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  1. waitingforzion

    waitingforzion Banned

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    Do you think J.K. Rowling is a good writer?

    Discussion in 'Discussion of Published Works' started by waitingforzion, Sep 23, 2017.

    People on other sites have said that J.K. Rowling is not a good writer. What do you think? I never noticed anything wrong with her writing style when I read Harry Potter in my teenage years, nor did I notice any problems in the plot or characterization, (though I was probably not shrewd enough to analyze anyone's writing), but many have pointed out various flaws in those books, and have said that her writing style is substandard. What do you think?
     
  2. SnapFandango

    SnapFandango Banned

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    The snob in me says she is technically bad, but every other part of me says she is fun, and that part wins.
     
  3. FeigningSarcasm

    FeigningSarcasm Active Member

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    Anyone capable of engaging millions of readers is a good writer. Who cares what the “experts” say when you’re rolling in money?
     
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  4. GlitterRain7

    GlitterRain7 Galaxy Girl Contributor

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    I don't think anyone is capable of being considered a "good" writer to everyone. There's always going to be one person who will criticize you know matter how well you do. With that said, I think she's a pretty good writer, as she put together a world in the Harry Potter books that so many people love ad follow.
     
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  5. Sclavus

    Sclavus Active Member

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    SPOILER ALERT FOR THE HARRY POTTER SERIES.

    I think she's a good storyteller, more than a good writer. What compelled me to keep reading the Harry Potter series was the events themselves, juxtaposed with the characters. Rowling has a way of making me wonder "what happens next," but the writing isn't as good as I've seen elsewhere.

    The opening to the first book dragged on, to the point I'd have quit if I hadn't seen the movies and known we'd eventually get there. The filmmakers' decision to cut the whole of the Dersley's details down to what they did was a good decision, because the book contained a lot of unnecessary exposition.

    The phonetic dialog styles for Hagrid and Fleur drove me up the wall. I almost quit reading when Hagrid was mourning Aragog, just because I couldn't stomach the dialog.

    The emotional investment for me was crippled by the writing style. When Dumbledore died, it didn't seem to affect Harry as much as it should have. Likewise, many of the deaths in the Battle for Hogwarts. It The battle especially seemed like a way of just trimming the cast, rather than trying to create any emotional reaction.

    I liked the story, just not the way it was told. If I hadn't seen the movies, I wouldn't have read through the series. Rowling has talent, but more talent in creating a story worth telling than in the actual telling of it. That's not to say she's not good at writing. She is, but not on the level with a lot of the hype. To be fair to her, I've never heard her hype herself as a master writer, but her fans certainly did it for her.

    Edited to correct Aragog's name.
     
    Last edited: Sep 25, 2017
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  6. Laurin Kelly

    Laurin Kelly Contributor Contributor

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    I think she's a hell of a world builder, and as someone who's terrible at it, I'm in awe of all the detailed elements she was able to come up with and incorporate organically onto the books. I read HP as an adult (but before I started writing), and I just remember thinking "Holy shit, she made up a whole sport? With all kinds of rules, guidelines and equipment? Who does that?"

    As far as her technical writing ability, she writes pretty much what I'd expect from an author of children's books - relatively clean and clear with a good amount of description and explanation for things.
     
  7. OJB

    OJB A Mean Old Man Contributor

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    Sigh, we get threads like this every other month (About her, King, and the lady who wrote Twilight), and the answer remains the same.

    There are dozens of different elements that can go into a book; different writers excel at different elements of writing. Some write prose that could make angels weep, some create worlds so detailed that the captivate the reader, some stuff their work with symbolism and Subtext, and some write with simple prose that captures our hearts.

    Instead of trying to find the 'bad' in a writer (who happens to be a billionaire because of her 'bad writing'), try finding what he or she excels at and learn from that.

    I like and study different authors for different reasons. The reasons I read Clive Barker are not the same reasons I read Kendall Ryan; the reasons I read Nicholas Sparks are not the same reasons I read Batman comics; the reasons I read Rowling are not the same reasons I read John Milton.

    I truly implore you to look at 'the good' of a writer (who again, happens to be a billionaire because of her writing) and ask yourself this question, 'What did she do so well that I can learn from reading her and adapt into my own writing style?'

    You will be a better writer for taking this approach when you read famous works and Authors.
     
  8. Sclavus

    Sclavus Active Member

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    I agree we should look for the good in writers, but I don't think there's harm in looking at the bad, too. We can learn from both. A lot of what is good or bad is subjective, so it pays to look at all of it.

    As to the financial success of an author, that's an indication of good marketing. I can think of some really good stories (movies and books) that died because of bad marketing, and there's an overwhelming amount of garbage that's succeeded because of good marketing. I'm not saying what Rowling writes is garbage, but a person can be wealthy without being good at what they do. Net worth is not an indication of talent.

    Rowling is a decent writer, and certainly better at it than many, but the question of "What did she do well that we could learn from?" is just as valuable as asking what she did poorly that we could learn from.
     
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  9. OJB

    OJB A Mean Old Man Contributor

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    I'm not arguing against that, but 90% of the time when people pose questions like this, they just want to 'hate' on someone famous. People can hate/dislike Rowling, King, and T.S Elliot all day long, but it doesn't make them better writers; study, critical reading, and writing make people better writers.

    Honestly, I don't believe I've read Rowling since I had single digits in my age, but I know her books got me into reading and my love of Literature. From her, I went onto reading Lord of The Rings, and by the time I was 16 I had read Paradise Lost and the Divine Comedy (books that 50 old adults are afraid of).

    Best writer? Nah, not even close, but she is a great writer for people new to reading.

    Maybe one day I'll do an in-depth study of her work.
     
  10. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    I think that Rowling's storytelling and worldbuilding are better than her writing, but her writing is still good.
     
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  11. Sclavus

    Sclavus Active Member

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    On that, we agree 100%. If we're "critiquing" just to bash on someone, that's worthless. I took the "tone" of the OP to be sincere. You said threads like this pop up frequently, so perhaps you've got a better handle on these threads than I do. I don't see why someone would want to bash on an author just to stir the pot, but I'd say such a person probably isn't even as good as the author they're bashing.

    But, if the question is sincere, it's good to learn. Thank you, @OJB, for responding well to what you could have misconstrued as a personal attack, and for the clarification on why your initial response was what it was.
     
  12. GingerCoffee

    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Maybe because I read the whole Potter series before I began writing and learning how to write, but I think Rowling's an excellent writer.

    Meyer (Twilight), on the other hand, did a great job on capturing the fantasy her readers were looking for despite lacking a bit of skill. What's interesting is I was becoming more aware of the writing craft when I read the Twilight series, but I still hadn't learned much about writing. Yet I noticed the flaws in Meyer's writing, some were even annoying. They made me think, "I would have written this differently."

    That never happened when I read the Potter series. Not once did I think, that scene should have been written differently.

    I will say one of the Potter books did annoy me because I think Rowling went too far off on sidetrack with Harry being a whining teenager. I think it was the fifth book, The Order of the Phoenix. In my opinion, Rowling lost her momentum there. But it was only one of the books in the series.

    The rest of them took me into the world she built and I loved being there.
     
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  13. Seven Crowns

    Seven Crowns Contributor Contributor

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    I respect her because she had a vision and saw it through. What she did seems obvious in hindsight, but apparently it wasn't to all those publishers who told her no. (I'll bet they all jumped off a bridge. A billion dollars . . . good Lord!)

    She can write a tight sentence and she knows a great story. As a negative . . . I suppose she doesn't write anything that punches hard at the sentence level. I'm not talking fancified prose or anything like that, just insightful ideas. I've endured 100s of hours of her books on tape and not once have I heard anything profound. It's just functional prose. Just. It's doing what it has to.

    But compare that to the last Newberry Winner, "The Girl Who Drank the Moon." It's a similar story, somewhat . . . kids and magic, that deal again. But there are quite a few times where it really says something that transcends YA. I think that sort of thing is important. It gives the kids (and the rest of us) something to really think about.
     
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  14. Tenderiser

    Tenderiser Not a man or BayView

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    This sums it up for me.

    She also got the MG voice perfect for the first two books, and the YA voice perfect for the rest. That's really hard to do.
     
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  15. NigeTheHat

    NigeTheHat Contributor Contributor

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    Like most others here have said, it depends what you're going for. I don't find her writing beautiful like I do with some authors, and I didn't find the HP books to have the kind of emotional punch that I got from, say, the best bits of the Discworld series. But her world is big and involved and she writes page-turners like an absolute bastard, and sometimes that's what I'm looking for in a book. 'Good' and 'bad' with writing needs some qualifiers: good for what? Bad for what?
     
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  16. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

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    I only read the first two HP books, and realised they weren't what I wanted to continue with as an adult. I would have loved them as a child, though. I think she's fine. The books were imaginative, humorous, and easy to follow, and the prose didn't call particular attention to itself—which is a good thing, in my opinion. The story itself took centre stage.

    My husband, who read the whole series with enthusiasm, said she didn't leave any untied threads either, which—considering the complexity of the story and the number of characters—is a feat in itself.

    I think she's a good writer, taking everything into consideration. I'm only sorry that she allowed movies to be made so soon after the books came out. I suspect that will end up with children watching the movies and not bothering to read the books any more. It's a shame, as she got so many children reading again.
     
  17. LostThePlot

    LostThePlot Naysmith Contributor

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    I think she is a good writer. But I think that the more successful she got, and thus the more leeway, the more mistakes (or perhaps I should say missteps) were allowed to get into her books.

    To sum it up in one word: Quidditch.

    In the early books it was fine; it was a whimsical wizard sport that Harry could be good at and when it was just kinda wizard-school related hijinks then it worked. The early books are fairly svelte and so the quidditch is only there when it matters to let Harry be special and underline the schooly vibe. But in a book like Half Blood Prince which is a massively over-long tome; why in the actual fuck are there huge digressions to describe quidditch matches that literally don't matter to anything? What is this achieving? The worst thing is that kinda the point of that book is Harry doing other stuff than quidditch, he's putting away childish things and focusing on fighting the bad guys which is an important move for him. So why is it there? The book closely follows Harry. And Harry shouldn't care about quidditch. And yet... It is still there, acting like it's exactly as important that Gryffindor beats Hufflepuff as learning Voldermort's backstory or trying to foil Malfoy's plot. All it does is mutilate the tension.

    And there's a few bits like this; very long books that could be substantially shorter because there's chunks of them that aren't even sub-plot related, they are just kinda there. Harry's romance with Cho, for example, does nothing. Harry's later romance with Ginny is barely better, especially knowing that she's not even going to be in Deathly Hallows much (and a romance with either Hermione or Luna would have done a lot more for the plot as well as being vastly more believable but don't get me started on that). And Deathly Hallows spends way too long with them just wandering vaguely with no idea what to do. I can appreciate that it makes you feel like the characters do but that's not a great thing to mirror when the characters are bored and frustrated.

    When J.K is writing the action then she's very good. When she's making a whimsical wizarding world her ideas are fun and charming and she seems to take a certain amount of joy in making that same world into something dark and oppressive in the later books which is great. She did extremely well keeping Snape opaque and unknown throughout the whole series, which is a genuine achievement. But the later books suffer from having some bloat. Many of her sins are excusable because she writer for a young audience, often as young as 10 or 11 or even younger. So whatever sins I see in her writing I can live with. But the bloat is really damning; that's not something where you can say "Well the kids need to be able to read it." The worst thing is that they aren't even problems with writing, they are problems with conception. A decent editor should have been saying that these scenes just don't matter enough and should be cut. In a 200k+ word book you should be looking for cuts anyway.

    Edit - She can't write romance at all; there is not a single romance in the HP books that I thought worked for a second except for possibly Ginny/Neville. Girls like Hermione don't go out with lovable losers they go out with driven, successful people who share their passion. Like Harry...
     
    Last edited: Sep 25, 2017
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  18. waitingforzion

    waitingforzion Banned

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    Some people in this thread have questioned the sincerity of my original post, asking whether I was criticizing J.K Rowling to feel better about myself as a writer. I fully acknowledge that J.K Rowling is a much better writer than I am. I have never published a book nor written anything as good as the works of J.K Rowling. I did not intend to criticize her, nor to elevate myself, but to ask your opinion of the quality of her writing style and story-telling skills. I read the first two Harry Potter books when I was younger and enjoyed them. As I stated sincerely before, I see nothing wrong with her writing style.
     
  19. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    It's a fairly plain style. You seem to have utter contempt for plain writing. I say again that this seems inconsistent.
     
  20. waitingforzion

    waitingforzion Banned

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    I know her writing style, as that of many authors, is plain. I have no contempt for them, but I don't want to write like them. But I have realized that before ornamenting my prose, I should make it clear and concise. I know that plain words have a natural cadence. Nevertheless, this cadence does not emerge from writing without care, but from editing for flow.

    I still want to emulate the prose style of the King James Bible, but I am willing to work on clarity for a while. However, I am not willing to altogether avoid revising for flow.
     
    Last edited: Sep 25, 2017
  21. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    Was this post revised for flow? Because if so, I think it suffered. It's not in your clearer, better voice.
     
  22. waitingforzion

    waitingforzion Banned

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    Every post I write I edit for flow. There is no post I have written that was not edited for flow.
     
  23. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    Well, frankly? Stop it. Stop it for a while. Maybe not a full hundred thousand words, for the normal rather than the King James editing, but definitely for a while. I strongly suspect that the posts are usually better before editing.

    I'm confident that the archaic phrasing is something that you need to let go for a while, because it's making your writing cluttered, unclear, and harming any flow. Again, I'm bolding what I see as archaic phrasing. (No, I'm not. I decided not to bother.)

    For example, from your earlier post:

    I know that her writing style is plain, as are also the ones of many authors.

    "as are also" is simply not a normal or common phrase. What would be wrong with:

    I know that her writing style, and that of many authors, is plain.

    ?
     
  24. The Dapper Hooligan

    The Dapper Hooligan (V) ( ;,,;) (v) Contributor

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    There are many rivers upon the earth and each flows according to its own kind. Be they young and small and broken with stones and hastened in many parts. Or be they old and slow and turning this way and that way upon the earth. One truth of these waters that can be said is that they all flow. The problem you seem to be having is that when you should be writing somewhere between Niagara Falls and the Mississippi, you think you have to be the Dead Sea. Seriously, even The Bible changes it's pace where appropriate.
     
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  25. NoGoodNobu

    NoGoodNobu Contributor Contributor

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    My brother hates reading. He passed every English class on sparknotes and secondhand sources alone. He joked in his second term at university that he might actually have to read a book to maintain his excellent GPA.

    My brother had seen the Harry Potter films, and loved them starting at film 4 or 5.

    Finally he bought the first book. Then the second. Then the third. Last year he asked if he could borrow the rest of the books from my collection, and he actually ended up absconding with the entire series & taking it back to England with him. I've demanded he buy me a replacement complete series from London (because to be frank, I much prefer the original writing than the American edits, where they replace trainers & snogging with sneakers & . . . something, et cetera) for Christmas this year in place of the one he stole.

    So I don't think that assumption is true. If my brother can be influenced to read by the films, I'm sure the franchise had similar effects on other youths and will continue.

    I think that those who would never read a book will still not read a book, film or no film. But those that can be tempted & persuaded? I think the films can draw that lot in and show them a whole new experience of the joys of reading.

    Hell, I love literature but I only ended up reading Harry Potter because of Potter Puppet Pals, that cheesy YouTube fan series.
     

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