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What makes a good writer?

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Old 07-26-2010, 06:52 AM
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Default What makes a good writer?


Sorry if this is elsewhere.

But what makes a good writer - is it entirely subjective, or the contrary? Is there a set personality trait? Nature or nurture?

I've found all the 'good' (i.e successful) writers are quite quirky, with a colourful if not slightly maniacal past to them!

For reference, my favourite author is Shaun Hutson. He came out of education with no qualifications, having been expelled from all of his schools. I can't remember one of his quotes so well any more, but it's message stuck with me and did inspire me.

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Old 07-26-2010, 07:00 AM
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I think a good writer is an entirely subjective term. Take for example a big name in the market Stephen King. Some people think he isn't a good writer and some do think he is a good writer. Art, whether it is writing or painting is a subjective term. What makes them good and appealing to the audience is different to each person. It is something entirely personal.

Art isn't absolute.

But I do think that the way a writer writes is due to their environment. And I do think a bit of it plays into how well the author's lifestyle can connect to the audience. An audience could say "I've experienced that before."

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Old 07-26-2010, 07:34 AM
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I've always felt that if you're "reading words," the author needs practice. A good writer makes the story unfold in your head. It's more like watching a movie. You forget you're reading.
You know the old saying...

Question..."How do you get to Carnege Hall?"
Answer..."Practice, practice, practice"

The killer is dialogue - bad dialogue is the mark of an amateur. Look at some independent horror movies; they're beautifully filmed, stunningly set...and then you hit the dialogue.
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Old 07-26-2010, 07:37 AM
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"Good" is subjective anyway, but I guess the basics of a good writer are solid control of language and grammar, interesting/believable characters, and good dialogue. I won't go into plot, because a "good plot" is probably one of the more subjective subjects of writing.
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Old 07-26-2010, 08:00 AM
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Well yes I'd say the plot could suck and I'd still like the story if the style/language was great with great voice and dialogue.

You could read about a character working in a shoe store like AL Bundy and it would be interesting if you've got style and a good handle on voice.


IMO


It doesnt hurt to be incredibly rich at the start More time to write LOL
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Old 07-26-2010, 09:21 AM
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Sweat and headaches from staring at a monitor all night. It helps if your fingers cramp up occasionally too.

I favour the 99% perspiration route.
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Old 07-26-2010, 11:30 AM
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I agree that "good" is richly "interpretable".

Perspiration is good, too; especially for those "uneducated" unknowns who burst on the scene.

Maybe...

Writing is a horse and good writing is a horse with a spirited rider.

Maybe not...

In any case, I can't stop re-watching a certain video of Elizabeth Gilbert (Eat, Pray, Love) where she masterfully differentiates between Being a genius and Having a genius...
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Old 07-26-2010, 12:22 PM
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Originally Posted by calligraphy View Post
You could read about a character working in a shoe store like AL Bundy and it would be interesting if you've got style and a good handle on voice.
I concur, milady.
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Old 07-26-2010, 12:54 PM
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My opinion is that good writing begins with a sense of story. If you can tell a story, then you can do it effectively even if your style is lacking. I've read plenty of writers who wrote plainly but told captivating stories. Jim Butcher comes to mind, after reading the first book of his Dresden Files series.

I also don't think having a fault in one area of a your writing makes you a bad writer. I read a response in this thread that says bad dialogue makes you an amateur, but I disagree with that absolutely. I find that dialogue is less-likely to sound realistic regardless of who the writer is, but some of the most popular ones are the biggest culprits. Stephen King writes dialogue that you would hear in a B-movie. Lovecraft is the same way, in my opinion (and King's, actually). But both of them are tremendous storytellers, and I think that's what makes a good writer.

A great writer can tell a fine story in style. That's the difference.
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Old 07-26-2010, 01:10 PM
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See, I'd disagree about King. I think that the fact that his dialogue is good is what makes him so great. For me, if a writer can mold great characters with great dialogue, then they're going to be succesful for a very long time.

That's why Harry Potter is such a terrific series. Forget for a moment that it started out aimed more towards children (older children, I guess) and forget for a moment that there are probably plenty of plot holes. Rowling's characters were amazing, and the dialogue was great. If that weren't true, I have a feeling she wouldn't be nearly as popular as she is now. Harry Potter... can you think of another character whose name everyone knows? Of course, it helps that Harry Potter is in every title, but still...
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Old 07-26-2010, 01:27 PM
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Originally Posted by Reddy Dean View Post
See, I'd disagree about King. I think that the fact that his dialogue is good is what makes him so great. For me, if a writer can mold great characters with great dialogue, then they're going to be succesful for a very long time.

That's why Harry Potter is such a terrific series. Forget for a moment that it started out aimed more towards children (older children, I guess) and forget for a moment that there are probably plenty of plot holes. Rowling's characters were amazing, and the dialogue was great. If that weren't true, I have a feeling she wouldn't be nearly as popular as she is now. Harry Potter... can you think of another character whose name everyone knows? Of course, it helps that Harry Potter is in every title, but still...
I suppose opinions on dialogue are just as subjective as anything else, then. I love King, but I have never felt his characters spoke like real people. It's never been an issue for me, thought, because it's always just been a part of the experience.

I don't remember the biggest compliment of the Harry Potter series being the dialogue, either. As for its popularity, nobody can question that, and nobody would, but I don't see why you think dialogue would make the difference.

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Old 07-26-2010, 01:41 PM
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Originally Posted by JBStone View Post
but I don't see why you think dialogue would make the difference.
Because fake/bad dialogue really, really turns me off. Part of a great character is his/her dialogue. They both go together.

EDIT: And to be clear, I'm not saying that's why Harry Potter was a good series, I'm just saying that's partly why I enjoyed them. I don't know anything about writing, so for me to try to push my opinions on you would be stupid at best.
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Old 07-26-2010, 02:04 PM
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Meh.


SK has some good dialogue... Catchy little phrases that I hear in my head that are pretty funny/scary/awesome, but to say that he's not a theme writer is incorrect IMO. He's all about style and theme.

But to me thats a larger vat of importance, then dialogue, then plot/story/characters.


Im in the voices head the ENTIRE TIME... It better have something to say/see/do/feel. Or at least a sense of those things.IMO
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Old 07-26-2010, 02:37 PM
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I never said King wasn't capable of being a stylish writer. I think he has been. I think his strength is his storytelling, though.
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Old 07-26-2010, 05:01 PM
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Talent and the imagination to back it up. The rest is paint by numbers.
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Old 07-26-2010, 07:30 PM
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I'd say being fearless.
Just fucking say it --whatever it is you want to say--and don't worry that it gives people a peep into your twisted and sick mind.
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Old 07-27-2010, 01:39 AM
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Originally Posted by Daniel J View Post
For reference, my favourite author is Shaun Hutson. He came out of education with no qualifications, having been expelled from all of his schools. I can't remember one of his quotes so well any more, but it's message stuck with me and did inspire me.
Interesting. I didn't know that about him. I've always liked the 'popular horror' genre, and I've read a couple of Shaun's books - Renegades and Hell To Pay. What I found was that the stories, although outlandish, were incredibly easy and quick to read, and also very entertaining. I don't know if he's a prime example of what makes a good writer, but he's certainly got the core qualities of imagination and entertainment in his books.
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Old 07-27-2010, 01:40 AM
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What makes a good writer?

The ability to project a film into my head through the words on a page.


Owen.
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Old 07-27-2010, 05:46 AM
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Originally Posted by Owen View Post
Interesting. I didn't know that about him. I've always liked the 'popular horror' genre, and I've read a couple of Shaun's books - Renegades and Hell To Pay. What I found was that the stories, although outlandish, were incredibly easy and quick to read, and also very entertaining. I don't know if he's a prime example of what makes a good writer, but he's certainly got the core qualities of imagination and entertainment in his books.
Precisely - they aren't particularly pretty or well-crafted but they're entertaining, have a strong voice and generally 'do the job'. The only problem I had is after reading so many (I've lost track of which ones I have - I had the lot but since, he's published more) they often have cross-overs and become similar. Detective > bad person > detective meets bad person > detective dies/solves crime.

Read a bit about him... a fairly colourful character, I'm sure you'll agree.

http://shaunhutson.com/about_shaun.htm
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Old 07-27-2010, 06:30 AM
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Originally Posted by JBStone View Post
I never said King wasn't capable of being a stylish writer. I think he has been. I think his strength is his storytelling, though.
Hmm


I remember one overlong part about a chair. A writer with such a huge fan base that can get away with a small essay about a chair in one of his books isnt selling because of storytelling (IMO) In the sense that he goes off topic QUITE a bit.

Ive read quite a few people (amatures on here and other sites) and only one peice has rang as Kingish to me. It was strange because I wasnt the only one who picked up on it, and once I did I went hmmm. Didn't know I could pick the gent out like that. His style is VERY unique.
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Old 07-27-2010, 06:39 AM
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Originally Posted by calligraphy View Post
Hmm


I remember one overlong part about a chair. A writer with such a huge fan base that can get away with a small essay about a chair in one of his books isnt selling because of storytelling (IMO) In the sense that he goes off topic QUITE a bit.
He does tend to get a tad...verbose. It's funny, because I bought my girlfriend his latest collection Just After Sunset, and she was getting annoyed with one story because in a scene where a young girl was supposed to be frantically running away from a homicidal murderer, she's noticing all these details about the hallway and the rooms she's passing, and then the bedroom she finally escapes from. My girlie said "I'm thinking the whole time, 'Run, bitch, run!'" haha.

Anyway, I never said his prose was tight (though he's capable of it, especially if you read his short stories). I said he tells a good story. Even when he goes off on tangents about chairs, or the wallpaper in a hallway the character is supposed to be sprinting down, he's still telling a good story...he's just taking his sweet time getting there.

Ive read quite a few people (amatures on here and other sites) and only one peice has rang as Kingish to me. It was strange because I wasnt the only one who picked up on it, and once I did I went hmmm. Didn't know I could pick the gent out like that. His style is VERY unique.
I don't know what you're driving at here. Is this a shot at me? I can't tell. I don't think I write like Stephen King...
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Old 07-27-2010, 06:52 AM
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Originally Posted by Daniel J View Post
Precisely - they aren't particularly pretty or well-crafted but they're entertaining, have a strong voice and generally 'do the job'. The only problem I had is after reading so many (I've lost track of which ones I have - I had the lot but since, he's published more) they often have cross-overs and become similar. Detective > bad person > detective meets bad person > detective dies/solves crime.
You forgot "bad person acquires supernatural artefact and/or evil powers" !
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Old 07-27-2010, 07:13 AM
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Originally Posted by JBStone View Post
He does tend to get a tad...verbose. It's funny, because I bought my girlfriend his latest collection Just After Sunset, and she was getting annoyed with one story because in a scene where a young girl was supposed to be frantically running away from a homicidal murderer, she's noticing all these details about the hallway and the rooms she's passing, and then the bedroom she finally escapes from. My girlie said "I'm thinking the whole time, 'Run, bitch, run!'" haha.

Anyway, I never said his prose was tight (though he's capable of it, especially if you read his short stories). I said he tells a good story. Even when he goes off on tangents about chairs, or the wallpaper in a hallway the character is supposed to be sprinting down, he's still telling a good story...he's just taking his sweet time getting there.



I don't know what you're driving at here. Is this a shot at me? I can't tell. I don't think I write like Stephen King...

Yeah. My point being that if he can get away with verbose, then he's got tons of style.

LOL Not directed at anyone JB (oh suspicious one), my point is that Ive only seen one peice out of thousands that's made me think "King" in terms of his unique way of writing. I read dozens a day that remind me of one author or another, and just never have really thought of him

No. I know you don't, but Ive heard good things about your writing. Ill have to check it out.

Calli
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Old 07-27-2010, 08:17 AM
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Originally Posted by Owen View Post
What makes a good writer?

The ability to project a film into my head through the words on a page.


Owen.
Yep, for me too...
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