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  1. OurJud

    OurJud Contributor Contributor

    May 21, 2009
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    Developing tastes

    Discussion in 'Book Discussion' started by OurJud, Aug 23, 2016.

    Many years ago I started reading James Herbert's The Ghosts of Sleath, and was blown away by the evocativeness of that opening scene, in which he describes an early morning funeral in an idyllic countryside setting. I used to think it was the epitome of good prose and would turn to it continually whenever I needed inspiration.

    Now before anyone jumps down my throat, let me just say that it still is a wonderful piece of writing, but some years later I started to develop an interest in writers from the beat generation, and later still gonzo, and I was struck by how fresh and new this style of writing felt - a style which actually predated my regular intake at the time by thirty-odd years. I was amazed by the way these writers evoked similar feelings in me, with a fraction of the words, such as using a simple 'It was raining' where 'modern' writers would babble on for half a page, describing something with which we are all very familiar anyway.

    I try to emulate this 'beat generation' style in my own writing, not in a copy-cat way, but because it's what I read, it's what I like, and it's what I admire.

    I fail miserably, as I try to combine its traits with my own voice and a style which, out of habit, continually slips into a stale and conventional pattern.

    So, have your tastes changed dramatically? If so, how?
  2. Sack-a-Doo!

    Sack-a-Doo! Contributor Contributor

    Jun 7, 2015
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    I just went and read the first few paragraphs so I could make an intelligent response (thank you Amazon Look Inside).

    You're right. It's very pretty prose. But I found myself impatiently looking for where the story actually started (IMO, it starts with "a carrion crow skimmed low along its dusty length" which is the first 'character' we see), but maybe this makes me a product of the age we live in.

    And again, these prose are well-written; they're an excellent description of the surroundings. But, there's no point of view until we 'see' Ellen Preddle standing apart from the other mourners in paragraph five (which would likely fall on page 2 in a print version of the novel). By then, however, the story feels like 3rd omniscient (underscored by the almost-immediate switch to the vicar's POV) which makes it seem like the milieu has been shoved into the foreground and is far more important than the characters.

    Now considering that this is a child's funeral and maybe we don't wanna be all that close to the emotions experienced at such a time, handling the prose in a milieu-centric manner might be the best way to keep the reader from falling into a depression before they've even found out what the story is about. But even so, I'd prefer the story be in close 3rd. And all that flowery description of the flora could come after the story's been at least foreshadowed.

    Just my opinion.

    When I first started to read as a hobby and/or to pass the time, I leaned toward science fiction adventure, Asimov, Heinlein, Clark, Hogan, etc. I just wanted to be taken somewhere else, anywhere else that would be more interesting than where I was (broke and shiftless in Nova Scotia). And, I suppose, I was drawn in more by the milieu than anything else.

    These days, though, I prefer stories written about characters and/or ideas. Even events hold more interest for me.

    So, yes, I guess my tastes have changed. When I was a teenager, had James Herbert written science fiction in the style displayed in The Ghosts of Sleath, I'd have been all over his stuff. These days, I'd likely give it a pass.
    OurJud likes this.

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