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View Full Version : Bestselling authors, not talented? Isn't that ironic?



BlueLucario
05-02-2008, 09:00 PM
I was surfing this board, and came across like most best-selling authors are not talented authors at all, like Dan Brown, Rowling, Paolini. If they are that bad, how did they make it big?(I already know the answer about J.K Rowling and I wasn't looking for it.) I still find this ironic, don't you? What did those readers see in them?

Are they talented authors? Or is it just the ranting authors coveting their success?

Wrathman
05-02-2008, 09:10 PM
Some authors do seem to write to the lowest common denominator, but that is their choice. They are writing to enhance sales and assure an income rather than writing for any "lofty" ideal that we would want to assign. I see it as a choice and don't have a huge problem with it though I sadly think of this when someone here asks about becoming a best-selling author.

Some bands go the same route. They give up on being creative and pushing boundries and instead settle in to mine a particular segment of music fans.

The phrase "sell-out" comes to mind in both situations, but that's not to say that you don't need plenty of talent to accomplish either of these tasks.

ishtar'sgate
05-02-2008, 09:12 PM
What did those readers see in them?


Most people read to be entertained and found their stories entertaining. Talent is very subjective. A writer I might think has a huge talent, you might think sucks pond water. That's just the way it is. When enough people agree with you, the writer becomes a bestseller.
Linnea

slcboston
05-02-2008, 09:15 PM
Most people read to be entertained and found their stories entertaining. Talent is very subjective. A writer I might think has a huge talent, you might think sucks pond water. That's just the way it is. When enough people agree with you, the writer becomes a bestseller.
Linnea

Oh, I like that so much I'm going to try and incorporate it into my daily conversations.

Boss: Did you submit your TPS form?

Me: TPS forms suck pond water.

:D

Daimeera
05-02-2008, 09:16 PM
Talent and entertainment are subjective. Personally, I'm a big fan of Rowling. Does she write the best prose in the world? Probably not. But her stories are engaging, thought provoking, and just plain fun. Her level of detail and planning is exceptional. We all have our weak points, and maybe writing style is hers. Doesn't mean she's not talented in other ways.

I'd love to be able to develop my story lines to the same depths that she has, and does.

BlueLucario
05-02-2008, 09:16 PM
Most people read to be entertained and found their stories entertaining. Talent is very subjective. A writer I might think has a huge talent, you might think sucks pond water. That's just the way it is. When enough people agree with you, the writer becomes a bestseller.
Linnea
Good Point.

maestrowork
05-02-2008, 09:23 PM
Sometimes it's about selling something "popular" because it's entertaining and people want to pass time with something a bit mindless and derivative. Who needs profound? Just because something is popular doesn't mean they're necessarily good. Just look at your local grocers and see how much crap they sell there -- and people actually put those things in their bodies because they don't know any better.

I mean Dan Brown tells an interesting story, but he does pander to the lower common denominator. I mean a world-class cryptologist is using Fibonacci numbers as a cypher? And mirrored writing? Please! Even a 3rd grader can crack that code. That's when he loses credibility to me, but to many people -- who cares? It's entertaining.

Shadow_Ferret
05-02-2008, 09:25 PM
I was surfing this board, and came across like most best-selling authors are not talented authors at all, like Dan Brown, Rowling, Paolini. If they are that bad, how did they make it big?(I already know the answer about J.K Rowling and I wasn't looking for it.) I still find this ironic, don't you? What did those readers see in them?

Are they talented authors? Or is it just the ranting authors coveting their success?
It's called "sour grapes."

Celia Cyanide
05-02-2008, 09:25 PM
I agree that talent is subjective. And some writers might not be very good writers, but there is something about their books that keep people reading. I can think of two well known writers I will not name who are probably not very good writers, but still have something about their work that makes them popular. I read a book recently that was generally pretty over the top. And yet I kept thinking about the more interesting aspects of the story for days.

A. J. Luxton
05-02-2008, 09:26 PM
Well, I'm the sort who reads these kinds of novels once they've hit the used bookstores, in order to have cultural reference points, and:

I'd say Rowling is actually pretty good, in my estimation: her plotting was cringeable in the first book, and went up by leaps and bounds of intricacy in every one from the third onward (until the last, which kind of went off the stride, IMO.) The world is total fluff and does not pass my "truth" test, but that's just me, and I know others who've gotten a lot from it, so I am apparently not the sole judge of quality.

I do think she would be better if she'd had to work harder. I would have liked to see the Rowling who learned to be concise and how not to make plot promises she wasn't planning to fulfill, for instance. The said-book-isms are a bit of a distraction, but if I had a choice between "eliminate the said-book-isms" and "reduce the book to its significant content," with her later stuff, I'd choose the latter.

Dan Brown writes one thing well, if Da Vinci Code is any indication: chase scene. That whole book is one big goofy chase scene. It's like a cat toy made of words. People like cat toys. Swing a string back and forth, and I will follow it with my eyes and try to grab it. That urge is why I plowed through that book at a hectic pace, despite the laughable research and flat characterization. Ooh! Look at that mouse go!

I keep trying to read Laurel K. Hamilton and ... ugh. I just can't see what's redeemable there, unless it's the sex. I've heard her recent ones are notorious for editor-firing and run-on sentences, but the early ones just read like run-ons were chopped into mini-sentences without regard to syntax, and small, embarrassing inconsistencies crop up regularly in the prose.

Richard White
05-02-2008, 09:29 PM
One of the drawbacks of being a writer is we tend to review when we read other people's works instead of just "reading". Many times, we're so in tune with our writing (and our writing styles) that we dissect the books we read.

I get to read for pleasure so seldom now that I do everything I can to turn off the internal editor and just relax and enjoy the experience.

(Plus, there's a lot of "if it's popular, it can't be any good" sentiment that tends to run in literary circles. Personally, I'm not writing for other writers. I'm writing for readers. If they like it, I couldn't care less what another writer thinks of it . . . unless they bought a copy and then I thank them for their contribution. *wink*)

kuwisdelu
05-02-2008, 10:20 PM
It all varies from writer to writer.

J.K. Rowling? She's not too bad. But she's definitely not great, as a writer. But she came up with a great story with lovable characters. The world she created is appealing and good. And from those characters and world stem good plots and stories. For the original intended audience (children) the writing is more than enough. But the world and characters proved enough for even many adults to like her.

Dan Brown? Terrible writer. But he's an amazing storyteller with a strong sense of suspense. At a sentence level, he's very bad. At characters, he's bad. But suspense is his strong point, and that's great for a beach or airplane read. That plus the controversial material made him a bestseller.

Paolini? Hype. He was young. Is that really all? Really. That's all. His parents published him, got him great publicity, and the rest is....awfully pathetic, really.

There you go.

KikiteNeko
05-02-2008, 10:23 PM
I've read lots of books, the sheer badness of which make me wonder how on God's green cubosphere they were ever published. Ever read a book so bad you stopped after the first chapter, despite having paid full price for it?

There are also some commercial authors, such as Danielle Steele, whose lack of talent ASTOUNDS me. I guess it's all subjective.

DWSTXS
05-02-2008, 10:29 PM
It seems to me that writing like Dan Brown (pandering to the lower common denominator) is the way to get the most (volume) amount of sales of books, or anything for that matter.
After all, look at how many people watch shows like Baywatch. There are more 'common' people out there than others.
That's not saying his writing is bad, per se, it is what it is.

I see it as a demographics type of thing. Plus, once a certain segment of the population is 'told' that something is good, they tend to buy it because they want to see what all the fuss is about.

just my opinion. I may be wrong.

Red-Green
05-02-2008, 10:34 PM
I think in fact that it may be the opposite of ironic. It's the reason we seem to have two categories: "critically acclaimed" and "best-selling." I like to think of the talent/success continuum in terms of a vin diagram, where sometimes those two circles overlap, but not on a regular basis.

maestrowork
05-02-2008, 10:38 PM
Many people also like haggis... doesn't mean it's any good. ;)

Shadow_Ferret
05-02-2008, 10:39 PM
Many people also like haggis... doesn't mean it's any good. ;)
I'm telling Haggis!

virtue_summer
05-02-2008, 11:02 PM
I really get tired of this conversation. Just because you don't like a particular book or author does not mean that the people who do are stupid. My mother did not belong to the "lowest common denominator" because she enjoyed Dan Brown's books. She wanted a fast paced story with a lot of suspense and that's what he provided. Different people like different things. I hate Survivor type television shows but I would never think of telling my sister who does that she shouldn't be allowed to do so. It would be arrogant of me to assume that I was some god of good taste and that anyone who didn't agree with me was wrong. People read for different reasons. They want different things out of the stories they read and they're attracted to different styles, themes, subjects, etc. I'd also argue that there are as many literary authors that I have problems with as there are commercial authors. To me literary authors sometimes obscure their stories and messages in experimental prose and that, to me, is bad writing (I loved Beloved until a spot near the end when, if I remember correctly, the author seemed to throw punctuation out the window and start telling the story in stream of consciousness from a non identified narrator). Yet I never see anyone complaining about them. Why is that? I mean I understand saying that you didn't like this book or that you're not attracted to this writer, and that you think they do specific things badly, but to take a huge group of authors (bestsellers) and to decide that most of them are bad because they appeal to a wide group is ridiculous. Some writers want to write stories that can entertain a lot of people. Others want to write stories that will spread a particular message. Others want to experiment with form and prose. Why do some people think that the first of these aims is selling out?

IceCreamEmpress
05-02-2008, 11:07 PM
BLUE! YIKES! HOW MANY TIMES HAVE WE HAD THIS CONVERSATION?

Saying that writers have areas in which their craft leaves something (or a great deal) to be desired is not the same as saying they're "untalented".

I can't think of a writer whose craft is perfect in every dimension except maybe Flaubert or Dostoevsky.


It's called "sour grapes."

That's silly, Ferret. I think people can, and do, critique published writing (like all works of art) without being a whit jealous.

Dan Brown is a clumsy prose stylist with no gift for characterization, and his research is shoddy. On the other hand, he clearly has a gift for crafting page-turning plots that appeal to millions of people.

J. K. Rowling has the page-turning plot gift, a gift for creating memorable characters, and a gift for description. On the other hand, her prose can be extremely clunky and overladen with adjectives at times.

Christopher Paolini did a great job with pulling together a bunch of different dragon- and quest-related mythic elements in a way that young readers responded to. Aside from his protagonist, his characters seem flat to me, though, and his prose is often awkward. And he does benefit from the "child prodigy" element when people critique his work.


Making a detailed assessment of different writers' strengths and weaknesses is neither "sour grapes" nor is it "saying they're untalented."



To me literary authors sometimes obscure their stories and messages in experimental prose and that, to me, is bad writing (I loved Beloved until a spot near the end when, if I remember correctly, the author seemed to throw punctuation out the window and start telling the story in stream of consciousness from a non identified narrator). Yet I never see anyone complaining about them.

People complain about Toni Morrison all the time. On these boards, too.

I complain a lot about Cormac McCarthy, whose work I don't enjoy. I would never call him "untalented" but I find the gimmickry and self-conscious "grittiness" off-putting. On the other hand, I recognize that he comes up with fascinating, complex characters and plots many people respond to.


I think that literary taste and preference is a very nuanced area. Reducing it to "THIS PERSON IS GREAT!" and "THIS PERSON IS CRAP!" is a total waste of time.



I confess that I can't get the point of Danielle Steel, though. I find her work lacking in pretty much every quality I like in blockbuster fiction: I don't see vivid characterization, tight pacing, or engaging description. Compared to writers like Jayne Ann Krentz or Nora Roberts or the late, great Jacqueline Susann, who deliver all three, I just can't see how Steel has been such a best-seller mainstay.

Momento Mori
05-03-2008, 12:27 AM
I think it comes down to writing something that captures the public's imagination.

In Dan Brown's case, he tapped into people's desire to question "orthodox" (no pun intended) teaching about Christ's life whilst bringing in elements of conspiracy theory and an old-fashioned mystery. His writing might not be brilliant (my favourite line from DVC remains "'Oui,' he said in French") but he leaves every chapter on a cliff-hanger, which makes people want to read on plus his writing is uncomplicated, which made it accessible to people who don't usually read a great deal (that's not intended to sound patronising by the way).

Rowling wrote an old-fashioned story about good versus evil, incorporated enough 'grown-up' elements for adults (including politics and nostalgia) to enjoy and by doing so, meant that her books were effectively something that adults and their children could enjoy together. Her prose is adjective and adverb heavy, but it was again easy enough to follow and unintimidating enough to mean that people who don't normally read (again, I don't say that to sound patronising) were happy to wade through 500+ pages in a way that they perhaps wouldn't with wordsmiths like Salman Rushdie.

Paolini ... well, people really like dragons. Okay, that's not fair. I think in Paolini's case it was the fact that he tapped into things that had already worked before that meant there was enough familiarity for adults and kids alike. Plus, his book went on mass-release at a time when there wasn't a huge amount of epic-style fantasy out there for kids, so there was a gap in the market and there's also the curiosity value in the fact that he was so young when the first book came out.

Some of publishing's success stories have been down to luck (being out on the market at the right time), most of it's down to talent and ability and sometimes it's just one of those inexpicable things. I think it's always worth while reading the commercial successes, just to see how they've done it and see if there's anything you can learn from it, but mostly you've just got to concentrate on your own thing and not worry about how others are doing.

Maestrowork - haggis is delicious once you get past the squick factor, as is blood sausage (or black pudding, as it's called in Blighty).

MM

Phaeal
05-03-2008, 12:31 AM
All bestsellers have managed to capture a big audience. Did some army hold guns to the bookbuyers' heads, to make them choose these books? Don't think so. Therefore, whatever I may think about a bestseller, I must accept that it did something right.

However, right for a certain big audience doesn't necessarily mean right for me, and I therefore reserve the right to say that a particular bestseller sucks not only pond water, but pond water with putrid green slime floating on it and rat corpses mulmifying in its noisome depths.

But hey, that's just me.

For those who are keeping score, JKR is a great storyteller in need of better editing, Paolini is a talented beginner who should have been left to develop his craft, and Dan Brown, well, he at least sucks freshly chlorinated pool water. ;)

PS: All the above only applies to fiction. I have much harsher standards for nonfiction. Like, one, it should be nonfiction; two, it shouldn't shamelessly pander to the human impulse toward wishful thinking. But enough, my soapbox is out for repairs.

Ken
05-03-2008, 12:44 AM
I've only read a handful of bestsellers in my life.
Though I hate to admit it, they were really enjoyable.
They were also (plz refrain from chuckles) thought provoking to a degree.
Clan of the Cave Bear really got me pondering about the early history of humans,
and Carlos Casteneda's books transformed my conceptions about reality.

ps Phaeal and I have just about the same # of post counts.
Time for me to up the pace and take the lead!

BlueLucario
05-03-2008, 01:20 AM
BLUE! YIKES! HOW MANY TIMES HAVE WE HAD THIS CONVERSATION?

Saying that writers have areas in which their craft leaves something (or a great deal) to be desired is not the same as saying they're "untalented".



I didn't say that. I'm just wondering if these bestselling authors were considered 'bad', how did they become bestseller? Makes no sense to me. Or maybe ironic. I liked Rowling for her innovative imagination and for being a clever author, but her style is a bit awkward, and parts of it I find patronizing, and her characters are flat(just slightly), other than that I liked her.

BlueLucario
05-03-2008, 01:22 AM
For those who are keeping score, JKR is a great storyteller in need of better editing, Paolini is a talented beginner who should have been left to develop his craft, and Dan Brown, well, he at least sucks freshly chlorinated pool water. ;)

PS: All the above only applies to fiction. I have much harsher standards for nonfiction. Like, one, it should be nonfiction; two, it shouldn't shamelessly pander to the human impulse toward wishful thinking. But enough, my soapbox is out for repairs.

I don't see anything harsh about it. We all have to improve on something.

Marian Perera
05-03-2008, 02:19 AM
I didn't say that. I'm just wondering if these bestselling authors were considered 'bad', how did they become bestseller?

The operative word is bolded.

TerzaRima
05-03-2008, 02:23 AM
I'm just wondering if these bestselling authors were considered 'bad', how did they become bestseller?

Blue, it may be helpful to consider that different readers may have vastly different points of view; also, that there is nothing necessarily ironic about your above statement.

akiwiguy
05-03-2008, 04:35 AM
At the end of the day, assuming your motive is to be read by other people, isn't good story-telling what it's always been? Really odd, I think we get so hung up on technical stuff that we forget one simple fact, that for someone to take any notice of what we're saying, we need to firstly have a story to tell, and secondly be able to tell it in an engaging way. That's not really rocket science, yet I think it's so easy for us to forget what it is that we're fundamentally trying to do.

At the end of the day, if I bore the crap out of everyone, I've bored the crap out of everyone. Full stop. I've always felt there is one group of writers who are in one sense above criticism... best selling authors. They've told a story successfully. Standing on a street corner preaching on a soapbox is pretty friggin pointless if you're the only person on the street corner. You know?

virtue_summer
05-03-2008, 05:20 AM
I didn't say that. I'm just wondering if these bestselling authors were considered 'bad', how did they become bestseller? Makes no sense to me. Or maybe ironic. I liked Rowling for her innovative imagination and for being a clever author, but her style is a bit awkward, and parts of it I find patronizing, and her characters are flat(just slightly), other than that I liked her.

You're assuming the bestsellers are "bad." Not everyone agrees with you. Certainly the people who buy and read and enjoy their books don't agree with you. So that's your answer: Some people believe these bestselling authors are bad. Another group of people do not think these bestselling authors are bad and instead buy and enjoy their books. The second group is larger and is how these authors become bestsellers.

MadScientistMatt
05-03-2008, 06:03 AM
I didn't say that. I'm just wondering if these bestselling authors were considered 'bad', how did they become bestseller? Makes no sense to me. Or maybe ironic. I liked Rowling for her innovative imagination and for being a clever author, but her style is a bit awkward, and parts of it I find patronizing, and her characters are flat(just slightly), other than that I liked her.

It's because people focus on different aspects of a book. Some people like dazzling prose, others read for plot and story. Ideally a book should be good on as many levels as possible, but few writers pull that off. Many readers - myself included, often - will overlook bad prose if the book keeps them wanting to find out what's happening on that next page.

It seems like there kind of is a formula for a book that gets criticzed as hack writing and still sells a bazillion copies - that often seems to happen when a writer may note be the best at prose or characterization, but has an amazing story. But there are limits to this theory - The Eye of Argon actually has pretty decent pacing and didn't run the risk of a bored reader complaining nothing happened. Trouble was the prose was not merely clunky but so putrid its stench overpowered the plot.

icerose
05-03-2008, 07:43 AM
I was surfing this board, and came across like most best-selling authors are not talented authors at all, like Dan Brown, Rowling, Paolini. If they are that bad, how did they make it big?(I already know the answer about J.K Rowling and I wasn't looking for it.) I still find this ironic, don't you? What did those readers see in them?

Are they talented authors? Or is it just the ranting authors coveting their success?

I personally don't hold this opinion outside of Paolini. I have my own opinion on him and it has nothing to do with his age.

I think they are very talented story tellers, or suspense creators. Even if they aren't the best writers, they are some of the best story tellers imho. When you can take good writing and couple it with superior story telling, I think that's where you find magic happening, and I think it irks people that their writing is only good and yet they are making so much money.

But who knows.

scope
05-03-2008, 07:58 AM
I really think we are talking about a whole lot of nonsense. We can talk all we want about aspects which we believe make a writer's work endemically bad or "great," but other than it being an opinion, perhaps interesting, it means nothing at all.

Simply put, we are in a business, and as business people our job is to produce works that sell--the more the better. That's reality. Accordingly, how can anyone say that Brown, Rowlings, and Paolini are "poor" writers. Is there not one of us who would trade places with them-as writers-at the drop of a hat? Do our trifling opinions which criticize their writing mean anything? I think not.

Birol
05-03-2008, 09:20 AM
Ignoring the fact that we've had the conversation about "bad books" being published countless times, I'd like to offer another perspective on this.

I just got home from a release party for the literary journal I've been editing this past academic year. For the most part, I adore every single piece published in the journal. With one exception, they are all strong pieces that explore humanity, and make me go, "Gee, I wish I'd written that." The one notable exception to this is a piece that I despise. I hate it. Can't stand it. I think the plot doesn't flow as well as it should, there are places where the writing is less than brilliant, and there are some scientific errors in it that make me cringe.

Why then did I, as editor, publish a piece that I can't stand? Why did I publish a piece with the flaws I mentioned? For starters, it explored a relevant social issue in a way that might make some people go "Huh. I wonder if..." But far more important than that, the story simply delivers. There is a payoff in the ending that readers found very, very satisfying. They were entertained by it and enjoyed it. That alone made it worth publishing.

Christine N.
05-03-2008, 03:03 PM
This discussion has been going on for hundreds of years. I just took a course in 17th and 18th c. Brit. Lit., and the same discussions show up in the essays of the day. The "Popular" novel is trash, and the only real "literarature" is not for the masses. Frankenstein was criticized for this very thing - being nothing more than popular, low brow horror, meant to shock and appeal to the common man, but not worth much. LOL

Amazing how so little changes in 400 years. Personally, I ADORE Harry Potter, because of the worldbuilding and the intricate way she connected her plot points. Amazing stuff, really. There are things that could have been better, she overuses adverbs, but overall an enjoyable, original, and entertaining story. Dan Brown...*shudder*...I give him story. He's a terrible writer, technically, I can't stand his style, and there were several times I wanted to chuck the book. But it was a good story, with plenty of suspense, and I liked his puzzles. He also had controversy going for him - any time you pick on the Catholic Church, you get buzz.

Paolini - well...he wrote familiar, and kids like familiar. His worldbuilding is so-so, his characters carboard, and it's a stock story. Very affected - he obviously is affecting a LOTR type story, and one that comes very close to the original, mixed in with a little Star Wars. People like it because it reminds them of something else. Not very original, but his writing style is easy and flows well. He had a gimmick - he was young - and the publisher already knew kids would love it, so they bought it. The movie sucked pond water.

Everyone has different tastes. I can't STAND Anne Rice, she takes too long to say what she means, but my sister used to eat them up. It's all relative.

JJ Cooper
05-03-2008, 03:09 PM
You need some talent just to get published (legit publihers).

What I admire most about the 'bestsellers" is that their story is good enough for the readers to ignore any 'rule' violations.

JJ

Exir
05-03-2008, 03:41 PM
As maestrowork aptly said in another thread:

Talent is subjective. Ka-ching is real. ($$$)

HeronW
05-03-2008, 03:45 PM
Some best sellers are like 'Reality Shows' you don't know the players, the setting is artificial, and the premise ludicris but it fills the time.

Linda Adams
05-03-2008, 04:38 PM
I didn't say that. I'm just wondering if these bestselling authors were considered 'bad', how did they become bestseller? Makes no sense to me. Or maybe ironic. I liked Rowling for her innovative imagination and for being a clever author, but her style is a bit awkward, and parts of it I find patronizing, and her characters are flat(just slightly), other than that I liked her.

The problem is you're looking at it from a writer's perspective, not a reader's perspective. We can all go through a book and pick out things we don't like or that we think the writer did wrong. The reader is looking for a good story that does what they need it to do. They're not as likely to notice--or certainly not as much as a writer learning the craft--if the prose has too many adverbs or adjectives or the characters are one-dimensional.

Writer James Rollins was reading some of his reviews and noticed they all commented on his characters being one-dimensional. So he started trying to add characterization. His editor ran across one of his attempts and asked him what he was doing. He explained, and the editor told him to go with his strengths and not worry about what the reviewers were saying. His books were still selling because to the people who wanted adventure stories with lots of action, that's what he gave and was strong at.

As a reader, what I look for is a good, entertaining story that fits in with the kind of stories I like to read. That's it. Sometimes it's a best seller, and sometimes it's not. If I end up not liking an author, it's because she didn't deliver on the story or botched the story, not because she used adverbs or had klunky sentences. I like LKH's early books because her stories gave me something that I wasn't seeing in other books--a kick butt heroine who could take care of herself. On the other hand, there's a woman thriller writer who I will never read again because she did such a sloppy job on the details and characterization that it ruined all the credibility for the book. I think Dan Brown gets bonus points because he picked up on a current event and ran with it, but in a safer direction. Thrillers can turn into best sellers just by doing that.

Some of it is definitely personal taste. Something that will make me put a book down and never read the author again won't bother someone else. But one of things that I've gotten out of it is that well-written, perfect prose isn't enough to sell the book. Yes, you have to weed out the stuff that's going to flag you as an amatuer writer, but the story itself counts for a lot. If a reader picks up a book and reads it cover to cover in one sitting, it's because that story hooked him. Not the prose, the story.

WordsWithoutAFace
05-03-2008, 07:25 PM
I'm going to muddy the pond water that some people are sucking. :D

I say that talent is NOT subjective. But personal taste IS.

If someone is talented, it shows in the quality of their writing. You may hate the style, the voice, the story, the whatever of a given author, but that does not preclude talent.

A discerning eye will always be able to pick out raw talent. True talent.

And the "masses" are sadly blinded to what talent truly is. Hence, the schlokkety-schlock that has overrun the market.

Now, one might be talented at CREATING A SALE-ABLE PRODUCT. But that is not the same as writing talent.

My opinions on the 3 authors mentioned?

Rowling has writing talent. I'm not a huge fan, but I did read all 7 books. It's not "brilliant prose," but she definitely has talent in the story-telling arena, not to mention her dry wit.

Paolini has POTENTIAL -- vast potential, IMO -- and certainly has innate talent -- but was published before his time. If he is true to himself, he will one day cringe in pain at the thought of his earlier, shouldn't-have-been-published works.

Brown -- well, I haven't read him. I've only read some excerpts on Amazon and, frankly, I thought his writing -- ur, sucked pond water.

BlueLucario
05-03-2008, 07:44 PM
So you guys are saying that talent means nothing when it comes to writing.

"subjective" meaning, existing only in the mind.

Marian Perera
05-03-2008, 07:52 PM
So you guys are saying that talent means nothing when it comes to writing.

We are?

BlueLucario
05-03-2008, 08:00 PM
We are?

isn't that what subjective means?

Marian Perera
05-03-2008, 08:08 PM
isn't that what subjective means?

To you, does "subjective" mean "talent means nothing when it comes to writing"?

Tburger
05-03-2008, 08:09 PM
I only read the first few posts of this thread and decided to throw in my two cents. I like stories that are simple and non-literary. Throw rocks at me, it's the truth. One thing I've noticed since beginning to take writing seriously is just how many of our favorite "rules" best selling authors break. Case in point. I re-read Night Shift (Stephen King) and in the first paragraph of every story he "tells" instead of "shows", uses passive voice (A LOT) and probably breaks more rules than that.

I love Night Shift. To me, it's like a template for how to write short stories. But to some, these stories are crud and if you read his bio, they were first published in what SK calls "stroke magazines" - I'm not trying to be crude, I'm quoting.

I gave up trying to make a difference a long time ago. I like being entertained and I'd be honored if someone called my work entertaining. Harry Potter? Loved it. Dan Brown? Loved it. Heinlein? Love it (most of it, the earlier stuff). It's all opinion, and we're unlikely to agree on this issue.

Don't throw the rocks too hard, I bleed easily.

BlueLucario
05-03-2008, 08:26 PM
I re-read Night Shift (Stephen King) and in the first paragraph of every story he "tells" instead of "shows", uses passive voice (A LOT) and probably breaks more rules than that.



Don't throw the rocks too hard, I bleed easily.

Actually, that's what Card did on this book I bought yesterday. It's called Ender's Game. Half of the book consisted of passive voice, but not really much telling. But still, he pulled it off well, and I'm really excited to see what happens later in chapter 4.(I'll read this afternoon if I get any writing done.)

Now i just begun to have prose that describes trivial details. Like 1984, I struggled to get through the descriptions, but found nothing interesting in the beginning.

And don't worry, I throw pillows. :)

EDIT: At the beginning of Ender's game, it was difficult to suspend disbelief when you find out the MC is six, and yet has advanced vocabulary for his age, and so does his older siblings.(I don't know how old his sister was.)

BlueLucario
05-03-2008, 08:41 PM
To you, does "subjective" mean "talent means nothing when it comes to writing"?
Never mind. :(

TerzaRima
05-03-2008, 08:43 PM
Blue, why don't you let this one marinate for a while? I can see these ideas trouble you. They're very nuanced, and nobody on this forum is going to be able to give you an answer to your satisfaction. Come back to it after a while.

Jackfishwoman
05-03-2008, 08:48 PM
I think in fact that it may be the opposite of ironic. It's the reason we seem to have two categories: "critically acclaimed" and "best-selling." I like to think of the talent/success continuum in terms of a vin diagram, where sometimes those two circles overlap, but not on a regular basis.


okay, then are there any contemporary "critically-acclaimed-best-selling-authors" out there? Seriously, I don't read commercial fiction so I am out of the loop on this.

In my little world, the books I read are mostly literary fiction and very finely crafted but not huge blockbusters.

Then again, there have been some critically acclaimed best selling memoirs I have read that are indeed high quality reads (The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls, is one that comes to mind).

Ken
05-03-2008, 09:02 PM
people without any talent or natural ability can achieve an awful lot in life through hard work and discipline. So if some of these best-selling authors don't have talent, as suggested, it stands as a testament to how commited they are to writing, making their success truly worthy admiration and praise.

:Hail:

Phaeal
05-03-2008, 10:17 PM
Show us a passage from Ender's Game that's written half in passive voice.

Melenka
05-03-2008, 11:07 PM
There are a lot of best selling books I don't like. There are lots of writers I do like whose works have limited appeal. It all comes down to a matter of taste. The reading public, by and large, doesn't give a rat's ass about how technically good a writer is. They care about the story. I'll be damned if I judge someone to be talentless if they've hooked that many readers. I may question WHY those readers were hooked. I may hate that books I consider "better" (this is where the subjective comes in) don't have the same sort of sales, mostly because I really want those writers to keep being published so I can keep reading their work. I would imagine the same is true of people who read best-selling books that I don't particularly like. Far be it from me to say the reading public is wrong to like what they like just because it isn't to my taste.

Christine N.
05-04-2008, 12:36 AM
Yanno, I signed up for an Intro to Creative Writing course for the Summer term. NOT because I wanted a course that would garner me an easy A, but because I wanted some fresh perspective. I've never taken a creative writing course - ever.

I was worried that I'd get one of these hoity-toity "Literary" writers as a professor, who would HATE genre writing. I was prepared.

The professor IS a genre fic writer. I'm SO looking forward to this class now! What does this have to do with the topic? Well, it goes back to the whole "Literary vs. Popular" debate. There are many professors who refuse to allow students to write genre fiction, claiming it's trash and not worth the time. However, SF/F/H sells millions of copies every year.

I guess it all depends on what's important to you.

Birol
05-04-2008, 03:46 AM
I say that talent is NOT subjective. But personal taste IS.

If someone is talented, it shows in the quality of their writing. You may hate the style, the voice, the story, the whatever of a given author, but that does not preclude talent.

Commenting on just the above, I have to agree with Words. Talent and skill do stand out. I can not like a story. It can not be my thing, but I can still admire the craftsman, how it was put together, how the author told the story. There have been numerous stories I've read that I personally did not like, but where there is no doubt the author has skill at their craft.

scope
05-04-2008, 04:19 AM
Melenka,

Ditto to all you say. It's all about the public and the books they want and do buy. Any discussion that revolves around any other facts is purely academic.

With the very rare exception of some university and other special presses it's all about the size of the audience, the need for a particular work, the size of the marketplace, promotion (a combo of the efforts of both writer and publisher), and making money.
Some may find this unfortunate--I don't--but it's reality. The sooner newbie writers realize and accept these facts and adjust their writing habits, the better.

BlueLucario
05-04-2008, 07:51 PM
Can anyone explain

"Talent is subjective."

Cranky
05-04-2008, 08:04 PM
It means that it's not something you can easily quantify and say, "This person is talented at such and such!" and there isn't any dispute. For writers, there are very few that everyone agrees is talented. Some people even hate Shakespeare, etc.

It isn't like sports (for example), where there is a clear benchmark for success. You score so many touchdowns, or run a race in a certain amount of time, and you are "talented", because you are better at this than other athletes you are competing with. Numbers are pretty concrete things.

Arts are, by their very nature, subjective. People look at a painting and take away something different from looking at it. Some people like horror movies and others prefer high drama, considering everything outside that to be "trash" or "pretentious". There are people that find genius in the work Rowling has done (particularily with her plotting and world building), and others that think it's complete dreck.

You can't dispute the value of a touchdown, but you can debate the merits of different books, because the arts speak to people differently from person to person.

I hope this made sense...haven't had much coffee yet today. :)

BlueLucario
05-04-2008, 10:30 PM
I just heard about Rowling. I had a problem with the deathly hallows because she killed off too many characters. And Harry was only looking for horcruxes because dumbeldore ordered him to.(It was quoted.) The epilogue was lame and made me think that I was ripped off. And I found that she was just rushing through her last book and writing for the sake of her impatient readers.

Inky
05-04-2008, 10:34 PM
Oh, I like that so much I'm going to try and incorporate it into my daily conversations.

Boss: Did you submit your TPS form?

Me: TPS forms suck pond water.

:D
And if it's really bad: the sludge floating atop pond water'

We could go all day at this...most especially with the warped minds tha' enjoy playing in these parts... :ROFL:

BlueLucario
05-04-2008, 10:36 PM
Geez is Dan Brown really that bad?! Sheesh! I happen to have the DaVinci Code in my bookshelf.

shriek
05-04-2008, 10:58 PM
Actually, that's what Card did on this book I bought yesterday. It's called Ender's Game. Half of the book consisted of passive voice, but not really much telling.

Um, are you sure? I don't have a copy to hand, but I'd be very surprised if half the book is actually written in passive voice (a very specific grammatical construction), so I'm wondering if you're using the wrong term here?

Phaeal
05-04-2008, 11:10 PM
And if it's really bad: the sludge floating atop pond water'

We could go all day at this...most especially with the warped minds tha' enjoy playing in these parts... :ROFL:

I think I already won this contest a few posts back with my mulmifying rat corpses. ;)

nerds
05-05-2008, 12:34 AM
I was surfing this board, and came across like most best-selling authors are not talented authors at all . . .


Charles Frazier is a best-selling author. Joan Didion. J.D. Salinger. John Steinbeck, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Faulkner, all in their day. Maya Angelou. The list is endless. This equation of best-seller = automatic junk does not hold up.

To be sure, there are best-selling writers whose work is genuinely awful, two of whom always come right to the top of my mind and whom I'll never cite here by name nor genre, who make Rowling, Brown, et al look like Proust. These are writers who not only write ghastly but also do not tell a compelling story so strike-out on all counts, and their success I will grant the O.P. is a discouraging puzzlement.

But all in all, if a story is told well, as has been pointed out upthread, much can be forgiven.

IceCreamEmpress
05-05-2008, 02:49 AM
Accordingly, how can anyone say that Brown, Rowlings, and Paolini are "poor" writers.

Because Brown and Paolini are. Good storytelling != good writing, or even skilled writing, necessarily.

And bestsellers are not always the best writers or the most remembered writers of an era. Who reads Marie Corelli today? Or E. Phillips Oppenheim? Or Harold Bell Wright?

They outsold their contemporaries by truckloads, but the people we read today are George Eliot and James Joyce and Mark Twain.

(I do think Rowling is a skilled writer, though I think she has some weak points.)


Is there not one of us who would trade places with them-as writers-at the drop of a hat?

Yep. Me, and I'm sure I'm not alone.


Do our trifling opinions which criticize their writing mean anything? I think not.

Of course they do. Or maybe I'm just biased because I used to teach writing and literature at the university level--who knows?

BlueLucario
05-05-2008, 03:24 PM
Charles Frazier is a best-selling author. Joan Didion. J.D. Salinger. John Steinbeck, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Faulkner, all in their day. Maya Angelou. The list is endless. This equation of best-seller = automatic junk does not hold up.

.

Oh yes! John Steinbeck= Excellent author. Someone I'd recommend to anyone looking for lessons in characterization.

I like Mary Shelley, when she was published at 16. I read one of her books, and it was difficult for me to suspend disbelief. But other than that her characters were awesome and yes, she's talented especially at that age.

IceCreamEmpress
05-05-2008, 08:04 PM
I like Mary Shelley, when she was published at 16.

She was 19 when she wrote Frankenstein, her first book.

However, by that age, she had already been helping her father (philosopher and novelist William Godwin) as a researcher and editor for many years.

CaroGirl
05-05-2008, 08:18 PM
There are great story tellers and great writers and, occasionally, the truly great piece of art that strikes a perfect balance.

Rowling is a great story teller who created memorable characters and a fantastic world, and, in so doing, inspired a generation of kids to read. Not too shabby in my book. Dan Brown, it would appear, is a good enough story teller to sell millions of copies of his novels. More power to him. I've read only a couple of chapters of his work and discovered he's NMS.

I disagree that "talent is subjective". Interpretation of an author's talent is subjective because it comes down to individual preference. I don't enjoy Brown but that doesn't make him untalented. I do enjoy Rowling but that doesn't make her talented. Collectively, however, enough people do enjoy both these authors' work, thus their words have reached millions. Again, good for them.

Elwood
05-05-2008, 08:27 PM
Hello just jumping in. After reading the posts I would say, for me at least, that best selling and popular is kind of like comparing Beethoven and Z.Z. Top. I happen to enjoy both but I love Beethoven.

Beethoven is genius, Z.Z. is just fun and good popular music. I suppose the question that is to be answered is one better, greater than the other? By popular choice I would think Beethoven lags far behind. One can of course substitute other music or literary comparisons. Nice forum you all have here!

donroc
05-05-2008, 10:17 PM
Please, read me and love me. The rest is intellectual masturbation.

Phaeal
05-05-2008, 10:26 PM
Please, read me and love me. The rest is intellectual masturbation.

At first I thought this was a non sequitur, but now I'm thinking it might be pretty deep.

ChaosTitan
05-05-2008, 11:11 PM
I like Mary Shelley, when she was published at 16. I read one of her books, and it was difficult for me to suspend disbelief. But other than that her characters were awesome and yes, she's talented especially at that age.

Do you mean SE Hinton (http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_ss_gw?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=SE+Hinton), rather than Mary Shelley? :Huh:

Kitrianna
05-05-2008, 11:31 PM
Can anyone explain

"Talent is subjective."

Translation: Everyone has their own opinion about what's good or not. Some people still like Tom Cruise's acting, personally I think his work has gone downhill in recent years.

Far as I am concerned...Opinions are like a particular orafice. Everyone's got one.

slcboston
05-05-2008, 11:33 PM
Please, read me and love me. The rest is intellectual masturbation.

Well, I already do the other kind, so I suppose it balances out. :D

slcboston
05-05-2008, 11:35 PM
And if it's really bad: the sludge floating atop pond water'

We could go all day at this...most especially with the warped minds tha' enjoy playing in these parts... :ROFL:

Warped? :Wha:

I happen to believe we're the *normal* ones.





(And I can go all day if you can. ;) )

BlueLucario
05-05-2008, 11:46 PM
Do you mean SE Hinton (http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_ss_gw?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=SE+Hinton), rather than Mary Shelley? :Huh:

Nope Mary Shelley, I was wrong about the age she got published. My teacher told me that she was 16 when she was first published.

scope
05-06-2008, 03:35 AM
Because Brown and Paolini are. Good storytelling != good writing, or even skilled writing, necessarily.

And bestsellers are not always the best writers or the most remembered writers of an era. Who reads Marie Corelli today? Or E. Phillips Oppenheim? Or Harold Bell Wright?

They outsold their contemporaries by truckloads, but the people we read today are George Eliot and James Joyce and Mark Twain.

(I do think Rowling is a skilled writer, though I think she has some weak points.)



Yep. Me, and I'm sure I'm not alone.



Of course they do. Or maybe I'm just biased because I used to teach writing and literature at the university level--who knows?


With all due respect, and with no animosity meant, that's a possibility, and if so I don't see anything wrong with that.

Everyday I try to be the best writer I can be. I hope to write books that will live on long after I am gone, but that will also be acknowledged while I'm alive. But I must admit to at least one fatal flaw: I also write to make money, as much of it as I can, and I have been doing this since my college days some 30 year ago. I know that in the perfect world we could separate the two, but I don't believe ours is a perfect world.

If we want to talk about "great" writers and their works from a purely aesthetic standpoint, that's to me is an entirely different conversation than one that involves questioning whether today's authors of huge economic success are bad or good writers. Everyone is going to have a different opinion, so what. If you want to think that the three referred to are not good writers based on an academic format for writers, that's fine, but to say as some have here that they are hacks is I think ridiculous. They set a goal for their writing and they more than likely overachieved same. No, the question isn't whether they are or are not good writers, the question is do you enjoy reading their material.

I'm curious, what do you think of these few recent authors who have been highly successful:

Simon Winchester
Mitch Albom
David Halberstam
Mark Haddon
Pat Conroy
Frank McCourt

Danger Jane
05-06-2008, 05:38 AM
I like Mary Shelley, when she was published at 16. I read one of her books, and it was difficult for me to suspend disbelief. But other than that her characters were awesome and yes, she's talented especially at that age.

Actually, do some research on the science of Frankenstein...it's actually pretty strongly based in (creepy) science...like most enduring sci-fi. Google it.

IceCreamEmpress
05-06-2008, 06:22 AM
If you want to think that the three referred to are not good writers based on an academic format for writers, that's fine

No, I'm saying that Christopher Paolini is not a good writer in that his characters are poorly drawn and flat. I'm not talking about some refined academic hoo-ha--I'm talking about stuff that readers notice. Nobody reads Paolini for the characters.

And I'm saying that Dan Brown is not a good writer in that his characters are poorly drawn and flat, AND that he doesn't always use words accurately, AND that he gets parts of speech muddled. And again, readers notice; nobody reads Brown for the characters or the prose.

Obviously, each of these writers has strengths that outweigh these flaws for many readers. But it's not "sour grapes" or "pointless" to notice and discuss these flaws. Their books succeed DESPITE these flaws, not because of them.

J.K. Rowling, on the other hand, is a very skilled writer, even though she has some real weak points that her gift for storytelling and characterization overcome.

And hell, if criticizing people who sell more books than I do is good enough for Mark Twain (http://etext.virginia.edu/railton/projects/rissetto/offense.html), it's good enough for me!


but to say as some have here that they are hacks is I think ridiculous.

Actually, what "hack" means is not at all disjunctive with bestseller-dom--a "hack", like the "hackney carriage" or hired coach from which he or she takes the name, writes whatever people are paying for regardless of his or her own wishes.


They set a goal for their writing and they more than likely overachieved same. No, the question isn't whether they are or are not good writers, the question is do you enjoy reading their material.

I think that's a faulty argument. At minimum, "good writing" includes a grasp of the basic mechanics of English syntax, which Dan Brown does not display in his published work. His books succeed despite that, but aspiring writers would be poorly advised to copy his prose style.


I also write to make money, as much of it as I can

Well, I try to write for a living. I'd much rather be a modest financial success and a favorite of careful readers than a giant blockbuster who was justly mocked for incompetence and shoddy work. In other words, I'd rather be a George Eliot than a Marie Corelli, or a John Cheever than a Jacqueline Susann.



I'm curious, what do you think of these few recent authors who have been highly successful:
Simon Winchester
Mitch Albom
David Halberstam
Mark Haddon
Pat Conroy
Frank McCourtAll of these people write grammatical English, which puts them ahead of Dan Brown.

Simon Winchester is one of my favorite writers; David Halberstam's long, convoluted sentences put me to sleep. In my opinion, Mitch Albom is a competent, straightforward writer who finds big themes that many people respond to; Pat Conroy is a skilled writer in the tradition of mainstream popular fiction who, again, finds themes that many people respond to; Mark Haddon I find hard to generalize about because I've only read The Curious Incident... but I thought that was a fascinating book; Frank McCourt is a very eloquent writer with a great wit that comes across on the page.

Now, when you compare Conroy and Haddon to Brown and Paolini in terms of characterization, you can see the difference in professionalism.

Bergerac
05-06-2008, 06:31 AM
Nope Mary Shelley, I was wrong about the age she got published. My teacher told me that she was 16 when she was first published.


What is it that your teacher thinks she "published" at 16?

She wrote FRANKENSTEIN at age 20; her journals from 1814 onward (when she was about 16) were published much later on.

Christine N.
05-06-2008, 01:36 PM
But she also came from a heavily literary background, trying to live up to the name of her mother who died when she was very small, and stuck between a famous father and a famous husband.

Mary Shelley is one of those special cases - she really didn't have much choice to be a writer. Frankenstein was written as part of a bet, and re-written and re-published after Percy Shelley's death. (I just read it for a Lit Crit class)

Anyway, that aside, FOR HER TIME, she was popular, and criticized for being popular. We see it today as great literature, but in her time it was seen literary big-wigs as trash for the masses. So there you are.

I don't like Paolini, for the reasons stated here. My sister likes him, but she's not a writer. Kids like him, because he writes familiar (if flat) characters in a familiar setting. He's easy enough to read, but not very interesting, and his storyline is predictable. I'm just saying that there are REASONS for these writers to have sold millions of copies, and with the exception of JKR, it's not the writing.

You want books that are terrificlly written and fantastically woven with fabulous characters? Go find James Owen, or Elizabeth Bunce, or Tamora Pierce, or Shannon Hale. These writers have quietly sold millions of copies as well (well, maybe not Elizabeth, her book just came out, but it's AWESOME) and they have the complete package.

BlueLucario
05-06-2008, 03:33 PM
J.K. Rowling, on the other hand, is a very skilled writer, even though she has some real weak points that her gift for storytelling and characterization overcome.

.

May I say something about that. She's not that great with characterization. As I read, I had no interest in Harry, I don't know why. When I read book six, I wanted to learn more about Voldemort's past, maybe I can sympathize with him. When I read the end, I was really pissed off when Voldemort was bad because he wanted to. There was nothing in there to justify why he wanted to be bad. Dumbeldore is what I considered a Gary-Stu, a bigger one than Harry. There's no reference of what Harry wanted to do. Especially in books four, six, and seven. When Harry's name was printed on the Tri-Wiz cup, it was not clear to me if he wanted to participate, only there because the author needed him to go for the story's sake. What bother's me is that when there was only four participants instead of the intended three, nobody did anything about it, nobody even bothered to kick him out, they just went on. And in book six and seven(and I'm quoting this from the book) Harry was only looking for horcruxes because Dumbeldore told him to, not because he wanted to. To me Harry's doing everything Dumbeldore wanted to. He wanted Harry to do this and that. He knew what was going to happen, he planned everything. And if Voldemort is running on the loose, why didn't Dumbeldore try and find him and kick his butt himself, instead of letting Harry do it.

Harry: Hey Dumbeldore, I'm going to Hijack a plane.
Dumbeldore: Ho ho ho! Have fun, Harry!

That's just my opinion. I could be wrong though.

Exir
05-06-2008, 04:07 PM
Blue, I respectfully disagree with some of your opinions.


I wanted to learn more about Voldemort's past, maybe I can sympathize with him.

Isn't that a strength of characterization when your readers are interested to learn more about the villain? Most writers would give a couple of their fingers to write villains that the reader can sympathize with.


When I read the end, I was really pissed off when Voldemort was bad because he wanted to.

Cos that's the way things are in real life. You do bad things because you choose to do bad things, because you want to.


There was nothing in there to justify why he wanted to be bad.

At first it was the quest for immortality. He was scared of death, and he wanted desperately to become immortal. (Understandable.) But the cost of Horcruxes was that his soul is maimed. In a sense, he became a psycho because of the Horcruxes. I though that was quite clear in the books, at least to me.


When Harry's name was printed on the Tri-Wiz cup, it was not clear to me if he wanted to participate

I think having conflicting emotions is perfectly allowed.


nobody did anything about it, nobody even bothered to kick him out, they just went on.

The magical contract is binding. You can't break it.


Harry was only looking for horcruxes because Dumbeldore told him to, not because he wanted to.

Harry wanted to vanquish Voldemort. Voldemort can only be vanquished by destroying the horcruxes. Therefor Harry would want to hunt down horcruxes.

And yes, he had occasional doubts about it. But that's allowed. Not everything is black and white as in you either want it or you don't. Most of the time there is a middle ground, and it is even possible to both want AND don't want something, at the same time.


He wanted Harry to do this and that. He knew what was going to happen, he planned everything.

Yet Harry had to figure everything out himself. Dumbledore might have known what was going to happen, but it is Harry that made things happen.


And if Voldemort is running on the loose, why didn't Dumbeldore try and find him and kick his butt himself, instead of letting Harry do it.

Firstly, before he can kick his butt, he has to destroy all the Horcruxes. Unfortunately for him, he didn't live long enough to finish that task.

Christine N.
05-06-2008, 04:09 PM
Especially in books four, six, and seven. When Harry's name was printed on the Tri-Wiz cup, it was not clear to me if he wanted to participate, only there because the author needed him to go for the story's sake. What bother's me is that when there was only four participants instead of the intended three, nobody did anything about it, nobody even bothered to kick him out, they just went on

I beg to differ. Harry NEVER wanted to compete, and he said as much. It was part of the reason for his row with Ron - Harry was some big superstar, always stealing the spotlight, and he managed to enter without letting Ron know how he did it (in Ron's mind).

And if you were a careful reader, they COULDN'T kick Harry out of the tournament. Once your name is in the cup, it's a binding magical contract. Which is why DD said you must be absolutely SURE you want to put your name in. That was why it was upsetting -someone confunded the Goblet of Fire and managed to put in his name even though he was underage, AND it spit out TWO names from the same school. Obviously someone wanted him to compete, because there was a good chance he wouldn't survive. And when he did, there was a plot to get him to help Voldemort be resurrected.

I guess you missed that part.

Voldemort wasn't just bad because he wanted to be. No, that was what was so interesting. He and Harry had a simliar upbringing - both orphans, raised in places where no one really cared about them. One chose good, the other...didn't. Harry was told by the sorting hat that he would do well in Slytherin...Voldemort would have chosen it, Harry opposed it. They had brother wands. It's a very complex and intriguing relationship these two have, and it spread over seven books. AND Voldemort, at some point, learned his heritage, that he was the Heir of Slytherin. He was trying to live up to his wizard family's name.

And the prophecy said Harry would destroy Voldy. Plain and simple. DD tried to help him, but in the end, it had to be Harry.

Come on, now, you didn't get ANY of that? She pretty much dotted every i and crossed every t, in a really carefully woven and multi-leveled plot that any of us would love to work with. I know I would.

CaroGirl
05-06-2008, 04:12 PM
Just one or two points on that. Harry had to participate in the Tri-Wizard Tournament because his name coming out of the cup constituted a "binding magical contract". Granted, the consequences of breaking that contract are never explored, but they do give a reason for why he MUST participate.

Harry did not look for horcruxes just because Dumbledore told him to. It was somewhat more complicated than that. Harry knew that destroying all the horcruxes would kill Voldemort and save the world. You should give it a second read.

ETA: Christine and I crossed posted. Great mind thinking alike and all that.

Birol
05-06-2008, 04:58 PM
To take this to a more general level, it is a perfectly acceptable plot device to have a character be placed on a certain path because of another's wishes, to be doing something because someone else has commanded it, even if it is contrary to the character's own desires. There is something about the reluctant hero, who is doing what they're doing not out of any desire of their own, but because they have either been manipulated or else because circumstances make all other alternatives unpalatable.

When analyzing writing it is not enough to say "this is bad because I didn't like it." Instead, you have to give specific, concrete reasons why it didn't work. Just like it is possible to detest good novels for subjective reasons so is it possible to enjoy bad writing because of personal tastes.

BlueLucario
05-06-2008, 05:50 PM
Hey. I said I could be wrong. It took me a while to analyze the series.

BlueLucario
05-06-2008, 06:03 PM
Blue, I respectfully disagree with some of your opinions.


Isn't that a strength of characterization when your readers are interested to learn more about the villain? Most writers would give a couple of their fingers to write villains that the reader can sympathize with.


Again. I could be wrong. And to sympathize with a villain, I thought it makes me the crazy one. And just being bad doesn't justify why he is what he is. I wanted to see if he was bullied or abused or something happened that traumatized him.

And no, nothing happened there. He just bullied everyone and stole their toys just for the hell of it.

Sorry, for the argument, I'm going to keep this to myself now. I hope no one is angry.

And as for the Horcruxes, I quoted that from the book.

I liked the book. It really inspired me to write more. I copied her style when I first started writing, hoping that I can be like her and sell billions of copies.

BlueLucario
05-06-2008, 06:15 PM
Actually, do some research on the science of Frankenstein...it's actually pretty strongly based in (creepy) science...like most enduring sci-fi. Google it.

I was told it was horror, which made no sense. How is it Horror when I can sympathize with the Monster? That book made me cry, IN CLASS! (That was so embarassing.)

Yeah, it is Sci-fi.

Phaeal
05-06-2008, 06:33 PM
As for Voldemort, JKR bent over backwards to show us that Tom Riddle was a sociopath. Look at all the flashbacks featuring Riddle, from the one in which Dumbledore visits him in the orphanage to the ones that show him post-Hogwarts/pre-Voldemort -- JKR is practically ticking off the diagnostic features of sociopathy:

Glibness and Superficial Charm
Manipulative and Cunning
Grandiose Sense of Self
Pathological Lying
Lack of Remorse, Shame or Guilt
Shallow Emotions
Incapacity for Love
Callousness/Lack of Empathy
Poor Behavioral Controls/Impulsive Nature (this really comes out in Voldie)
Early Behavior Problems/Juvenile Delinquency

Add to this a history of sociopathic behavior in Riddle's immediate family, certainly the Gaunts, maybe the Riddles, who were at least acculturated to selfishness, if not sentenced to it by mental illness.

Sociopaths make convenient villains, but making them really interesting is difficult, since they cannot make a real choice between good and evil. Their pathological selfishness controls all their actions. It's a point in JKR's favor that she does manage to evoke some sympathy for her devil by showing how trapped he ultimately is.

BlueLucario
05-06-2008, 06:34 PM
I had sociopathy in mind. I'll take back what I said. I feel rather stupid.

Christine N.
05-06-2008, 09:00 PM
Don't feel stupid - we've just spend far too much time with the series, maybe. LOL. She made turning the most seemingly insignificant detail into a major plot point an art form. I think I'm going to re-read the last two books over the summer.

JKR's got tons of notes for stuff that never even made it IN the series - like geneology charts for characters, backstory you never knew about, and all kinds of stuff. She's truly an inspiration to speculative fiction writers everywhere.

maestrowork
05-06-2008, 10:00 PM
It takes a lot of talent and skills to keep all these plot threads straight and characters consistent and relationships untangled through seven books. I think Rowling deserves a lot of kudos for that. She's a true writer, whether you like her writing style or not.

Dan Brown, on the other hand, just happened to latch onto a great, fascinating concept. His writing is very formulaic, his plot predictable and pedestrian, and his characters are flat and uninteresting. But story trumps everything and he does have a knack for creating suspense to string the readers along. His books are interesting, but nothing memorable. Does that mean he's a bad writer? He's good enough to have multiple books published and become a best-seller, and sometimes that's good enough. He doesn't aspire to win the Pulitzer or Nobel. He does what he does well. He achieves his goals. And that's part of being a write -- write what you love and love what you write. And he does just that. Let's see if he can repeat the success of The Da Vinci Code.

Christine N.
05-06-2008, 11:32 PM
And we've got some top-notch writers here, too, even if they aren't bestsellers yet, like Maestro and Toothpaste and Liam (where IS he, by the way?) and all kinds of others who I can't think of at the moment.

BlueLucario
05-06-2008, 11:36 PM
And we've got some top-notch writers here, too, even if they aren't bestsellers yet, like Maestro and Toothpaste and Liam (where IS he, by the way?) and all kinds of others who I can't think of at the moment.

I know. I plan on going to the bookstore and buy their books. But I can't find anything.

Christine N.
05-07-2008, 03:27 AM
There's always B&N.com :) At the price of gas nowandays, it's almost worth it to order online and save the gas money.

BlueLucario
05-07-2008, 03:34 AM
I have a bike. Thanks. :)

BlueLucario
05-29-2008, 11:39 PM
I have a question for you guys, would YOU want to be a famous author? I would :)? Why or why not?

Phaeal
05-30-2008, 01:11 AM
Sure, why not? If I were to make a famous writer's money, I'd buy my own island and have mastiffs patrolling the shores, so rabid fans wouldn't bother me. ;)

Kalyke
05-30-2008, 02:01 AM
Best sellers are not about good writing. Just like McDonalds is not about fine cusine. It is about sales. If you put a picture of Jesus on the cover and say it is controversial, a lot of people will buy it simply because of the way it is marketed.


The story is more important than the writers' skills, though it would be wonderful if better writers were published more often. Good writers are people like Isabella Allende, Gabriel Marquez, Frank Mc Court, Barbara Kingsolver and on and on. Some new writers are really shaping up as good writers I think T.C. Boyle is excellent. They have an audience. They may not make the big score consistently, but they have longevity on their side.

CheshireCat
05-30-2008, 03:55 AM
Best sellers are not about good writing. Just like McDonalds is not about fine cusine.

And be sure to respect your fellow writer.