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Thread: What Constitutes "Good Writing"?

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    Freak Ingenu Countess's Avatar
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    What Constitutes "Good Writing"?

    I hope somebody replies to this so I have something intellectually stimulating to read when I return home. I lose IQ points every time I go to work.

    Have you ever read anything that - while technically well-written or contains good imagery - has no substance to it? IE: If you removed all the pretty words and stereotyped characters, etc nothing remains?

    One site in particular (not here) contains a great deal of this sort of writing, and it seems to be very popular these days. There is more external description than you can shake your whole body at (lattice-lined curtains, copper-topped tea-kettles, etc) but if you deleted all that description, looked only at dialogue or character narration, you'd find flat firmware (to continue with the metaphor).

    Am I the only person on this earth that has little tolerance for it? I just find it boring, and have a hard time reading about anything that bores me. Even Wilde and Fitzgerald's characters - while superficially superficial (-: - had substance between their ears or beneath their skin, whether this substance was continually forced down by the character's psyche or not.

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    It is getting late and I suppose you are home but I don't see any answers so I guess I'll have a try.
    My first answer is "I wish I knew."
    But beyond that I think I'll have to build on your phrase "intellectually stimulating" for an answer.
    I prefer clear prose that is effortless to read, that doesn't get in the way of developing the story but rather tells of interesting characters acting plausibly, if surprisingly, in interesting environs with some intellectually stimulating plot that maintains my interest and causes the story to cohere in an interesting way that is within range of my capabilty for suspending disbelief. A story told much more clearly than that answer. A story in which I can get lost.
    If it is writing you are asking about, I see writing as closely connected with telling a clear and interesting story worth the time taken to read it.

    So now you have something to read at least.
    How'd I do?

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    laudator temporis acti andave_ya's Avatar
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    Oh yeah! As much as I love the Lord of the Rings, there are lots of places where I skip words. sentences, entire paragraphs. Some things just can't be born.
    "The time has come," the Walrus said,
    "To talk of many things:
    Of shoes--and ships--and sealing-wax--
    Of cabbages--and kings--
    And why the sea is boiling hot--
    And whether pigs have wings."

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    No reply. Hmmm. Guess it wasn't stimulating enough.
    Or did spelling count?

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    Freak Ingenu Countess's Avatar
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    No, you did fine, Walter. It was more of a curiousity to me. Interestingly enough, someone on "that other site" posted the exact same question a day after I did here. I wonder if great minds think alike, or if one mind has been reading another mind's posts *here*.
    In any case on "that other site" there were a gazillion responses, which makes me think it's more of a popularity contest over there than anything else.
    Here popular people do receive many answers, but not to the exclusion of others, which demonstrates a genuine interest in the material, not just the individual.

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    Many thanks for your reply, Countess,
    I've been thinking that Dreams of my Russian Summers by Andrei Makhine might fill some of your random free moments with stimulating reading. Some books are merely excellent, but this one has me totally falling in love with it. "Absolutely magical . . . quite simply . . . beautiful," says the back cover (truthfully for once), and not to be missed. Hope you give it a look and enjoy it. If you know Nabokov at all, this one will completely blow you away.
    Cheers

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    Just another nerd RobinHood3000's Avatar
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    My opinion - whether writing's good or not depends on the purpose for which it was written. Yes, I know that's a bit of a cop-out, but I'm not finished.

    For entertainment: if it keeps the reader interested, good. If he/she gets bored, bad.

    For education: see the above, reverse it.

    For enlightenment: if it motivates the reader to think and re-evaluate, good. If it makes even well-adjusted readers feel offended, insulted, and indignant bad.

    For purposes of offending, insulting, and sowing indignation: see the above, reverse it.

    I think that about covers it for now for me.
    Por una cabeza
    Si ella me olvida
    Qué importa perderme
    Mil veces la vida
    Para qué vivir

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    Freak Ingenu Countess's Avatar
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    Very Clever Robinhood.
    Madness is my defense against Reality.

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    Good writing is writing so vibrant and full that you could analyze it for hours and hours.

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    For me, good literature isn't in just the writing. It is in the ability of a work to really reach the reader. It is its abililty to touch a chord within someone and really leave a lasting impression. Not the impression it is supposed to leave, but an impression that is retained by the reader. A good example for me is Lord of the Flies. Though many people hate this book, especially if you are forced to read it in school, it really left me with heavy thoughts on the condition of human morality. I still think of this book when considering whether or not I believe people are inherantly good or bad.

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    Good writing

    Hi; was searching for information on what constitutes good writing, to respond to a friend who questioned who is to judge what is good and bad. Of course it's mainly subjective. I signed up for this forum in order to get back to you. I have eclectic taste, and few of my friends enjoy the same books and authors as I, so i'm hoping to find some kindred souls through this forum, but having trouble navigating it so far. I like what i consider literary fiction, semi-autobiographical fiction, and well written memoirs. I equally love short stories and novels. I find that reading book jackets is helpful if an author that I admire writes something positive. It's no guarantee, of course, but often pays off. Another good resource for short stories is The Best American Short Stories, which is published yearly, as well as O'Henry Awards, Granta, Ploughshare, and The New Yorker. Another good resource is Selected Shorts from public radio, and The New Yorker's Fiction Podcast, in which short stories and read and discussed. Often short-story writers have written novels, some better than others. There are few if any authors I like consistently, but some I admire include Jim Harrison (Wolf, Woman Lit by Fireflies), Barbara Kingsolver's early works, Amy Tan's The Hundred Secret Senses and The Opposite of Fates, Anne Lamott (Hard Laughter and All New People, Ellen Gilchrist. Lewis Nordan has written some books I love, such as Lightning Song and Sharpshooter Blues, although the latter is pretty dark. A few I reread every few years, such as most of Anne Tyler, especially her earlier work, Gerald Durrell, especially My Family and Other Animals, PG Wodehouse. There are very few best sellers that I like. One I enjoyed was The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nightime. I like quirky characters and unusual situations and coming-of-age stories such as Frank Conroy's Stop Time and Haven Kimmel's memoirs such as A Girl Named Zippy and She Got Up Off the Couch. Peter Beagle's A Fine and Private Life and The Last Unicorn. As I'm in my late 60s and have been an avid reader since age 10, my tastes and interests change. Hope that these referrals help you. If you let me know what authors you like, perhaps I can direct you.

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    Original post didn't go through

    I deleted this because my original post said i wasn't registered (I was), so I re-sent, and of course it appeared twice. grrr
    Last edited by Sutter Lee; 03-21-2011 at 04:25 PM. Reason: original post said wasn't signed on, so i re-sent; deleting duplicate

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    Registered User kittypaws's Avatar
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    Sutter Lee....I see this has been around and now you have blessed Lit Net with your return (not that I knew you before but I am glad to see you are back.)

    searching for information on what constitutes good writing
    IMHO ~ whatever you enjoy reading constitutes good writing. I would say it has to keep you wanting to read more....yet some like descriptive writing and others dialogue. It is hard to pin the tale (and I did mean to spell it this way!) on this donkey. Perhaps it is in writing what you feel and know the best of thus making your write very real and satisfying is the key. As they say "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder" and I think that pertains to writing and reading and life equally.

    kittypaws
    Everyone finds himself in the world where he belongs. The essential thing is to have a fixed point from which to check its reality now and then.
    Ancient Egyptian Inner Temples

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