all have different tastes when it comes to food, some will like steak more than others, but a good food critic, will be able to appreciate the quality (or lack there of) in which a dish is prepared and served, despite his personal like or dislike.
     
  25. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    I agree I find there is often no rhyme or reason to books I enjoy and ones I don't:

    I love Narnia but couldn't stand Lord of the The Rings
    I loved Pride and Prejudice but don't like anything else Jane Austen wrote.
    I love Charles Dickens but Thomas Hardy drives me up the wall lol
    I love Harry Potter but can't stand Dark Materials or Artemis Fowl.
    Ellis Peters I love but I struggle with Ruth Rendall (I love her children's books though).

    Even when something is marketed as similar it doesn't automatically mean I will enjoy it
     

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