How do you like yours cooked?
I have been struggling with something a bit lately. It's a question that I have been struggling with and the question is - what makes a good writer for you?
How do you judge a good writer and what qualifies you to be one? Do you base it on how large their vernacular is (hubba*hubba*) or if ultimately the story sweeps you off your feet regardless of how many syllables there are in their words?
Myself for instance, I am currently writing my first book and I do not have a vocabulary that is....well-endowed. I rely more on simpler words and dressing them up with colorful context and flow (if that makes ANY sense to you) and I don't mean disguising either. That in itself is not something I would call a technique. I just use what I have at my disposal and make the best of it. Because of this, I sometimes feel like I am NOT a good writer and that isn't necessarily true. Take songwriting for instance-did the Beatles SUCK because their songs did not contain intricate compositions? NO. Their music was GREAT. Not the best in technical terms, but GREAT. Why? because it invoked and it connected on a human level. Readers, listeners and viewers all need to connect in order to remain engaged...and it doesn't matter if you're a walking encyclopedia or the human Webster's dictionary. This is not a lecture! It is simple thought I have been wrestling with. After all the bells and whistles, what really matters to you as a reader...and/or writer? How much can you get away with on either end before the substance suffers for it?
Are you someone who will say something that may sound like this: Well, I really enjoyed the book, but I would have liked it a lot more only had he used bigger words or vice versa
edit: Britney Spears is an abomination. She doesn't count. Bonus Random Thought.
I guess it will always come down to preference. Do some readers like to solve math problems while they are reading a book or is fast food okay because it is a quick fix even though it lacks nutrition? I don't know the F'in answers and personally don't feel like there are any concrete answers to begin with (except for the fact that sugar and fat is DELICIOUS!) - That's just me. Yes, it will kill you, but it's so F'in delicious. How do you like your ART cooked?
I personally don't care how it was prepared as long as I can walk away from it with something other than bad thoughts and regrets.
To me a good author is one who writes what scares me, what thrills me, what excites. Do I want to go "aha!" when that plot twist unfolds? NO! If the book is good to me it will make me throw it across the room, I will swear to the heavens or I will cry unconsolably. Note that there are only a handful of authors who can do that to me, they are artisans of the written word, but they are also master of plot and character.
What does this require? Intimacy. Those authors who can really make me scream and swear and fall in love within their pages are those who can draw me in intimately, and I know I have many hooks by which they can do so...as we all do, but those hooks of ours are individual, different for each of us. This is why there are so many diverse genres we each prefer.
Some people are easy to thrill, bless them. Some people are much more challenging for an author to take hold of. Those who have never really 'gotten into' a book before and gave up trying before finding their right match are to be mourned.
For me, a story elicits something... whether that be a chuckle, a gasp, anger, something. Now if the writer uses flowery prose or not isn't really a deciding factor, but horrible grammar and gross misspelling is definitely a turnoff (I can overlook a few errors, but if it's rampant, I'll stop reading no matter how interesting the story). I'll admit, I had to look up a word our two since reading Hugh's stuff, but for the most part, it's the way he elicits the emotions from the words he uses. I'm sure many people could have written Wool, but very few, if any, could have left me reading WAY past my bedtime wondering about the fate of these "characters".
While I'm trying to write a book myself, all of that seems to fly right out the window as I'm vigorously wresting the completely inane words out of my head into a semblance of English.
To me, the style has to enable, or at least not prevent me from being pulled completely into the story. For that, the right style can depend on the tone and style of the book, the voice of the narrator, etc.
So while I LOVE a clever turn of phrase, it's not necessary, and can be a problem in the wrong story.
Best example coming to mind right now would be Cory Doctorow's Little Brother. (I'd give it a 3.5-4 out of 5) It's a first person perspective of fighting an oppressive government and the protagonist is a teenage hacker. For that, if it were written in the style of Joyce's Ulysses, the tone would prevent me from believing the first person perspective of the main character. Or if the inner monologue featured dumbed down, or overly expository descriptions of the technical things he was doing, that would have killed it for me too. Teenagers don't explain things, and teenager tech gurus explain even less.
So I think the style and voice has to follow the book, to some extent. Or at least not ruin the message of the book, if it can't fully support it. Does that make sense?
I agree. It's not like you can speak JIVE in a book that is based in medieval times..lol. It would immediately yank you out of the story....unless of course it was written by Mel Brooks. I also cringe when there's an ad placement in a story or when the story feels like a commercial for current trends.
I just had a vision in my head of Victorian England romance novel with all of the dialog completely in jive. That would be awesome!
Originally Posted by artiecabrera
"Excuse me stewardess, I speak jive."
FIRST WITCH When should da damn dree uh us meet again? Will it be in dunder, lightnin', o' rain?
SECOND WITCH When de hurly-burly’s done, When de battle’s lost and won. 'S coo', bro. We’ll meet when de noise uh de battle be over, when one side gots'ta won and da damn oda' side gots'ta lost.
Great thread! I'll discuss what I like about Hugh's work, since he's easily my fav author of late.
- amazingly imaginative reality creation (vocab doesn't matter for this)
- characters that live and breath (as you said, you can do this without a huge vocab)
- clever turns of phrase (again, no huge vocab required)
The first time I recall really loving a way an author said something was when I was a kid and read The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy and Douglas Adams says that the Vogon ships "hung in the air in much the same way that bricks don't." BRILLIANT! Again, there are no words in that phrase above a second grade reading level, but it just makes something inside of me very happy to read it. Hugh's books are full of little bits like that... little phrases that are so good that I actually stop and say "damn, that was a well composed sentence"
For me, the first two are requirements to enjoy a book. The third one will cement me as a fan
We're all in agreement then!....BAN ALL USAGE OF BIG WORDS!
Well... let's not be crazy now haha I do notice that my daily vocab improves when I read books with $10 words in them.... and on some level I like that... maybe the snob level