Notices


Writers' Guild

A community for writers of all genres to hone our craft, with monthly exercises, challenges, and collaborative writing. Open to anyone who enjoys writing!


Objectively determining writing skill

 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Genuine View Post
I had a creative writing professor tell us than any story or work that was good enough that he forgot he was reading school work would get an A.
I'll be honest, that professor sounds like a boss. Of course, I probably would've failed that class. Heh.

Yeah, why couldn't I have had him for a teacher. Instead I had a creepy, creepy ugly middle-aged woman who thought every poem ever written was about sex. She came dangerously close to ruining Robert Frost. No, but seriously, how does one get "sex" out of The Mending Wall?

She also tried to tie it to The Emperor of Ice-Cream. Which is slightly more forgivable (which means nothing considering where we started). Took half an hour for half the class to finally get her to realize it was about death.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Agricolus View Post
True, Naleh. But aren't we talking about objective analysis, rather than subjective? Does that mean the mechanical nature of the story alone, and not the emotional part of it? I don't know, myself. If so, then the discussion boils down to analysis of punctuation, spelling, grammar. If not, the subjective part would be the reaction to the story and how well its written. there may be a few cross-overs, such as tempo and logic that may exist.
Indeed. If you wanted to analyse a written work objectively, by my reckoning the grammar and spelling is the only thing you'd be able to analyse. And that isn't "writing skill", it's just "literacy". Though - yes - some elements of grammar, such as tempo, can be stylistic. Which makes it all very grey.

Quote:
Originally Posted by DoPo View Post
I'm with LucianV here - there is no way to call written work good or bad objectively. There is, in fact, no way to assign value to anything and call it objective. By definition, it is not.
Good point. The meaning of the word "value" is something like "subjective opinion and worth".

(Except the mathematical meaning of "value". That's as objective as you can get.)

I'd have to argue that one can at least psuedo-objectively determine quality of writing though. Why then are books like Ulysses and The Lord of the Rings universally praised? My point is, objective or not, there must be some almost-universal method of determining book quality. What we feel emotionally after reading a piece may be subjective, but if most people have felt something emotionally having read Ulysses, doesn't that suggest some sort of standard?

Honestly- I never really liked Lord of the Rings all that much. FAR too long-winded. So many made-up-words. Made it hard to get real immersion in.

I'll agree it was an incredibly skilled piece of work- detailed to a fault (literally- that's what I dislike about it). I'll be the first to grant it the status of art. I just found myself very aware that I was reading a fictional story. I had to make allowances for the fact that it was one of the earliest works of its kind, and I couldn't hold it in comparison to the more approachable works of a more modern writer in the same genre. But all-in-all, it felt more like required reading for a college class (re: nerd cred) than something I read because I wanted to.

As opposed to, say, Dune. Which probably is scifi's equivilent to LotR. I liked most of those books. The fourth in the main series was incredibly depressing- it actually made me rather irritable and withdrawn. But that aside, it actually *got to me* on a level that rarely happens to me even in real life, much less through a work of fiction.

So while I certainly respected the work. I can't say I actually enjoyed it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by amazinghat View Post
I'd have to argue that one can at least psuedo-objectively determine quality of writing though. Why then are books like Ulysses and The Lord of the Rings universally praised? My point is, objective or not, there must be some almost-universal method of determining book quality. What we feel emotionally after reading a piece may be subjective, but if most people have felt something emotionally having read Ulysses, doesn't that suggest some sort of standard?
Consensus.

Writing skill is something that exists, even if it's subjective. A good (for given values of "good") book will provoke more people's emotions/minds/whatever and attract more praise. So there can be a consensus that, "this is a good book," but other people can disagree and they're not wrong.

We could discuss what makes a particular book good in such a way as to achieve this consensus, which I think is what you're after. But, every one of those people who liked the book liked it for slightly different reasons.

For a vague example... I think a book is good if the plot is constantly engaging and doesn't snap my suspension of disbelief, and I build an emotional attachment to the characters. And in TanaNari's words, I like anything that "gets to" me, which in my case isn't all that hard -- it's the same reason I RP on this site. If you can replace the title with words like "epic" or "dramatic" or "tragic" or "heroic"... or that sort of thing, then I probably like it.

But most of what I like lacks what you might call literary merit: ambiguity and symbolism and layers of meaning that you can write essays about. Not that I'm against those things - quite the opposite - but they just don't seem to correlate too often with what I most enjoy.

LotR wasn't a favourite, but I found it reasonably enjoyable and I didn't have the same immersion problems that TanaNari had; I guess I self-immerse very easily. In some senses I'm quite a gullible audience.

I also like editing posts a lot of times.

Similar data concerning:

I used to be a decorated poet and eventually took a position as a poetry critic. One of the first things I learned is that most poetry writers are awful. After that I also realized that the only to objectively critique was to focus on usage of poetic tools, and generally speaking, the more the merrier. The problem is though, that with story writing this is absolutely not true. Writing a story requires things like pacing as well as detail.

Quote:
Originally Posted by World of L_Tiene View Post
Similar data concerning:

I used to be a decorated poet and eventually took a position as a poetry critic. One of the first things I learned is that most poetry writers are awful. After that I also realized that the only to objectively critique was to focus on usage of poetic tools, and generally speaking, the more the merrier. The problem is though, that with story writing this is absolutely not true. Writing a story requires things like pacing as well as detail.
While I'm no English major (I'm a math/physics major), and I'm fairly horrible at all things English, I once signed up for a short fiction class. My professor said that the use of literary tools and the originality of ideas was what made a short story a good story. Of course, then again, a short story is fairly different from a fully developed novel, but you get my drift.

As for Ulysses and LoTr, I like what my Amer lit 2 prof had to say. The definition of a 'classic' is something that we continue to read after an extended period of time.

It doesn't speak to an objective quality. Things that could have been classics may get lost in time, and things that were trash may become classics because there was nothing else big in the time period. If I compare the writing (unfairly, translations) of Beowulf to something written hundreds of years later, I may find the conventions of Beowulf archaic and wanting. Beowulf continues to be read (in my opinion) for historical reasons as much as for literary reasons. The work is old as dirt, and because people have found talking points for it, and it is in the mind of academics enough for us to continue finding talking points, why would we put it away?

For this same reason Harry Potter will not be a classic because academia is mixed on it. When people run out of stuff to say, it will only exist in its physical copies that may become less important once something else comes along (Say a story about young... mummies).

This is only partially related to objective judgment of writing, but I also think that you cannot objectively determine writing skill. As English changes, as our rules, likes, and style change, so will our objective view of things. Someone who writes in the block paragraph style of the late 1800s, isn't going to be as popular or 'good' now as they were in their own time. Now we like pop and fast movement, white space and dialog. This could change again, and then things written now would be seen as lesser, maybe we will call them 'sparse' and 'lacking'?

Public school system:

1) Penalize lack of/deviation from written thought web on single sheet provided.
2) Correct spelling or grammar.
3) Penalize creativity/deviation from pre-given structure and content.
4) Repeat for the rest of the 300 students.
(This in no way represents all teachers, nor is it necessarily any teachers fault, note 300 students) (oh, and some exaggeration for emphasis)

A great many books which break all the rules I can haphazardly think of are actually fantastically written. (unlike this post.)
At first The Road seemed like a terribly written book. Kind of a harsh and staccato. It reminded me of a lot of really bad children's literature and I wondered what that jackass of an english prof was doing recommending it. After a couple of chapters I realized how much the writing style added to the overall narrative and how well it captured the characters.

I want to reread the road.


35 minutes for that awful, irrelevant, poorly written post. I have to go to bed.




 

Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.8
Copyright ©2000 - 2014, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.
Myth-Weavers Status