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Diandra
11-25-2009, 07:25 PM
I was wondering who do you think is the author who sets the best example on writing techniques (sentence structure, grammar ect.)? Who do you like to follow by example?

Judg
11-25-2009, 07:56 PM
Ursula Le Guin is known as one of the best stylists in the English language. I don't recommend following her when she experiments with different plot forms, mind you. Which fortunately is not very often.

I personally admire clean, elegant prose, so add to that Chaim Potok, Guy Gavriel Kay, Ursula Hegi (what is it about Ursulas?), Tracy Groot.

stephenf
11-25-2009, 10:31 PM
I think George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four is a excellent example of correct and concise English, used to produce a powerful and complex book.

Kitty Pryde
11-25-2009, 10:36 PM
On a sentence and paragraph level, I have to say John Updike. He can write a one-sentence description of a messy room that will make you weep. Plot/story wise I'm not so hot on him, but the man can write a better sentence than anyone.

Libbie
11-25-2009, 11:00 PM
I also really love Ursula LeGuin's use of language.

Vladimir Nabokov can't be beat, either, IMO, and he's all the more amazing because English was not his first (or second) language, yet he commands it with flair few native speakers possess.

I also love Ray Bradbury's style.

These are my top three. Richard Adams might rank #4 for me.

Freelancer
11-25-2009, 11:09 PM
Harry Harrison. I like his calm, easy style. C.S. Forester was also very good in descriptions. It never was confusing and it was easy to imagine it.

Phaeal
11-25-2009, 11:16 PM
Bradbury's a pyrotechnician. Careful imitating him -- you may burn your hand and still be left holding nothing but a charred stick.

I'm admiring Susanna Clarke's style lately.

Michael J. Hoag
11-26-2009, 12:27 AM
For sentence-level mechanics, Ray Carver (http://www.carversite.com/story.html), Amy Hempel (http://www.pifmagazine.com/SID/413/). So natural, nothing extra, nothing pretentious.

Jamesaritchie
11-26-2009, 01:27 AM
Ray Bradbury first. No other writer alive or dead can take short, simple, everyday words and turn them into the most beutiful and unexpected phrases.

But other than choppy writing, which is death, I don't read fiction with an eye toward technique, sentence structure, grammar, etc. ANY writer should have these nailed solidly by the time they're selling fiction.

The writers I love are the ones who tell me a great story, who give me great characters, and who surprise me with WHAT they have to say, not how they say it. This, I think, is where so many new writers go wrong. They concentrate so hard on technique that they forget editors don't buy technique, and readers don't read technique. It's the what that sells fiction, not the how.

If the how mattered very much, Dan Brown, Stephanie Meyer, Robert James Waller, and a lot of other very rich and famous writers would never have been published. These writers are mediocre, at best, where the how is concerned, but they have the what down pat, and that makes for bestselling novels.

But give me a writer like Bradbury who does the how extremely well, and has a what that's fantastic, and I'm in love.

Cybernaught
11-26-2009, 02:05 AM
I'm going to second John Updike.

A few writers whose styles really blow me away are: James Joyce, Harlan Ellison, Kurt Vonnegut, Franz Kafka, Michael Cunningham, Haruki Murakami, T.C. Boyle, Virginia Woolf and George Saunders.

Judg
11-26-2009, 03:35 AM
I second James when it comes to grammar and such. Grammar is just the rules of how a language functions and any writer who doesn't have a grip on it is like a mechanic who hasn't learned to use a wrench. You don't see much incorrect grammar in published works (I wish I could say you don't see any).

I think the most important thing to aim for is clarity. If it's correct and clear, it's already publishable. If it's beautiful on top of it all, then it's bliss-inducing.

Mad Queen
11-26-2009, 04:05 AM
Dan Brown, Stephanie Meyer, Robert James Waller [...] are mediocre, at best, where the how is concerned, but they have the what down pat, and that makes for bestselling novels.
I don't know anyone who didn't like Dan Brown's books solely because of the writing. They bash the plot, the characters, the research and the ridiculous 'puzzles' much more than they bash the writing.

Ken
11-26-2009, 04:35 AM
... my goal has always been to write poorly. So the authors I admire are those who write poorly and exhibit a horrible writing technique, by design.

entropic island
11-27-2009, 12:36 AM
DOUGLAS ADAMS

Shadow_Ferret
11-27-2009, 12:39 AM
I don't read for writing technique. I read for enjoyment. Ask me what author I enjoy, and I can tell you that. None of them, I believe, would qualify for "best writing technique." They qualify for rip-roaring good stories.

kuwisdelu
11-27-2009, 12:42 AM
Thomas Pynchon. David Foster Wallace. F. Scott Fitzgerald. Jack Kerouac.

Judg
11-27-2009, 02:38 AM
Lian Hearn. How could I have forgotten? She was probably my favourite discovery last year. Kept looking for her in the fantasy section, wondering why such a fantastic writer was not on the shelves. Found out today it was because they had shelved her in with general fiction. If you can wrap your head around ninjas with more than human powers in medieval Japan delivered in exquisite prose with an Oriental aesthetic, you are in for an incredible treat. She manages to make both the literary types and the genre types very, very happy. I mean, ninjas. Seriously.

The Lonely One
11-27-2009, 03:08 AM
It's interesting that Bradbury is mentioned here multiple times as a grammar go-to, despite the way his style rejects all the silly conventional "rules" constantly mentioned as industry preferences.

Exclamation points a plenty, among various other things a writer trained in modern sparsity might cringe at. Yet it's beautiful, no? The point is don't look to authors to learn grammar. Look to them for the brilliance of great storytelling.

Judg
11-27-2009, 03:31 AM
It's interesting that Bradbury is mentioned here multiple times as a grammar go-to, despite the way his style rejects all the silly conventional "rules" constantly mentioned as industry preferences.

Exclamation points a plenty, among various other things a writer trained in modern sparsity might cringe at. Yet it's beautiful, no? The point is don't look to authors to learn grammar. Look to them for the brilliance of great storytelling.
Let's not confuse grammar and style. Grammar is "real" rules; the mechanics of a language. You do it wrong, you look stupid and you're often difficult to understand. Confusing your and you're is a question of grammar. Grammar is like sewing properly: if you don't do it right, your shirt falls apart.

How often you use exclamation marks, adverbs, metaphors, and such is style. "Rules" in that context are more about what is currently accepted, much like rules about what is or isn't an acceptable hemline length.

There is little real discussion about grammar, because it's pretty straightforward. If you check the grammar forum, it's mostly about punctuation, or people asking simple questions that they could have looked up in a grammar book. There is almost no room for personal discretion.

Style, on the other hand, is all about personal discretion. Just like clothing fashion, there's a lot of room for variation, but there are some things that are so out of favour you just can't get away with them and hope to be published.

The Lonely One
11-27-2009, 04:03 AM
Let's not confuse grammar and style. Grammar is "real" rules; the mechanics of a language. You do it wrong, you look stupid and you're often difficult to understand. Confusing your and you're is a question of grammar. Grammar is like sewing properly: if you don't do it right, your shirt falls apart.

How often you use exclamation marks, adverbs, metaphors, and such is style. "Rules" in that context are more about what is currently accepted, much like rules about what is or isn't an acceptable hemline length.

There is little real discussion about grammar, because it's pretty straightforward. If you check the grammar forum, it's mostly about punctuation, or people asking simple questions that they could have looked up in a grammar book. There is almost no room for personal discretion.

Style, on the other hand, is all about personal discretion. Just like clothing fashion, there's a lot of room for variation, but there are some things that are so out of favour you just can't get away with them and hope to be published.

I thought the question was asking about the kinds of grammar choices authors make (which I would define as style).

Any published author uses proper grammar. So if that's the question, the answer is read any traditionally published author.

blacbird
11-27-2009, 04:27 AM
I think George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four is a excellent example of correct and concise English, used to produce a powerful and complex book.

Orwell was an excellent clean and succinct stylist in everything I've read of his. Graham Greene is another really good one. Among American writers I'd recommend James M. Cain, John D. MacDonald, Carson McCullers, John Steinbeck, Flannery O'Connor and Pete Dexter as my favorites for prose style.

caw

Judg
11-27-2009, 08:36 AM
I thought the question was asking about the kinds of grammar choices authors make (which I would define as style).

Any published author uses proper grammar. So if that's the question, the answer is read any traditionally published author.
And the point was made upthread that the grammar part of the question didn't make much sense.

Your definition of style is rather idiosyncratic then, unless it's your definition of grammar that is individualized. Having private definitions for words only leads to confusion.

Can you give me an example of what a grammar choice would consist of? I'm having a hard time picturing it. I would think that as soon as you have a choice, you're not making a grammatical choice, but a stylistic one.

The Lonely One
11-27-2009, 10:07 AM
Well, I feel grammar and style are inseparable. You are constantly making grammar choices, because grammar is the toolbox you use to write. I don't think it's a private definition so much as the way I view/describe the accepted one.

A grammar choice (IMO, style):

Jack loves Jill.

v.

Jack loves Jill!

v.

Jack (who murdered Mildred) loves Jill.

v.

Jack secretly loves Jill.


We're told so often to avoid certain things that are perfectly fine tools for writers. Not that the grammar is incorrect, but the "rules" about how we use grammar to our advantage are often skewed to meet a certain industry standard.

If you read a certain author for grammar technique, you'll get an idea of what's useful by the way they use grammar to fit their styles. If one reads Bradbury with no other basis, they'll understand that an exclamation mark adds a sense of wonderment or urgency or volume. Though they might not consider the so-often-preached: exclamation mark bad--use context to convey urgency (which like anything else has its place but not always, not every time) use one every hundred pages, blah blah blah. Grammar is the method by which we shape our styles.

But yes, it is kind of pointless to look to a specific author to learn the basics. Any book will teach you how to format dialog, sentence variety, etc.



a. The system of inflections, syntax, and word formation of a language.
b. The system of rules implicit in a language, viewed as a mechanism for generating all sentences possible in that language.


These are the definitions of grammar I think of when I speak of style. Meaning, you cannot form style but through making choices with grammar (the inflections, the syntax, etc.). It's like making a dress with no fabric. You can't cut it a certain way unless the dress material is there to cut. If that makes any sense. I dunno it's late. But that's basically how I think of it.

Sorry if I was confusing--I misunderstood the initial question to be more about style and the way authors use grammar as such.

Michael J. Hoag
11-28-2009, 12:03 AM
I'm almost always disappointed when a writer uses "correct" prescribed grammar. There's nothing in the world so boring as a Literature of prescribed grammar. Dan Brown writes absolutely A+ bonus number 1 good grammar. Yawn. That's not interesting to me.

But not all published authors use prescribed grammar. Instead, they aim to capture the way the people they're writing about would talk (descriptive grammar.) Unless you're writing about librarians and English teachers, your characters probably shouldn't use prescribed grammar. If you make Average Joe mechanic from Detroit speak beautiful classical prose I'll put down your book.

My theory is: the artificiality of prescribed grammar and publisher-preferred language is the reason so few of the really smart people I know read much modern fiction. They don't read to be lied to. When I look at the contemporary stuff they do read, like Everything is Illuminated, I find descriptive grammar, not artificial prescribed grammar. A grammar that reveals truths, rather than perpetuating a polite fiction about how people should talk.

Another exemplar of beautiful classical prose is Mark Twain. You'll notice that his books are still in print today despite proscribed grammar.

Lost World
11-28-2009, 10:28 PM
... my goal has always been to write poorly. So the authors I admire are those who write poorly and exhibit a horrible writing technique, by design.

I'm honored! I can give you a link to my facebook page if you wish, so that you might show your admiration by becoming my fan. Come join my brotherhood of bad syntax!