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

Merdle touches on something important here...

timing has a massive impact on relevance.

Terminator 2 was THE blockbuster when it came out, today it just seems campy.

The Matrix also brought "brain in a vat" philosophy and psychology to the masses in a horrific and surreal package, today it's quaint cliche' and will likely be generally considered campy in another 3-5 years.

Perhaps some people will harp about "timeless classics" but saying "Of Mice and Men" or "Shakespeare" are truly amazing feats is like the dude at the 20 year HS reunion that still takes Slayer seriously and listens only to Slayer. It's simple romanticism/fanboy-ism for an ideal.

This is especially true for comedy which dates itself far faster than most other genres. If in doubt, watch a funny comedy special, then watch it again right after that and see how many times you laugh the second time through.

As such, there is no universal yardstick for measuring if something is "good". Eye of the beholder and all that noise...

One can objectively determine the quality of writing within a certain scope. It only becomes impossible when the pieces being judged are close. It is easy to tell objectively when something is bad.

Originally Posted by World of L_Tiene View Post
Perhaps some people will harp about "timeless classics" but saying "Of Mice and Men" or "Shakespeare" are truly amazing feats is like the dude at the 20 year HS reunion that still takes Slayer seriously and listens only to Slayer. It's simple romanticism/fanboy-ism for an ideal.

This is especially true for comedy which dates itself far faster than most other genres. If in doubt, watch a funny comedy special, then watch it again right after that and see how many times you laugh the second time through.
Well combining these two, Shakespeare's Comedy of Errors was quite funny when I last saw it a couple of months ago, so I suppose it has dated quite well.
Shakespeare's writing may not be a feat in itself. Still being well-known after all this time, however, is a feat, and there has to be some reason for it.

I think it's possible. I mean we all agree about who can write and who can't, regardless of the fact that we may not like their work. The title however is about writing skill, thus it's less about "is their work beautiful" than "is their work well constructed, with a plot that draws interest (regardless of whether or not you LIKE the plot) and has a concise and thought out storyline.

If so, yes, you can objectively determine writing skill.

You cannot however objectively determine the "beauty" of a piece of the "beauty" of a storyline because that's entirely your own opinion. I know a bunch of people who thought Lord of the rings was "The best book evahhhhh", I think it was terrible. Why do I think it was terrible? Prior to reading it I had already read too many other books, so the characters seemed cliche and redundant.

So by my very own set of circumstances I now quite despise what is widely renown as one of the most beautiful stories ever written.

well by that account jester, anyone that passed sixth grade English and wrote a ten page story with correct elements of setting, characterization and dramatic structure (all formula) is (objectively speaking) a good writer.

I take issue with that on the grounds of "no."

Although what you are saying about structure plays out perfectly on paper, it cannot be applied to real world physics and therefore fails as science forever.

According to your synopsis Danielle Steel is considered a "good writer" and I take heavy issue with that. This is like saying that because something is popular it has merit.

All in all I know what you mean, but in order to make a physical claim it requires more grounding than being theoretical.

In conclusion Danielle Steel is a terrible writer and I wouldn't feed her books to wild dogs because the sourness of the writing might make them sick and I'm against animal cruelty. Further, I don't think I can live in a universe that holds that she is "objectively good at writing".

Popularity is subjective, exactly the opposite of what I was saying.

Sourness, also, is subjective. But obviously, due to that most of her books end up on best sellers, that she has written more books than most authors to date and that she still has a prospering career, it would seem she has indeed struck upon a formula for "Good writing".

It doesn't matter if a writer is sour, cranky, grumpy, pubescent. If the structure of their writing conveys the point of plot, is understandable and (this bit is the subjective bit) keeps a reader reading, then chances are, yes- it's good writing.

Let me blow the point way out of proportion. Hitler. Was he an evil arrogant and terrible person? Yes, subjectively. Objectively, he was a great man with great sway and the ability (note: the ABILITY not the will) to draw a nation together. Had he (subjectively) been of a good moral persuasion, he would have (objectively) had the skills, sway and people power to bring world peace.

Perhaps I'm exaggerating beyond all necessary means. Your opinion (which as you know is subjective) on Danielle Steeles writing as sour, is completely irrelevant. But I too understand the point you are trying to convey and, while I agree with you, it is against the spirit of the original post. Objectivity in writing.

Commas. More commas = better writing. Fact.

Originally Posted by Alamo View Post
Commas. More commas = better writing. Fact.
I like how this post does not have a single comma.

I object to the view that Shakespeare is only considered a "great author" because he wrote a long time ago and is dead. I don't view his works as some kind of biblical epitome of fantastic literature, but I still maintain that Shakespeare was an excellent author if people look past the funny words they can't understand.

A Midsummer Night's Dream is hilarious. It is totally hilarious, but only if you take the time to understand it and not look at it through a modern understanding of comedic writing.

Im sort of talking out of my ass here, or else I'm not and just need to elaborate, but I admit I'm not going to.

To objectively judge writing skill, one must use the accepted standards for the type of writing. Types would include fiction, non-fiction, journalism, essay (with various sub-types), etc. Letís focus on fiction prose.

Fiction plots have accepted standards, differing a bit between short story, novella and novel. The basics include conflict(s), characters, rising and falling action, etc. Any 1st year Lit student should have been exposed to these ideas. Also under consideration could be development of a theme, use of viewpoint, dialogue, voice, and a few other factors.

Fiction can also be classified into one of four possible categories, depending on plot development. A Milieu story is written to explore a setting/world, whether created by the author, which usually is the case in fantasy or sci-fi fiction, or not. One such story is Barbara Hamblyís Dragonsbane. The plot carries the reader throughout Hamblyís created world. An argument could be made that a milieu story could also include the contours of the psyche, such as that of a deranged or psychotic person.

A Character story is written to show change in one or several characters, usually due to some event or circumstance in life. Although I dislike using such an insipid example, Jane Austenís Emma is such a story. Emmaís heart changes due to a series of events in her life, until she realizes that she does indeed love her much-older gentleman neighbor.

An Event story focuses on just that, an event or series of events. The Indiana Jones movies are great examples of this type of story. We thrill at the intrigue, explosions and romance, but the characters are static. Indy is the same guy before and after the story.

An Idea story generally focuses on a question to be answered. A good example here is any mystery, such as Agatha Christieís ĎWhodunnití type of stories. The reader is led, clue by clue, to the answer to the question.

Because of its extensively developed backstory and deep lore, I am a devoted fan of Lord of the Rings. What really makes the LotR so successful is Tolkienís genius. He was able to successfully incorporate all four types of stories into one. The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings are, without doubt, milieu stories. The reader is carried across vast distances, visiting numerous fantastic locations throughout the stories. Also present is the character story. Aragorn, Bilbo and Frodo are the primary candidates here. They are changed to such an extent that one moves from self-exile to king, and other two have to leave their native land because of the long-term effects of the ring.

Events of numerous natures are present in LotR, the primary being the destruction of the One Ring. The series of events and encounters leading to that ultimate deed are why Jackson was able to make a successful movie. We Westerners need events in our movies, or we often feel cheated out of our ticket price.

Of the Ideas present in LotR, some are obvious while others are more subtle. Clearly, we have Good versus Evil. More subtle is the idea of social change due to the influence of evil. When Frodo left the Shire, life there was romantic, pastoral and relatively carefree. By the time he returned, Saruman and Wormtongue had defiled the Shire by cutting down massive amounts of trees and turning the place into an industrial outpost. Frodo and company are forced to deal with the situation, returning the Shire, as best they can, back into the idyllic setting is once was.

We can judge writing using the objective standards set by culture. As someone stated before, culture changes. Reading Dickens can be a nightmare of character introspection and deep detail, although his work is worth the extra effort. That style of writing is not tolerated in modern Western publishing or reading.

Iím not familiar enough with Dune, as was mentioned in comparison with Tolkien, to evaluate it properly regarding the four story types mentioned.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.8
Copyright ©2000 - 2017, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.

Last Database Backup 2017-05-23 09:00:09am local time
Myth-Weavers Status