Monday, September 12, 2011

Battle of the Century: Story vs. Writing

By Julie Daines

This is the question I've been asking myself lately: What makes for the best books--sublime writing or an amazing story?

If you hope to win a Newbery Honor, you might need to lean toward perfect writing. If you want to make it to the New York Times best-seller list, then a well crafted story could be enough.

I read a book a few months ago where the writing was so awful I wanted to throw the book at the wall. How could this much telling and repetitive language make it to the NYT best-sellers list? Didn't this author know anything about good writing? But the truth is, I couldn't put it down. I had to read all night to find out what happens. The intense, original story and great characters drew me.

Last week I read book with some fantastic writing--clever, moving, full of meaningful imagery, great dialogue. But I had to force myself to finish it. I didn't care about the main character, I didn't care about her friends. All that beautiful language was wasted on yet another story of a tortured teen who suddenly discovers she has super/paranormal powers and then finds herself in cliched situations. It was so predictable, I already knew the ending by reading the jacket cover.

Of course the best answer is C) All of the above. Writing and plot working together in perfect--and perfected--unison.

So, what do you think? Story versus Writing Throwdown--who wins?


Scott said...

It has to be a mix. Poor writing spoils a good story, and a weaker story becomes more tolerable if the writing is great. I probably lean toward the writing side, but I can forgive little flaws if the story keeps me interested. For me, it's really about the characters and what they are going through, which requires a good story, well written.

I'm more likely to stick with a weak story with beautiful writing than an interesting plot that is poorly written, but I'm not likely to love a book unless it has both.

phyllis sweetwater said...

difficult to say. There are certain plot elements that are so faulty, they can't be covered up no matter how sublime the writing is. I want to bond with characters and characters need faults. Maybe an author with a few faults makes me bond to him as well. ...but not too many.

great discussion!

Taffy said...

The books that I love I think have both. Jane Eyre, Ender's Game, Pride & Prejudice I believe have both elements. Maybe the books we want to reread again and again have both.