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Topic: Good writing, Bad Writing

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Subject: Good writing, Bad Writing
Date Posted: 6/29/2012 6:57 PM ET
Member Since: 9/8/2010
Posts: 40
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So, what, in your opinion, makes for a good and bad story? What is the best and worst writing you've ever read? What about that you've written?

My thought is that the most important component of a good story is likeable characters, followed by a logical plot and not talking down to the readers, no matter what age they are. It's bad enough in kids books, but ten times worse when writing for adults.

The best writing I've read is a toughy, but for the worst, I'd have to go with The Ramsey Scallop. I read it in high school, and I could barely get through it. For one thing, the author used no transitions, leaving me confused until, for example, I realize that sometime in the last few paragraphs we had skipped three days without the author telling us. No idea how it won a medal. Also, there romance plot was almost as bad as mine usually are!

Ironically, my best and worst stories are my two current projects. The "bad" one is the novel I started for NaNoWriMo, that I'm just now finishing. The MC possess all the necessary qualities for a hero, but for some reason I never let her use them. I added a main plot point too late for it to be of any use, and I only have one sub-plot, the romantic one, the pacing of which is drastically off. Mostly first draft stuff, but still pretty bad.

The other project is also a first draft, but I feel that the characters are really coming through the way they're supposed too, (though the angsty girl could use a bit more angst) and the plot integrates with itself. What about you guys?

Last Edited on: 6/29/12 9:57 PM ET - Total times edited: 3
Subject: Good And Bad
Date Posted: 6/29/2012 11:01 PM ET
Member Since: 6/24/2012
Posts: 7
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I think the main thing that makes a good story are all the little details. Everyday things, that too often get left out. The MC eating breakfast, for instance, or going through daily life. When I write I have to catch myself, stop rushing through it to the main things. Often I have to go back and add important details. I keep forgetting that while I know what my charcters are like, no one else does!

I think one of the best books I've ever read would be Eragon. Those books from a writer's standpoint are amazing, and from a reader's just as cool. I still can't figure out how a teenaged boy wrote it!

Date Posted: 7/3/2012 12:49 AM ET
Member Since: 3/12/2007
Posts: 5
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I agree: for me, it's mostly about the characters, but there needs to be a good plot, too.  Even the best characters can't keep my interest if there is really no story.

Also, I've read--and sadly, written--many stories where the main character is practically perfect in every way: young, attractive, self-sacrificing, humble, strong-willed, always does the right thing, etc.  (My son calls this a "Mary Sue" character.)  But I've found that "no real flaws" usually means "unrealistic and Boring!"  In most cases, characters need to be imperfect to be likeable.

Also, it annoys me when authors are not just talking down, but over-describing, as if I have no imagination of my own!  Pet peeve in the Sci-fi/Fantasy genre: I HATE graphic sex scenes interrupting otherwise-good stories.  I really don't want/need the author to escort me through the bedroom door and into the sheets to understand what's going on in there, tyvm! 

One of my all-time favorite books is the Dragonlance Chronicles (actually a trilogy).  I read it every few years and enjoy it all over again every time!  The plot, setting, and writing are all really good, but the characters are awesome.  Each has their own strengths and flaws, and each struggles with choices in their own way.  They are happy and sad, funny and touching, inspiring and irritating.  I watch them grapple with their problems and I'm cheering them on for their triumphs or shaking my head at their mistakes, but at least while I'm reading, I feel like I can be a part of that group, and join them in their journey.  :-)

Date Posted: 12/3/2012 6:19 PM ET
Member Since: 9/22/2010
Posts: 3,796
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What immediately annoys me is incorrect spelling or use of a word by an author. Sometimes you have to wonder who the editor for the book was and if they failed English in school.

I have always maintained that my excessive reading helped me spell and write correctly. I always look over my work numerous times before its final submission. I am not a professional writer, but I was on the faculty of a major university for over 33 years. In that time, I had to write numerous publications for public distribution (in print and on the Web)  and also for journals.

I just read one of the testimonies that members submit and was amazed at the number of words used incorrectly.

Subject: Couple of things...
Date Posted: 12/6/2012 2:08 PM ET
Member Since: 4/19/2008
Posts: 1,621
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I notice in the authors that I admire a menu of key qualities.  First, they write about people you care about, in situations that you imagine yourself in.  John Grisham & Stephen King do this well.

 Next, they weave a pllot that keeps you turning the pages, because you care about the characters as much as you might care about your own family.  Then they throw in a few plot twists to amaze

you and the key ingredient is a bit of humor.  I just read some old Dick Francis novels and I smile at the way he used rye English humor to mix in with the horrors that might be happening, in the story.  

For a little spice, I like that some authors put you in the story by including the smells and sounds of the landscape.  Robert B. Parker was fantastic at this.. he might have been in the

middle of a fistfight, but he would mention the honk of a horn, smell or urine or the pictures on the wall.  I'm working on something now, and killing myself to include these ingredients.

btw- My all time favorite books are "laugh out loud" ones.  Bill Bryson is the best at this, read "A Walk in the Woods" and try not to laugh.  A lesser known author that fits the bill is Clyde Edgerton,

"Raney" never fails to put me in stitches.  jc



Subject: The Big Three
Date Posted: 5/18/2014 6:08 PM ET
Member Since: 5/27/2011
Posts: 4
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Nuanced multi-leveled characters that evoke our humanity, humor and engaging narrative or plot.  Proper English usage, varied vocabulary and spelling are a given.