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  1. len_ryuka
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    len_ryuka Member

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    Worst Compliment Against a Writer

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by len_ryuka, Feb 18, 2011.

    This is something that I learned from my highschool Film teacher (who himself was mildly successful in the movie business) which I think should really be shared with all writers and film makers.

    He said during one lecture that, the worst compliment you can say to a Film Maker, Writer, or any artist of any kind, is: "It's good"

    Ironic huh? You'd think that "It's good" is a "good" compliment, but he elaborated that artists are attempting to evoke strong emotions from their audience, and "It's good" is not a strong emotion. He said that you need to make the audience feel at least something, disgusted if you have to, but if you're aspiring to be something more, then never, ever, settle for an under passionate "It's good". Because that means there was little emotion involved and that's not what you want. After all, if they wanted to experience something "good", then why not go eat a burger? play a video game? go fishing? Why do they have to go to your "art" to experience something "good" when there are so many other cheaper, more accessible "good" out there?

    I wandered about the meaning of this as I tread through University, which I am even now, and always thought, well big time Harry Potter fans would say that JK Rowling's books were "good". So what about that? And I realized that any big fans of HP would say "I LOVED Harry Potter", and this lasts for a while after they've finished the series. And years later when they begin remembering little of the story of HP, the "LOVE" will degrade into a "Good". A book or a film should be graded on the impact it has on the reader, and this generally can be alluded directly to the length of time they can keep saying "I LOVED xxxx", and even further, begin discussing about the plot, characters, and etc.

    With that in mind, if you ask your reader how they found your work, and they say "It's good" with little more to say right after they're done reading it, that most definitely means you didn't intrigue them any further than they would have enjoying anything else. However of course, this depends a lot on who's reading it as well, but if you keep getting a "It's good", then you know you're doing something wrong.

    And this notion of passionless nod can be directly alluded to originality as well. You need to ask yourself this, "Why should someone read my work instead of Charles Dickens/Ernest Hemingway/JK Rowling, or even Stephenie Meyer?"

    You need originality, and I don't just mean the premise of the story. People are reading/watching a fiction world so they can get away from their mundane real life and actually experience some emotions.

    Say you're writing a Wizard story, then why should somebody pick up your story instead of Harry Potter? If you're writing a thriller, why not Tom Clancy? After all, thrillers have existed long before Tom Clancy and wizardry has been perfected thousands of times before JK Rowling, so what is it about these authors that make them stand out and etch their name on the reader's minds? It's originality, they were the first ones to do something that hasn't been done, JK Rowling popularized the idea of teenage magic with a fun atmosphere and epic-ness that hasn't been done before, and Tom Clancy was the first to write such detailed portrayal of Military in general. Even Stephenie Meyer, who herself isn't particularly a good writer, evoked strong lust from teenage girls with her passionate grasp of overt sexual desire. Ernest Hemingway had his matter-of-fact prose to distinguish him from every other writer that was out there at the time.

    But don't be original for the sake of just being original. Be original in order to express yourself, be passionate and be vigorous.

    One Japanese song lyrics I think sums it up the best, "There are big flowers and small flowers, but life isn't about being Number One, it's about being the Only One.
     
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  2. w176
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    w176 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Worth taking into account is that a lot of people in our society today do have great problems both in receiving and giving compliments. Even praising someone else make them feel silly and vulnerable. Or they get afraid that they will seem like sucking up, or overenthusiastic, and silly. Or they are afraid they make the receiver of the compliment feel embarrassed (especially if they self have a hard time dealing with compliments).

    Even if you post have a lot of good points, I think that a shy person, or someone feeling socially awkward about complements mumbling "It is good." at times can be as high praise as someone more outspoken who able to express what they feel describing in detail what it meant to them.
     
  3. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    Well, when I like my own writing, I usually think 'It's good.' It doesn't make me ecstatic because I know I can probably improve it. But it's a starting point, one I like to be at.

    So, I don't agree it's the 'worst compliment'. It can be the truest. Not everyone can put their feelings into words exactly, they just know they liked it, i.e. 'it's good.'

    And it's better than 'it's bad'.
     
  4. len_ryuka
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    len_ryuka Member

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    well it seems like you guys missed reading a line so I bolded it.

    And of course, this is only in the context of letting others take a look on your work.
     
  5. Islander
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    Islander Contributing Member Contributor

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    I like to evoke a response in my readers, and even if that response is "This is the most disgusting thing I've ever read!", it means I've succeeded. Why? Because it takes skill to write something really disgusting or disturbing, just like it takes skill to write something really beautiful, or something really epic.

    One of the most rewarding responses is when someone says something like, "What interesting characters. I'd like to read more about them." It means I've touched the reader on some level.

    I think there is another reason a luke-warm response is disappointing to an artist. Human beings thrive on attention, on invoking responses in others. Even negative attention is better than indifference - we can see this in for example children and adolescents who vandalise public property. And I think attention is one of the things driving writers who strive to be successful.
     
  6. psychotick
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    psychotick Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hi,

    There's a name for that and it applies to more then just creative works. Its called damning with faint praise.
     
  7. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't mind it's good - like Madhoca says its better than it's bad. My work tends to be marmite - I have love responses and hate responses and very little in between lol

    However a couple of times I have had a few people say, I don't like fantasy but I enjoyed this and I would like to read more. They don't love but like it - and that for me is the biggest compliment. I find it much more of an achievment to have someone who wouldn't normally read fantasy actually think my work is good.

    I am not going to invoke an emotional response in everyone - I have books I love and adore and will read again and again. However there are books I have read and enjoyd - they were a good read, but probably won't keep them on my bookshelves and may only read them once more. The writer did a 'good' job and it was a 'good' story.
     
  8. Leonardo Pisano
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    Leonardo Pisano Active Member

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    'Good' and 'better' are Arch-enemies. Is that what you wanted to say?
     
  9. Show
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    Show Contributing Member Contributor

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    Ironic! We just talked about this in class yesterday! :p

    While I agree that you don't want a lukewarm response, a lot of times people just tell you "It's good" cause they don't say much. lol
     
  10. Ellipse
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    Ellipse Contributing Member Contributor

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    'It's good' feels more like a neutral comment than anything. 'It's good' doesn't tell you what the viewer liked or disliked. It doesn't tell you what you can or need to improve upon in your craft.
     
  11. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    At least if they say "it's bad" you can ask why. Explain you're not trying to be defensive, but knowing specifically why will enable you to improve. Then you get good feedback, even if it sucks for your ego at the time.

    I'd like an "it's good, I liked it because _________," but not just a bland "it's good" by itself.
     
  12. Show
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    I agree enough with this. That's why I always probe deeply into responses. I think the problem is that people are getting lazy with positive feedback.
     
  13. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    but sometimes it's bad simply translates as I didn't like it not for any specific reason, just it isn't their thing. Just like they may not know why something is good or they liked it. You could always ask someone who finds it good if there is anything they particularly liked etc
     
  14. Silver_Dragon
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    Silver_Dragon Senior Member

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    I usually ask people for more specific feedback when I get a response like "It's really good." I'm used to giving specific constructive criticism and praise of other people's writing, but I don't think many of my readers are, since most of them don't write themselves...I'm not at a point where I like sharing my work with anyone other than friends and family.
     
  15. Helmsing
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    Helmsing Member

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    Damn, and I was told this today. Oh well. I didn't feel all that great when I heard it but at least they didn't tell me to to burn my story in the middle of the night. I think the worst thing is when you watch the person read it and you can tell that they have no interest.
     

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