1. Mercurial
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    Mercurial Contributing Member Contributor

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    What Makes a Good Piece of Writing?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Mercurial, Feb 1, 2009.

    Totally subjective. What makes one story (or poem, or short story, or...) 'better' than another in your opinion? Or, think of it this way: what is it about your favourite book / poem / etc that makes it your favourite? What has to be included in the piece to make it a good piece to you?
    (In most cases that is; we all know about the book with the killer plot that makes it awesome even though the characters are flat and stoic.)

    Assuming we're all looking to get published one day, or at least entertain whoever reads our work, I think it's important to listen to potential readers; listen to them when they tell us what they want to read.


    For me, I think it's all about the character. You can have an amazing plot, but if your character is dull and uninteresting, I'm going to put down the book. Story is what happens to people, after all. In addition, the writer has got to have some sort of recognizable voice. Whether it's sarcastic, funny, charming, or even rude, I dont want to feel like I'm reading a textbook.
     
  2. lordofhats
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    lordofhats Contributing Member

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    My only requirements are a well structured and understandable story with intriguing characters and a writing style that is clear and not annoying.
     
  3. S-wo
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    S-wo Active Member

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    That's a very complicated question. It takes a lot to make a work good. You need good writing of course. With a style of word choice that is simple, yet fluid, and varied. The same kind of description and emotion shouldn't be on every page. A story must also have an interesting plot. It doesn't have to have a lot of twists or whatnot to be good as long as it's well written. There has to be characters that you can relate to or are just enjoyable to read with in-depth and varied personalities. There needs to be some conflict as well.
     
  4. Cady36
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    Cady36 Member

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    Wow, so many kinds of stories touch me, and so many different writing styles, that it's very hard to answer this question. It really is a subjective question. AND - lol - it depends on whether I'm reading as a writer or just reading. If I've been writing, and I'm *not* reading as a writer, I know I've got a really good story in my hands.

    I can tell you that in short stories, I have a real fondness for what I think of as circular stories, where the end of the story in some way references the very beginning of the story. Often they have kind of a "gotcha" element at the end, and I guess I'm thinking mostly of short-shorts here.

    So far as novels go, though: Clean, direct writing and a great STORY, which to me is a combination of characters you know and sympathize with (or hate) and a really good plot.

    Honestly, it would be easier for me to give you a list of what I *don't* like when I'm reading. Every once in a while I hit what I consider a real treasure of a story, but honestly, those books don't have a lot in common with each other - lol.

    But I can easily tell you what turns me off a book.

    Sorry, that probably wasn't very helpful! I thought it was an interesting topic, though, and I couldn't resist. :)
     
  5. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I'm glad you asked an easy question. :)

    There have been volumes written to try to answer that question. It usually is broken down to several slightly smaller pieces which must also br good: SPaG (of course), sentence structure, plot, characterization, narrative, dialogue, viewpoint handling ...

    If you get all these right, you'll have a good piece of writing. On the other hand, publishers reject more good pieces of writing than they accpet for publication.

    The really hard question is, "What makes a great piece of writing?"
     
  6. Gone Wishing
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    Gone Wishing Contributing Member

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    For writing to appeal to me, it generally has to have elements that resonate on a personal level and somewhat truthfully. I say somewhat as I often read books that are classified under the fantasy genre, so in that case it usually comes down to characters and underlying themes.

    Things that stimulate my imagination and affect me on an emotional level are - I suppose obviously - more likely to evoke a dedication, if you will, to the piece in question.

    Though (believe it or not) I'm rather strict with the use of words on a day-to-day basis, when it comes to creative writing, unique and unusual use of words intrigues me. (By way of brief explanation, some words in a descriptive sentence are there to convey mood rather than image, and that style of writing greatly appeals to me. I like the immediate effect of such writing, and being able to take some time after reading to examine my own various interpretations of the sentence or work as a whole, because it, in part, allows me to invest myself more personally and feels like a much more complete experience).
     
  7. tehuti88
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    tehuti88 Contributing Member

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    I agree with you on character. Too often I don't thoroughly enjoy modern fiction because the characters just don't resonate for me.

    I also pray the writer has a proper understanding of grammar and spelling. The book I'm currently reading is published by Hyperion yet the writer doesn't seem to understand the proper use of the words "lay/laid." Ugh.

    And then there are just the intangibles, the things I can't really put my finger on until I come to them. I know a good story when I read it. *shrug*
     
  8. BillyDee
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    BillyDee New Member

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    For me, a "good" piece of writing is one that totally absorbs me. I have to believe in the characters, I have to empathise with them and I have to be able to see and feel and smell the world of the book in my minds eye.

    So, basically - good characterisation and a strong solid plot. My biggest pet peve is authors that "cheat" by backpeddling on previous events or undo MASSIVE plot points for the sake of a quick thrill (or, basically, most of the Doctor Who episodes that Russell T Davies wrote.....but that's another rant for another day!)
     
  9. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    good, or great, it comes down to only two words for me:

    talent
    skill

    there are way too many variants in re how the most talented and skilled writers wield those gifts/traits/tools, for anyone to come up with a forumula or any definitive list of 'what makes a good/great piece of writing'...

    as justice stewart once said of 'obscenity' i, too, can't define it, but 'i know it when i see it'!
     
  10. NaCl
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    NaCl Contributing Member Contributor

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    Okay, I'm going to attempt a direct and simple answer to your OP title question.

    "What Makes a Good Piece of Writing?"

    In my opinion, a "good piece of writing" is simply one that meets the expectations for its target market. In other words, when an author achieves the standards that a particular reader-demographic wants, then that book, article or short story is a good piece of writing and will sell. Ironically, "good" is not necessarily defined by high literary standards, as the only issue that matters is what the target groups wants...witness the success of formula-based romance novels, the sales of Harry Potter, Twilight and numerous other "successful" books that simply met the expectations for their intended audience.
     
  11. Dr. Doctor
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    Dr. Doctor Contributing Member

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    I don't think a good piece of writing can be determined by something as circumstantial as characters. I mean, it's one of the elements, but there are plenty of stories driven by external plot elements, too.

    Good writing? It's a multitude of things, from the execution of the plot to the style of the writing (can it draw me in? Is it professional looking and enjoyable?) to the dialogue of the characters - do they seem "real"? I love all kinds of novels for all kinds of reasons, I can't pinpoint one as the biggest.
     
  12. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i sure wouldn't use popularity to determine 'good' in a piece of writing, salty!... you may call it 'successful' if a piece of dreck makes a lot of money, but it sure ain't 'good writing'!
     
  13. NaCl
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    NaCl Contributing Member Contributor

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    It's "good" to those who like it. Ultimately, that's what all writing is about...satisfying the desires of a target audience. It may not meet your criteria for "good" but you are not the target reader. Judging from all the "netspeak" of the current generation, I suspect traditional literary standards will soon be fossil fuel.
     
  14. Mercurial
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    Mercurial Contributing Member Contributor

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    And when that happens, I will never wear colour again. We have a select few people in my generation that actually have some sense of intelligence and morality, but there's a reason I generally isolate myself from the other kids --and why most of my friends are five or more years my senior. :p

    It's interesting to hear all of these different, but somehow similar answers. I agree with Saulty as far as accuracy goes; what is popular is generally regarded as 'good,' but I'll never let go of what I think it takes to make commonplace words really sing.
     
  15. Jack
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    Jack Contributing Member

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    My thoughts about "what makes a good piece of writing?"

    1. Details
    2. The tone and mood of the story (Sometimes atmosphere)
    3. Sense of Humour
    4. If the characters (main/secondary) are successfully introduced (Author uses specific words to make the characters 'alive')
    5. If the plot structure is well established
    6. If the overall story flows
    7. If the theme is crystal clear
    8. If the conflicts are properly introduced
    9. Twists
    10. Free of SPAG
     
  16. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    if the world gives up on having standards of excellence, as you suggest will soon happen, salty, we might as well stop considering writing as an art form now, and get it over with!
     
  17. laciemn
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    laciemn Senior Member

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    *Absorbing plot
    *clear character motivations
    *a clear writing style without loads of distracting errors or weird language
    *well thought-out characters
    *character development
    *conflict
     
  18. JohnNoZ
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    JohnNoZ Member

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    Good writing

    Strong characters in palpable conflict.
     
  19. Flozzie
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    Flozzie Active Member

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    For me I have to be able to relate to the characters I'm reading about, in one way or another. The writer has to make me want to know what is going to happen next, be it with plot twists or something else.
    The language has to be pretty straightforward, with a certain flow to it. It should be easy to just read, you shouldn't have to go back and reread the last three words just because you don't understand what the writer wants to say.
     

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