Hatrack River
Home   |   About Orson Scott Card   |   News & Reviews   |   OSC Library   |   Forums   |   Contact   |   Links
Research Area   |   Writing Lessons   |   Writers Workshops   |   OSC at SVU   |   Calendar   |   Store
E-mail this page
Hatrack River Writers Workshop Post New Topic  Post A Reply
my profile login | register | search | faq | forum home

  next oldest topic   next newest topic
» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Open Discussions About Writing » Poetry/Songs in fantasy Novels (Page 1)

  This topic comprises 2 pages: 1  2   
Author Topic: Poetry/Songs in fantasy Novels
MarinaLee
Member
Member # 9623

 - posted      Profile for MarinaLee   Email MarinaLee         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
There are quite a few fantasy novels out there that include a song or a poem invented by the author. What do you guys think of these? Do they add or subtract from the work as whole? In my novel the character goes to see a play and the entire play (1-2 single spaces pages) is in rhyming 10 syllable/line iambic pentameter. The MC is also dating a songwriter, and a few of her songs are included. I like the effect, but I'm not sure if a reader will appreciate it in the same way. Thoughts?
Posts: 16 | Registered: Aug 2011  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
genevive42
Member
Member # 8714

 - posted      Profile for genevive42   Email genevive42         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Personally, I skip over poetry and song in novels. They annoy the crap out of me.

No offense, just me.

I do think including a line or two of relevant lyric could work though.

Posts: 1987 | Registered: Jul 2009  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Crystal Stevens
Member
Member # 8006

 - posted      Profile for Crystal Stevens   Email Crystal Stevens         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
If you are the author of the poems/songs used in your story, I'd let someone crit the entire story and let you know how they think it worked. I'm sure they will tell you if it works or not. Like any fiction work, it's better to read it all to be able to tell something like that.

As for other stories I've read using poems/songs; there have been very few that I thought actually added something to the story. The ones that really drew my interest were the ones that were important to continue the story or released information that would make an impact later on. I must admit that I skip over poems or songs most of the time so I can get on with the story. JMO

Posts: 1318 | Registered: May 2008  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
extrinsic
Member
Member # 8019

 - posted      Profile for extrinsic   Email extrinsic         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I read every word to see if a passage or whatnot furthers plot movement. Superfluous content delays, stalls, stops, or inverts plot movement.

Plot moves when causation, tension, and antagonism are in play. If verse or lyrics or prose doesn't forward a main dramatic complication, it's because one or more of those three plot engines isn't in play.

Furthering efforts to achieve a central character's desire (purpose) and furthering efforts in opposition to that desire (problem) is what a main dramatic complication is all about. If verse or lyrics or prose do that, a plot moves. If not, it's meaningless to a plot. Also, in the same vein, if lyrics, verse, or prose lead to or reveal a discovery or lead to or reveal a reversal connected to a main dramatic complication, minor or major turns, plot moves.

[ December 12, 2011, 01:15 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

Posts: 3405 | Registered: Jun 2008  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
MAP
Member
Member # 8631

 - posted      Profile for MAP           Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I'm with extrinsic on this.

I read every poem and song in books cause I'm afraid I'll miss something. Actually, I read every word in books; I never skim.

I get annoyed when the poem or song doesn't move the plot forward or play an emotional part of the story in some way. I don't read novels for great poetry. I read them for the story. So if it isn't important to the plot, I suggest cutting it.

JMO, it is your story, and if you feel the story is stronger with it in, then by all means keep it. [Smile]

Posts: 1077 | Registered: May 2009  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
History
Member
Member # 9213

 - posted      Profile for History   Email History         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Often I find modern authors I admire do not make the best poets (and vice versa) but some have surprised me.

Poetry and song add depth to world-building. Can you imagine a world where there is none? I cannot. It is part of human expression.

I read them all, and usually more slowly than prose. They need not add anything to the main narrative (i.e. contain clues to a quest) but should draw me further into the world and characters.

I still get a chill at reading the opening of the LOTR: "Three rings for elven kings under the sky..." and the song of Beren and Luthien that Aragon sings to the hobbits as they crouch by the fire in the dell under Weathertop still haunts me:

Again she fled, but swift he came.
Tinúviel! Tinúviel!
He called her by her elvish name;
And there she halted listening.
One moment stood she, and a spell
His voice laid on her: Beren came,
And doom fell on Tinúviel
That in his arms lay glistening.


--JRR Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring
http://tolkien.cro.net/talesong/s-berenl.html

Respectfully,
History

Posts: 1415 | Registered: Aug 2010  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Robert Nowall
Member
Member # 2764

 - posted      Profile for Robert Nowall   Email Robert Nowall         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
If I can make it work.

I thought Tolkien's poetry added enormously to his work, and kinda regret that there wasn't more. (Or that there's no "Complete Poems of Tolkien" yet.) Few others fantasy writers are as successful at poetry, though, and sometimes it just drags.

One thing to remember is not to use somebody else's copyrighted poem or song---you can get away with it in Internet Fan Fiction if no one complains (or catches you), but it won't do for your own work.

(Right now my work-in-progress has two characters, somewhere in the far-far science fiction future, singing to each other, and one breaks into a song by Smokey Robinson! This is one of those things I'll either have to give up or write my own song as a substitute, though I could never match Smokey on a song...)

Posts: 8229 | Registered: Aug 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
LDWriter2
Member
Member # 9148

 - posted      Profile for LDWriter2   Email LDWriter2         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Personally, I think it depends on how many songs and how long they are. One to two pages-single spaced-seems like a lot of song(s) to get through. But that is me. Beowulf is one long song and it's still popular.


And not just because Collage Profs like to assign it. [Smile]


Hmmm, how about a MC that likes Beowulf; is always reading it and even tries to sing it with different tunes.

Posts: 4847 | Registered: Jun 2010  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Pyre Dynasty
Member
Member # 1947

 - posted      Profile for Pyre Dynasty   Email Pyre Dynasty         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
If the poetry is good, I quite enjoy it.
The trouble is many prosists aren't good at poetry. It's a different art.
Tolkein was a good poet, but some of them were way too long for me to be in the middle of the action. Separate them and they are pretty good. (One of my favorites is the song of Gil-Galad.) Of course Tolkein was raised by Victorians and they could stomach much more poetry than we do today.

Posts: 1869 | Registered: Mar 2004  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
aspirit
Member
Member # 7974

 - posted      Profile for aspirit   Email aspirit         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Like Crystal said, ask for a test reader's opinion. The relevance of the play to your novel, its quality, and how the play changes the tension will determine whether or not it fits your novel.
Posts: 1136 | Registered: May 2008  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Denevius
Member
Member # 9682

 - posted      Profile for Denevius   Email Denevius         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
i think the problem with poetry is that you have to actually be a really good writer to pull it off respectfully if you aren't essentially a poet. most fantasy writers may tell good stories, but their writing is often pretty weak, if not bad. so when they try to embed a poem in their fantasy, it highlights all the faults in prose you're normally willing to ignore because the story is so entertaining to read.
Posts: 739 | Registered: Nov 2011  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
extrinsic
Member
Member # 8019

 - posted      Profile for extrinsic   Email extrinsic         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I'm thinking at the moment about what happened to musicals. Actors would burst into song, sing for awhile, sometimes it was call and answer between several actors, actresses too. Seven Brides for Seven Sisters has a good score and lyrics. It is somewhat poetic, rhythm anyway if not rhyming. The significant factor for me is that the songs connected to and furthered the plot.

That, to me, is what lyrics or poetry ought to do when incorporated in prose. Good poetry and good prose craft. Not all poetry or lyrics fits the bill.

Posts: 3405 | Registered: Jun 2008  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Denevius
Member
Member # 9682

 - posted      Profile for Denevius   Email Denevius         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
i disagree a bit with you, extrinsic. i understand that you say "The significant fact for me is that the songs connected to and furthered the plot", but ultimately, i do think it should be more than that to justify the song/poem in the prose. what comees to mind is the craft of Spoken Word.

like with all art forms, there's some good spoken word, and a lot of really, really bad spoken word. the really bad spoken word is often made fun of because it ultimately boils down to the individual speaking words

as if
they were
a poem.

i almost feel that you would feel the fantasy writer is justified in putting down words in song/poem shape as long as the message the song/poem convey are important to the plot. yet why even use the song/poem form itself if you can simply convey the same message as if it were prose?

does the poem itself, by being a poem (including the intrinsic craft of poem), add something additional to the fantasy story? most of the time, i don't think so.

but simply
writing words
as if they were
a poem,
i think,
is what most
fantasy writers are
guil-
ty of, and is
why
they are skimmed
or skipped
over
by man-
y
readers.

Posts: 739 | Registered: Nov 2011  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
extrinsic
Member
Member # 8019

 - posted      Profile for extrinsic   Email extrinsic         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
My position is it takes a strong sense of poetry and prose craft to artfully include poetry in prose. Be that poetic meaning, rhythm, rhyme, or aesthetics or all of the above and prose craft and voice. So both a poet and a prosaist.
Posts: 3405 | Registered: Jun 2008  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Robert Nowall
Member
Member # 2764

 - posted      Profile for Robert Nowall   Email Robert Nowall         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
To go back to the original question...iambic pentameter suggests Shakespeare rather than Tolkien, and his plays still get produced and praised...in a novel, if there's not too much of it (say, part a soliloquy while the play is going on, or a verse-and-chorus from a song) I'd say, go for it.

(I had to spell check "soliloquy.")

Posts: 8229 | Registered: Aug 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
aspirit
Member
Member # 7974

 - posted      Profile for aspirit   Email aspirit         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Another advantage of well-done iambic pentameter is that the rhythm is easy to figure out. I still don't know what Tolkien's or McCaffrey's songs are supposed to sound like, so I tend to skip them when re-reading.
Posts: 1136 | Registered: May 2008  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
extrinsic
Member
Member # 8019

 - posted      Profile for extrinsic   Email extrinsic         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
A close examination of Tolkien's poetry shows accentual meter rather than, per se, iambic tetrameter or pentameter or anapest or pyrrhic or dactyl or trochee, whatever, though fans may find such occasionaly appearing within a poem or forcing such.

Accentual verse is the meter of nursery rhymes, of rap music, of ballads and folksongs, of the blues. It's as easy to read and sing and speak as any verse, perhaps a natural part of everyday language, yet lyrical and light and bouncy. Along with a simple alliteration scheme and caesura or medial line breaks and a turn in the late stanza or lines, accentual verse is ideally suited to poetry and lyrics in prose.

Dwarves sing while washing dishes "From an Unexpected Party," chapter 1, The Hobbit, Tolkien demonstrating accentual meter;

Bold signals stress

"Chip/ the glass /es and crack / the plates!
Blunt / the knives / and bend / the forks!
That's / what Bil /bo Bag /gins hates -
Smash / the bott /les and burn / the corks!

"Cut / the cloth / and tread / on the fat!
Pour / the milk / on the pant /ry floor!
Leave / the bones / on the bed /room mat!
Splash / the wine / on ev /ery door!

"Dump / the crocks / in a boil /ing bowl;
Pound / them up / with a thump /ing pole;
And when / you've fin /ished, if an /y are whole,
Send / them down / the hall / to roll!

"That's / what Bil /bo Bag /gins hates!
So, care /fully! Care /fully with/ / the plates!" (the turn line) (Brian).

Note, fourteen lines in sonnet form and rhyme scheme. Though the turn line is the terminal one rather than the twelfth line for English sonnets or eighth for Italian sonnets.

Accentual verse: "There should be four strong stresses per line. The line should have an audible medial pause or caesura with two strong stresses on each side. Three of the four strong stresses should alliterate (or there should be two pairs of alliterated stressed syllables)" (Goia).

BrianIsSmilingAtYou. "Tolkien's Poetry: A Critical Look." http://forums.theonering.com/viewtopic.php?t=85666

Goia, Dana. "Accentual Verse". http://www.danagioia.net/essays/eaccentual.htm

Posts: 3405 | Registered: Jun 2008  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Pyre Dynasty
Member
Member # 1947

 - posted      Profile for Pyre Dynasty   Email Pyre Dynasty         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Just say the poems aloud and you will hear the rhythm. Poetry is meant to be an art of the spoken word just as plays are.

Denevius: there is more to poetry than just typesetting or verbal pausing.
You would use a poem in a fantasy story because that is the way ancient people got their stories. It is an art older than paper.

And back to the original question: two pages is a pretty short play. I think in a story about a songwriter it's totally appropriate to include songs. Really just see how your readers respond.

Posts: 1869 | Registered: Mar 2004  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
Administrator
Member # 59

 - posted      Profile for Kathleen Dalton Woodbury   Email Kathleen Dalton Woodbury         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Another use for poetry in a story could be characterization. If you have a character who thinks he or she is a poet, then that character might wax poetic at any opportunity, and the poetry would not have to be particularly good poetry--in fact, if it weren't, that could add to the humor as well as to the characterization.
Posts: 7997 | Registered: A Long Time Ago!  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Merlion-Emrys
Member
Member # 7912

 - posted      Profile for Merlion-Emrys   Email Merlion-Emrys         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
There is more to storytelling than plot. Or characterization. Or setting. I honestly find the idea, so often put forth, that everything in a story must drive forward the plot, or that everything in a story must contribute to characterization or whatever to be patently untrue and frankly asinine. There are many kinds of stories with many different emphases, and there's plenty of fiction with stuff in it that's there just because it belongs there; it may move plot, it may add atmosphere or show character. There's really no telling.

Therefore, I agree with Crystal and aspirit. By all that's creative, include whatever you feel should be included, get it critted and gauge the reactions. The only question about including song or poetry or anything else is, does it do whatever it is that YOU want it in there for.


quote:
i think the problem with poetry is that you have to actually be a really good writer to pull it off respectfully if you aren't essentially a poet. most fantasy writers may tell good stories, but their writing is often pretty weak, if not bad.
Holy sweeping generalizations Batman! Most fantasy writers? So, Mervyn Peake, Ursula K. LeGuin, David and Leigh Eddings, Susan Cooper, Ray Bradbury, Terry Brooks, Patrick Rothfuss, Diane Duane, Tolkien, J.K. Rowling, Clive Barker, most of these people's writing is "weak" or "bad?" You say this as though its a known, definite fact but I can't see how, by all that's subjective, it's anything other than your personal opinion. By what other criteria, exactly, do you come to this conclusion?
Posts: 2626 | Registered: Apr 2008  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
Administrator
Member # 59

 - posted      Profile for Kathleen Dalton Woodbury   Email Kathleen Dalton Woodbury         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Merlion-Emrys:
Holy sweeping generalizations Batman!

Please calm down, Merlion-Emrys.
Posts: 7997 | Registered: A Long Time Ago!  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Merlion-Emrys
Member
Member # 7912

 - posted      Profile for Merlion-Emrys   Email Merlion-Emrys         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
That was actually intended as a touch of levity, along with the use of Doctor Prunesquallor idiom.
Posts: 2626 | Registered: Apr 2008  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Denevius
Member
Member # 9682

 - posted      Profile for Denevius   Email Denevius         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
i wanted to hold off a bit before responding to this thread since i realized i (unintentionally) touched a nerve. these types of online settings can become screaming matches quite quickly; then there are warnings form mods, and threads are locked down,and it can become pretty silly but typical of the web.

however, i have kept this in mind, and i had planned on responding eventually (despite the risks...), so voila:

many genre writers admit, explicitly or in-explicitly, that they aren't very good writers. five years ago i met a woman who had self-published several fantasy novels, and something we were talking about touched upon this very topic, and her response (paraphrased): "I don't know if I'm a good writer or not, but it's not my concern as I don't consider myself a writer. I consider myself a storyteller."

genre writing, ultimately, is about telling a good story. whether we're talking about scifi, fantasy, romance, mystery, etc.; the main concern of these fictions are plot. other aspects of craft are also important, to varying degrees, but ultimately, the points from A to B in the story is of central concern.

in Hatrack, there's this central focus on hooks. does the first 13 lines hook you? and really, all that's really asking is if the 13 lines makes you want to know what happens in the next 13 lines. this type of thinking is the province of genre writing. i really wish i could remember the name and title of this essay i read once in lit theory, but essentially, the critic was making the point that the weakest type of writing concerned itself with plot, and the stupidest type of reader read to know "what happens next", and "how's it going to end".

so why is the genre writer a bad writer? because writing, unlike storytelling, hasn't made of central concern plot. instead, writing deals with sentences, and constructing sentences, and deconstructing sentences to re-construct them. good writing is concerned with language, and finding unique ways of putting it together. good writing is about natural dialogue that sounds like real-world people and all the various ways this can be represented on the page. good writing is about making the reader work. it doesn't care for a hook at all, unless the hook is mental exercise.

the idea of good writing making the reader engaged in 13 lines because of the plot hook is a bit absurd. which helps create the problem of genre writers adding poetry to their fiction. poems are things that many have written and yet frightfully few are actually any good at. at all.

most poems are terrible. poetry is all the hard stuff of writing, distilled. most people don't find it entertaining to read because there is no hook (or no discernible hook). it's mainly language exercises. so naturally, genre writers, who already are basically storytellers, are going to really suck at it.

now, i'll end this in two ways. first, i'm not the biggest fan of the subjective argument, as it invariably reduces everything to a matter of opinion, which i think makes intellectual thought, or debating, disingenuous. i mean like, yeah right, everything is subjective so the play my ten year old son wrote is as good as the best of Shakespeare, and hey, who is anyone to say otherwise since it's all subjective anyway?

anyway, i'm not a fan of discussions that lead that way because it does more to actually end thinking than encourage it.

and secondly, i consider myself a genre writer. well, i'm going for a hybrid, but at the moment i think i would be considered a genre writer. i'm kool with that as i enjoy reading genre writing most.

personally, i think genre writing has its place in literary canon as much as anything else. however, i don't have as much of a problem with making distinctions between one and the other. tolkien's "The Hobbit" is a great story with memorable characters and incredible imagination, but then, there's a difference between that and, say, "Catch 22", which doesn't really have a plot and the focus is almost entirely on the arrangement of the actual words on the page.

Posts: 739 | Registered: Nov 2011  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
extrinsic
Member
Member # 8019

 - posted      Profile for extrinsic   Email extrinsic         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Prose, fiction or nonfiction, and poetry share several common features. The so-called hook, for instance.

One commonality is the power to evoke emotional responses. An opening "hook" regardless of genre, in the classical sense of prose or poetry genres, should evoke an emotional response, ideally upsetting emotional stability, be it pity and fear, shock and awe, awe and wonder, joy and delight, humor and farce, whatever, so long as it's a duality, for the purpose of building tension through empathy's emotions and suspense's curiosity. Tension is one of plot's motivating forces, along with causation and antagonism.

Also, plot's basic pivot features are common to prose and poetry. Those of the turn from reversal or discovery or both, sometimes profound and abrupt, sometimes subtly though no less profoundly. I don't know of a popularly or critically acclaimed poem that doesn't have a vestigal plot. One of the two main plot qualities of poetry is a caesura (a complete pause -- a tension builder or reliever) per line or stanza, a minor turn sometimes pivoting on a predicate. Another is transformation, a major turn near the three-quarters mark of a poem or a narrative.

Without turns there is no emotional stimulation. Without transformation there is no satisfactory closure. Transformation is the fount of closure, poetry or prose, fiction or nonfiction. Without a transformation a poem or narrative is incomplete.

And lastly but not finally, prose and poetry share a power to persuasively, emotionally, stimulatingly, satisfactorily appeal, the very purpose of plot and the expectation of any given audience.

Posts: 3405 | Registered: Jun 2008  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
MAP
Member
Member # 8631

 - posted      Profile for MAP           Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Denevius,

Why would the constructions of sentences be more important than the story or ideas or emotion behind the words?

Words are tools to communicate. Why would they ever be more important than the message?

A genuis writer, whether poetry or prose, does both. He/she choses the right words that fit the story he is trying to tell, to evoke the right emotional response, to service the theme of the story.

I don't understand this idea among many literary fiction writers, that this indulgent, look at how clever I am prose is more important than the story behind it.

And I'm not saying all literary fiction does this, just that some of the writers tear down the idea of plot and build up the idea of words. I don't get that. Why can't you have both?

All of the classics I've read and loved had both. Crime and Punishment, Les Miserables, Wuthering heights, A Tale of Two Cities.

All of these were masterfully constructed at the word and story level. A true genius is both a master storyteller and an astonishing wordsmith.

Unfortunately, I'm not a true genius, so I'll just have to do my best. [Smile]

[ January 02, 2012, 05:20 PM: Message edited by: MAP ]

Posts: 1077 | Registered: May 2009  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
Administrator
Member # 59

 - posted      Profile for Kathleen Dalton Woodbury   Email Kathleen Dalton Woodbury         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Thank you, extrinsic. I found that very useful, especially since I am working on a poem that has particular meaning for me, and I want to help it mean something to others.
Posts: 7997 | Registered: A Long Time Ago!  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
pdblake
Member
Member # 9218

 - posted      Profile for pdblake   Email pdblake         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by genevive42:
Personally, I skip over poetry and song in novels. They annoy the crap out of me.


This.
Posts: 724 | Registered: Aug 2010  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
extrinsic
Member
Member # 8019

 - posted      Profile for extrinsic   Email extrinsic         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Kathleen Dalton Woodbury:
Thank you, extrinsic. I found that very useful, especially since I am working on a poem that has particular meaning for me, and I want to help it mean something to others.

You're welcome, Ms. Dalton Woodbury. Best wishes on successful outcomes.

I'm classically trained in how to read and write poetry. It's been decades, and I'd only intellectually grasped the concepts enough to parrot them. Lately, though, after years of dedicated effort, I've taken them to heart.

[ January 02, 2012, 03:24 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

Posts: 3405 | Registered: Jun 2008  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Merlion-Emrys
Member
Member # 7912

 - posted      Profile for Merlion-Emrys   Email Merlion-Emrys         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Hmm. I find it rather interesting that you don't answer any of the questions I ask and, seemingly, make an effort to head off any sort of actual discussion. But nevertheless...


quote:
many genre writers admit, explicitly or in-explicitly, that they aren't very good writers. five years ago i met a woman who had self-published several fantasy novels, and something we were talking about touched upon this very topic, and her response (paraphrased): "I don't know if I'm a good writer or not, but it's not my concern as I don't consider myself a writer. I consider myself a storyteller."

genre writing, ultimately, is about telling a good story. whether we're talking about scifi, fantasy, romance, mystery, etc.; the main concern of these fictions are plot. other aspects of craft are also important, to varying degrees, but ultimately, the points from A to B in the story is of central concern.

I can understand a certain amount of separation between "storytelling" and "writing"...I myself often refer to myself as more a storyteller although a large part of what I personally mean by that is that I am a storyteller whose chosen medium is the written word because in my personal view, the vast majority of arts come down, in many ways, to storytelling.
Saying that you don't know if your a good writer or not can just as easily be an acknowledgement of the fact that whether you are or not lies largely in the mind of the reader and is not in any case the same thing as "admitting" that you are a "bad" writer.
Note also that many in the "industry" do not acknowledge a separation between storytelling and writing. As an example, the guidelines for Clarksworld magazine quite explicitly state that those folks at least consider there to be no difference between "style" and "substance" or "story" and "writing."


Oh and also it should be mentioned there are plenty of folks who consider "literary" (what I am assuming you are putting forth as the opposite of "genre") to in fact be a "genre." For myself, I occasionally use the term "genre" to refer to speculation/fantastic fiction.

Further I can't really agree with your assertion that all of what you classify as "genre" literature is concerned solely or even primarily with plot. Indeed its my experience right now that at least within the speculative genres a great deal of the focus is on character; character growth, character immersion, emotion etc etc. And both currently and historically, the speculative genres in particular are often quite concerned with concepts/ideas, setting and mood.


quote:
in Hatrack, there's this central focus on hooks.
Yes. On Hatrack. Hatrack however is neither the beginning nor the end of the writing community "genre" or otherwise. Certainly the concept exists and is spoken of in other places, it is not universal, indeed even many here (both myself and others) feel if anything that there is sometimes overemphasis on that concept, further...


quote:
the idea of good writing making the reader engaged in 13 lines because of the plot hook is a bit absurd.
While this sentence doesn't really entirely make sense, at least not to me, it should be pointed out that even here on Hatrack, there are few who say the "hook" must be a plot hook. Going back to what I said earlier, many are "hooked" by various character related aspects.
Edit: I'd also like to point out that in my experience, criticism from Hatrackers and especially discussion on Hatrack is much more focused on craft and trying to become a "good writer" than on storytelling concepts...again, in my experience.


quote:
this type of thinking is the province of genre writing.
No...it isn't, neither in your extremely broad definition of "genre" (which you seem to use to mean "anything that isn't "literary" and/or anything driven by or even including a plot) or in any other type. It is the province of any writing...or more accurately of any writer...who wishes for that aspect of narrative movement to be important in their fiction. And really, its important in the appropriate form for any writer who wants anyone to continue reading there work for any reason, whether it be to see what happens next, what the character does next, what idea is presented next or what words are used next.
Indeed I have read much "speculative" "genre" fiction in the last couple of years that is nearly plotless and/or lacking in really any sort of "hook" let alone a plot-based one.


quote:
i really wish i could remember the name and title of this essay i read once in lit theory, but essentially, the critic was making the point that the weakest type of writing concerned itself with plot, and the stupidest type of reader read to know "what happens next", and "how's it going to end".
To me, this isn't making a point. It's stating a (condescending, elitist) opinion.
Elitist if for no other reason than that it encompasses in some form almost everyone who reads and indeed does encompass anyone who reads stories with even the barest hint of plot or character progression or the like, and proceeds to denigrate them or at least their tastes, opinions and reading habits.


quote:
so why is the genre writer a bad writer? because writing, unlike storytelling, hasn't made of central concern plot. instead, writing deals with sentences, and constructing sentences, and deconstructing sentences to re-construct them. good writing is concerned with language, and finding unique ways of putting it together. good writing is about natural dialogue that sounds like real-world people and all the various ways this can be represented on the page. good writing is about making the reader work. it doesn't care for a hook at all, unless the hook is mental exercise.
First, the second of these sentences doesn't really make any sense. However overall I assume what your saying is again the separation between "storytelling" (meaning it seems all aspects of plot, characterization, theme, setting etc etc) and the craft of writing the putting together of words. And your assertion seems to be that storytellers who use the written word as their medium are, for the most part, weak in or outright bad at the craft of putting words together.
However, you have yet to offer any actual reason why, any example of what it is about all the hundreds of writers you encompass in your statements that makes their craft "bad" or "weak" other than the use it is being put too.
Now certainly, there is fiction wherein the writing itself is sparse or spare and clearly there only as a medium of conveying the story...some writers of fiction don't have a huge amount of unique "style" or "voice" and put most of their uniqueness into other aspects of a given work...however, I fail to understand how this makes the craft aspects "weak" or "bad." It serves the purpose for which it's maker intends it. But beyond that...there are many many "genre" writers who fill the basic craft, the word choice and structure of their pieces with huge amounts of creativity, style and flavor...such as most of the ones I mention in my previous post. And they are, in my experience, in the majority.
So I can to an extent see or understand the idea that some of what you call "genre" writers are not focused on expressing themselves through acrobatics of writing craft, but that doesn't make them in any way objectively "bad" and but I can't see where the majority of "genre" or even just speculative fiction writers fall into that category nor can I begin to comprehend how any of that makes any of them "bad" in any sense outside of your (and others no doubt) personal opinion.


quote:
now, i'll end this in two ways. first, i'm not the biggest fan of the subjective argument, as it invariably reduces everything to a matter of opinion
Likewise I'm not a fan of the idea of objective concepts of "quality" applied to art of any kind, because it is inherently inevitably elitist and invariably disrespectful to the views, experiences and feelings of others. If you believe that some writing, or whatever, is objectively "bad" then what about people who love it and find it quite excellent? Are they wrong? Mentally deficient? How or why is there finding of it good less valid than your finding of it bad?


quote:
which i think makes intellectual thought, or debating, disingenuous.
How so? To me, all that accepting taste in art as subjective does to discussion of said art is create a requirement or at least an expectation of showing respect for the views of others as just as valid as you own. Those views and opinions can still be debated, they just have to be respected at the same time and if anything such discussions may cause one to look at a work in a different way and take from it things one hadn't previously.


quote:
anyway, i'm not a fan of discussions that lead that way because it does more to actually end thinking than encourage it.
My thought is the opposite. If some things are discarded as objectively "bad" then whole avenues of possibility are cut off.


quote:
tolkien's "The Hobbit" is a great story with memorable characters and incredible imagination, but then, there's a difference between that and, say, "Catch 22", which doesn't really have a plot and the focus is almost entirely on the arrangement of the actual words on the page.
A humorous example to me given that Tolkien was a linguist...language, the use of which you say is the sole pursuit of "good" writing was Tolkien's life, essentially and indeed I often see his work criticized by some for possessing the very qualities, as far as use of language as an art-form in itself, that you say are also defining aspects of "good" writing.


I also echo everything MAP has said. The idea that "good" writing and story are mutually exclusive is quite frankly, in my opinion, laughable just as is the idea that "most" fantasy or other "genre" writers are somehow incapable of the sort of things of which you speak.

Posts: 2626 | Registered: Apr 2008  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Merlion-Emrys
Member
Member # 7912

 - posted      Profile for Merlion-Emrys   Email Merlion-Emrys         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Indeed now I think about it, in the last few years there has been a tremendous push toward a much more "literary" approach to speculative fiction, whole publications being devoted to such. And even going back, there are many writers (Ursula K. LeGuin springs to mind) who are often spoken of as "literary fantasy writers." And lets not even get started on the "crossover" stuff or the writers who aren't considered "genre" and yet are (Michael Crichton springs to mind on this last count, and works like "A Christmas Carol" "The Turn of the Screw" "The Haunting of Hill House", the works of Lord Dunsany, the Gormenghast series and many others on the second...)
Posts: 2626 | Registered: Apr 2008  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
Administrator
Member # 59

 - posted      Profile for Kathleen Dalton Woodbury   Email Kathleen Dalton Woodbury         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Ah, but Michael Crichton did not consider himself a "science fiction" writer and he did not consider his audience "science fiction" readers. And I tend to agree with him, even though what he wrote could often be considered science fiction--he went about it in a different way from "genre science fiction" writers.
Posts: 7997 | Registered: A Long Time Ago!  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Merlion-Emrys
Member
Member # 7912

 - posted      Profile for Merlion-Emrys   Email Merlion-Emrys         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
That is true...and of course honestly, as you know, I'm not really a big one for genre labels either anyway and when I do use them, for convenience I tend to use them in ways based on content. Deep down in my mind, truthfully, I separate literature (all media, really) into "stuff with "speculative elements" and stuff without them. "Jurassic Park" and "Sphere" both contain unequivocal "super science" elements, stuff that (as far as we know) doesn't currently exist.
Science fiction, in many cases can be a bit weird anyway since you have actual scientists writing fiction primarily about science (this stuff being what I consider true literally "speculative" fiction) and at the other far extreme there "science fiction" written more or less on an artistic/entertainment level that is stylistically and often conceptually very different yet on the same shelves at the bookstore.
Point being, even the concept of "genres" and "genre writers" can be quite difficult to pin down and depends largely on context (artistically speaking, content-wise, in terms of marketing etc)

Posts: 2626 | Registered: Apr 2008  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Robert Nowall
Member
Member # 2764

 - posted      Profile for Robert Nowall   Email Robert Nowall         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Long ago, I decided to rack whatever I felt was "science fiction" with my science fiction books. Crichton's wound up there, along with a few odds and ends, pre-SF works that fit the definition, a lot of writers from outside the genre (or who would like to be), and so on. I'm aware that my definition of "science fiction" is different from the definitions of others---every man must define the field for himself.
Posts: 8229 | Registered: Aug 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
extrinsic
Member
Member # 8019

 - posted      Profile for extrinsic   Email extrinsic         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Genre means category, a circa 18th century English French loan word, be it a content, a convention-basis, reader age, artistic mannerism, premise, motif, theme, form, or other categorization. Poetry, prose, history, news reporting, and folklore are genre categories according to an early and continuing definition. Prose genre forms in particular inlcude character or setting sketches, anecdote, vignette, story, and dramatic comedy, tragedy, or other, the latter of which dramas are the only ones that of necessity rely upon a fully-realized plot for audience appeal.

Storyteller, in a broad sense, is a teller of stories without particular regard to meduim: spoken, written, or performed, or genre category. In a narrower sense, a storyteller is a practitioner of oral tradition arts, like a raconteur, a folklorist, a poet, a dramatist.

It's worth noting poetry devices' purpose at one time many millennia ago when oral traditions prevailed was as mnemonic devices.

Literary fiction has many meanings to many readers and writers. One that stands out is a genre with a noteable degree of departure from convention-based genre. The content-based genre, mystery, thriller, western, romance, science fiction, fantasy, horror, etc., all have basic conventions unique to and expected for their forms.

For a wild ride on the high brow culture side, I recommend reading the Poetics and John Gardner's The Art of Fiction. Both express great writing principle wisdoms and, by contemporary cultural values, divisive literary bigotries. Aristotle, wise as he was, actually claims that well-born free males are the only proper subjects for dramatic arts. Gardner labels much of contemporary fiction publication trash fiction. Neither of which I give credence.

[ January 02, 2012, 07:28 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

Posts: 3405 | Registered: Jun 2008  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Pyre Dynasty
Member
Member # 1947

 - posted      Profile for Pyre Dynasty   Email Pyre Dynasty         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Funny you should mention Aristotle Ex, because I felt like I just read a dialog between Gorgias and Diogenes.

It's odd to read that Catch 22 didn't really have a plot, never was there a book more concerned with plot. Heller hit the shuffle button on the time line just to augment your focus on the plot. (It's also funny you compare it to The Hobbit which has sold ten times as many copies.)

Denevius you really show your prejudice calling genre writers bad. "Genre" even as you define it is far more broad than you can imagine. If you like self-indulgent, showy, plotless, novel-length grammar poems that's fine, great even (someone has to read them) but please don't pretend to have the authority to declare what is good or bad writing, particularly when the majority of writing that is loved doesn't fit your narrow view.

Posts: 1869 | Registered: Mar 2004  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
RobED
Member
Member # 9720

 - posted      Profile for RobED           Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I don't mind a song or poem that doesn't pull me out of the story, but anything that takes up an entire page or more I usually skip a few lines down, and so far, it's never mattered.
Posts: 24 | Registered: Dec 2011  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Lloyd Tackitt
Member
Member # 9714

 - posted      Profile for Lloyd Tackitt   Email Lloyd Tackitt         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I always skip them, and have never regretted it.
Posts: 64 | Registered: Dec 2011  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Denevius
Member
Member # 9682

 - posted      Profile for Denevius   Email Denevius         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
that essay that i mentioned is quite long and quite dense, and would do a better job of making its points than i can paraphrasing it in a couple of lines. this is why i wish i could remember the title and author, but it's been too long ago and was at a time when i read a lot of lit theory essays, so it's mostly a jumble in my head.

bad writing doesn't mean bad fiction. ursula k. leguin's, "The Left Hand of Darkness" is a perfect example of this. i just finished re-reading vernor vinge's "A Fire Upon the Deep", which is another good example. this is really a great book with an engaging plot, lots of developed characters, as well as mind-bending speculations about technology and alien races.

no matter how good "A Fire Upon the Deep" was, though, it's hard to consider it good writing. genre writers tend to employ sentences and language as a way to get to one idea/plot point/concept to another. their sentences are functional, clear, and oft-times engaging, but that's about it.

it's kind of like being a tourist to a new city. in the city there are a lot of really interesting places to see, some full of history, some quite modern; some exotic, some erotic, some full of tragedy and urban decay. so then the government of this city builds a transit system that's easy to navigate and gets commuters to their destinations in as little time as possible. however, the ride itself tends to be an uninteresting bore. this is how genre authors write. there's nothing difficult about their writing, there's nothing complicated about it; yes, it's nicely ironed, but ultimately, uninspired.

i'm not sure how it can be argued that this lack of inspiration makes for good writing. it's functional, but not very good.

the literary writer, in a way, ignores the commuters altogether. in fact, they actually don't care so much if the commuters make it to their destination, or any destination. to the literary writer, the transit itself should be a work of art.

i tend to think that genre writers want respect for something that they really shouldn't be asking for, and in all honesty, really shouldn't care too much about. it's this weird inferiority complex genre writers have that, i feel, works them up into defensive anger.

i also think this is why literary writing is considered superior to genre writing. the best genre writing and the best literary writing works on similar levels, but the best literary writing exists on more levels than the best genre writing because they put so much more effort into the actual writing. it's great to have inspired plot, inspired characters, inspired concepts, but matching that with inspired language transcends on a fictional level.

Posts: 739 | Registered: Nov 2011  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Robert Nowall
Member
Member # 2764

 - posted      Profile for Robert Nowall   Email Robert Nowall         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
I always skip them, and have never regretted it.
Your loss.

*****

Essentially, literary writers set out to appeal to one set of weirdos while genre writers set out to appeal to another set of weirdos. Both groups could be subdivided further.

Me? Well, I got hooked on SF and fantasy at an early age, though these days I'm less hooked. I've been into mysteries and explored romance novels along the way. Literary writing? Reading the classics for school didn't inspire me to explore further...later recommends and interest led me to some things...but, on the whole, I prefer the genre stuff.

Literary efforts within the genres? Most of that just left me cold.

Posts: 8229 | Registered: Aug 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
extrinsic
Member
Member # 8019

 - posted      Profile for extrinsic   Email extrinsic         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Terms like good and bad for categorizing literature, since they are subjective value judgments, tend to re-incite the high brow-low brow debate. I'm a devotee of the no brow approach. High brow tends to browbeat from a presumed position of higher ground. Low brow tends to lash back from an underdog under siege position. I don't see any superiority in either, rather I see emotional reactions to emotional incitements with no basis beyond literary bigotry.

The debate has no meaningful end, like a happenstance-chance plot where something artless happens, and something artless happens in the beginning, and something artless happens in the middle, and something artless happens in the ending to no meaningful end.

The question of the literary opus ages is does a secondary discourse--criticism, review, analysis, commentary about a literary work, literary movement, literary school of thought--contribute to or detract from the dramatic arts conversation of the ages. The conversation has been going on since the dawn of language. The dramatic arts commentary of the sophitsts, the stoics, the cynics, the poets comes down to us from the ancients, yet the conversation continues to expand on similar and different topics and themes. Donald Maass' several poetics publications represent contemporary positions, Dean Wesly Smith, Dave Wolverton, and Nancy Kress' positions represent several writers currently active in convention-based genre secondary poetics discourses. Blog writing about writing too. What an explosion.

Convention-based genre, simply put, have simple plots, simple characters, simple themes, simple settings, simple voices, simply entertaining to a degree of simple accessibility. I don't use simple in an evaluative sense, rather as a distinguishable but indivisible distinction. Nor are convention-based genre of necessity simple. Less trying to write artfully, perhaps yes, than literary genre, which have fewer writing principle audience expectations to meet, save the one of being both emotionally and intellectually stimulating.

A simple plot, for example, has the same plot setups and turns as a complex plot, where a complex plot has an anagnorisis or a peripetia or both and a simple plot doesn't. It's that simple a difference.

Simple characters, for example, have the same mimesis foundations as complex characters, where simple characters have stock types, archetypes, and are artfully prone to flatness and static transformation for the sake of plot emphasis, and complex characters have artful idiosyncracies and are round and dynamic for the sake of character emphasis. Again, flat or round, static or dynamic are used in their neutral senses, not as value judgments. Kurt Vonnegut's "Harrison Bergeron" has artfully flat and static characters which serve the story's complex plot and theme.

Simple themes reach larger audiences. An artful choice for each and one and all to make as circumstances merit. Complex themes meet narrower audiences' expectations. If that's a writer's purview, that's a writer's and her or his audience's purview.

Simple settings, like simple characters, have similar mimesis foundations, serve the same purposes of plot emphasis, Complex settings serve equally well for audiences with stronger orientation expectations to time, place, and situation.

Simple voices are no less artful than complex voices. Simple voices, like simple characters and simple settings, serve plot emphasis as well. Complex voices serve voice emphasis audience expectations.

Regardless of simple or complex in whatever weighted measure of whichever emphasis, artful drama simply appeals to an audience, artless does not. Drama equals art, no more, no less, no better, no worse, nor good, nor bad. It is what it is. Except when a position detracts from the conversation that is dramatic arts. No one likes to be around a discontented, peevish cynic for very long. Though like attracts like and opposite in equal measures, it's preaching to the choir and the unconverted who already stand firmly by their positions. The dramatic arts conversation is about persuasion, not force majeur coercion nor exclusionary bigotry. The publication culture is by nature exclusionary enough without we fellow travelers making literary culture more so.

[ January 05, 2012, 10:44 AM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

Posts: 3405 | Registered: Jun 2008  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Merlion-Emrys
Member
Member # 7912

 - posted      Profile for Merlion-Emrys   Email Merlion-Emrys         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
So, still no effort whatsoever to answer any of the questions that have been posed, nor any acknowledgement or addressing of any of the points that others have made. Just continued reiteration of your opinions, lacking still also any explanation of what criteria, other than your personal taste, you use to determine the objective "badness" of these things. Then you go so far as to suggest that people that have spent years developing their craft...both of writing and of storytelling, shouldn't be asking for acknowledgement of that nor even for it not to be denigrated. Pretty astonishing, to me.


quote:
it's kind of like being a tourist to a new city. in the city there are a lot of really interesting places to see, some full of history, some quite modern; some exotic, some erotic, some full of tragedy and urban decay. so then the government of this city builds a transit system that's easy to navigate and gets commuters to their destinations in as little time as possible. however, the ride itself tends to be an uninteresting bore. this is how genre authors write. there's nothing difficult about their writing, there's nothing complicated about it; yes, it's nicely ironed, but ultimately, uninspired.

i'm not sure how it can be argued that this lack of inspiration makes for good writing. it's functional, but not very good.

Why is their necessarily a difference? You're using "good" and "bad" in ways different from how most people use...and perceive...them. You seem to indicate that any writing that serves a purpose apart from just existing...that is used to tell a story or convey information or the like is "bad." To most folks, I think, "bad" indicates a near or total lack of a merit and/or a failure to function within the context of whatever is being discussed.


Let's for a moment say that it is in fact true that all "genre"(by your not entirely accepted definition) is indeed just functional with little or no eye to style or complexity. This isn't true...much writing that falls into the definition you use of "genre" is quite stylish and elaborate, but let's just say for a second that that isn't the case.

How is that "bad?" You speak as though the writing of most genre fiction is so awful that one has to consciously choose to endure the horror of it for the sake of the story, and yet you offer no explanation of what it is about it that makes it so terrible, other than that it's being used narratively and is straightforward and unornamented. I don't get the leap between "straightforward" and "bad." To me it doesn't seem an issue of quality or value judgements, but one of different goals and purposes.


Now, returning fully to reality for a moment, much, much "genre" fiction has a great deal of style and complexity. Many who read genre fiction enjoy and appreciate the writing itself as much as the stories. So I ask again: Are they simply wrong? Are they deficient in some way to consider writing that in your opinion is so atrocious to be wonderful? What is it that makes them wrong and you right, what objective criteria can you apply to prove, despite their love and enjoyment of it, that they are incorrect and it is absolutely, universally bad, in the same manner that a rock is objectively hard or that 2+2=4?


quote:
i also think this is why literary writing is considered superior to genre writing.
Who is it that considers it thus? And why is it that there opinion becomes truth while that of others is incorrect? Further, as has been mentioned, many consider "literary" to be a genre and indeed I'd say the type of literary fiction you seem to be referring to, with little or no story, plot, characterization or anything but this fantastic writing would be especially a "genre."
Also, in my experience, most people who dismiss fantasy/science fiction/horror do so as much or more because of the subject matter than the writing and indeed usually seem to take almost the opposite of your position, that fantastical fiction is without merit because it is unrealistic and fails to address conceptual or personal issues through story.


quote:
it's this weird inferiority complex genre writers have that, i feel, works them up into defensive anger.
Likewise, it seems to me that many "literary" writers feel the need to put forth the idea that their writing is superior and that "genre" fiction is junk-food for the masses to compensate for the fact that generally, genre fiction is far more popular and financially successful.


So far, pretty much everything you've said is simply statements of your personal taste, ideas, and opinions with nothing whatever to back it up as anything else or in any way support your assertion that "good" and "bad" writing is not subjective but rather absolutely objective...largely because that assertion also, is simply your personal point of view.

Posts: 2626 | Registered: Apr 2008  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Merlion-Emrys
Member
Member # 7912

 - posted      Profile for Merlion-Emrys   Email Merlion-Emrys         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I should add though that if you really believe that Ursula K. LeGuin (who is spoken of often as a "literary" science fiction and fantasy writer and who also writes non-speculative non-"genre" material) is an objectively bad or weak writer...then I honestly have no idea where you're coming from and your criteria must be...quite unusual. I find it hard to conceive of that even as a taste-based opinion let alone trying to pass it off as some absolute reality.
Posts: 2626 | Registered: Apr 2008  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Pyre Dynasty
Member
Member # 1947

 - posted      Profile for Pyre Dynasty   Email Pyre Dynasty         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
First of all: Denevius you aren't really helping your argument that you know anything about good writing by refusing to capitalize the first letter of each sentence.

quote:
Originally posted by Denevius:

the literary writer, in a way, ignores the commuters altogether. in fact, they actually don't care so much if the commuters make it to their destination, or any destination. to the literary writer, the transit itself should be a work of art.

You know, this is one of my main points against literary. You do realize that in this analogy the commuters are the audience. How can you tell if something is good writing? People like it. That's a far more objective test than anything you have put forth. Yes there is a school of thought who believes in "Art for Art's sake" and you are perfectly welcome to be in and argue for that position, but you actually weaken that position by declaring things people like as being crap. (Besides its kind of depressing to think of an empty museum where only the paintings exist to look at each other.)

There is value in just wandering the city and some people do that all their lives (because they don't have jobs), but there is also value in going places and doing great things. And perhaps you do want your readers to get lost in a dark alley on the way, me I want to get them to the amusement park.

quote:
Originally posted by Denevius:

i tend to think that genre writers want respect for something that they really shouldn't be asking for, and in all honesty, really shouldn't care too much about. it's this weird inferiority complex genre writers have that, i feel, works them up into defensive anger.

"No matter how hard the wind blows the mountain cannot bow down to it" ---Mulan.
I feel exactly opposite. It is the Literati who rail against Genre most often, because they don't understand why our books are being read far more often then theirs. We only tend to get our dander up when someone comes in and tells us we are bad writers as a category. The same way people get irritated at White Supremacist tracts or when the major news outlets ask if a Mormon can be president.
I don't really know how genre is inferior. We fill convention centers with people who tailor their own costumes of our characters. Literaries fill English departments with devotees who force their students to read.
The funny thing is I do like literary. Holy The Firm and Gilead are among my favorite books. You can do beautiful things with language, but it has nothing at all to do with whether you have a plot, dragons, magic, waffles, spaceships, or Macon, Georgia in the story.
I'm not angry, I'm an educator (as Ex and Merlion are) I'm trying to get you (or the rest of the class, since I have a sinking suspicion that you aren't even reading our posts) to understand that generalizations like that only serves to make you look ignorant. You could have made an argument for the value of sentence level artistry, which I think is important, instead you made the argument that any kind of story but the kind you like is bad writing. (And you are further undercut your argument by liking a kind of story that the majority of people don't.)

quote:
Originally posted by Denevius:

i also think this is why literary writing is considered [By Denevius. -Editor] superior to genre writing. the best genre writing and the best literary writing works on similar levels, but the best literary writing exists on more levels than the best genre writing because they put so much more effort into the actual writing. it's great to have inspired plot, inspired characters, inspired concepts, but matching that with inspired language transcends on a fictional level.

This finally comes down to a favorite saying of my math friends: Prove it. You are making huge categorical claims here with no evidence to back them up. I have also made huge categorical claims and here is my proof http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_best-selling_books please tell me where your version of the "best" writing has has a place on this list?

Artists don't get to decide if their art is good or not. They can only set it into the world and hope.

Posts: 1869 | Registered: Mar 2004  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Denevius
Member
Member # 9682

 - posted      Profile for Denevius   Email Denevius         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
well, it is true that i'm skirting around actually arguing, which is why i'm not quoting excerpts from your posts and then responding to that in-particular. and it's not true that i haven't read your replies, though it is true that i'm trying not to make this personal (as that can be perceived as an attack), so i'm giving as general replies as possible. after having these types of conversations in the past, i understand the potential of where they can go, as well as the limits they have. whether i agree or disagree with what's been said at the moment, i will think about it later into the future, and when i enter into a similar discussion tomorrow, i might tweak what i've said as a result of what's been debated today.

anyway, that's enough of this thread for me. cheers and well wishes!

Posts: 739 | Registered: Nov 2011  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
Administrator
Member # 59

 - posted      Profile for Kathleen Dalton Woodbury   Email Kathleen Dalton Woodbury         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
The interesting thing to me about this discussion is that I, for some reason, am reading Denevius's words as much more favorable (in a pragmatic kind of way) to genre writing than others here are reading them.

I'm not sure why that is, but I just don't think Denevius is necessarily dissing genre writing when he calls it bad. I think he is just saying that when writing (or, as I prefer to refer to it, "wordsmithing") is not as important as storytelling, then the "quality" of the wordsmithing is incidental, whether it's good or bad or excellent or atrocious, to the quality of the story being told.

And the reverse can also be true, that when the storytelling is not as important as the wordsmithing, then the quality of the story is incidental to the quality of the wordsmithing.

It could be argued that one approach is "genre" and the other is "literary," but that argument may be where the problem in this discussion lies.

In any case, things have gotten rather far from the original topic of poetry and songs in fantasy. Perhaps we should try to get back to that topic?

Posts: 7997 | Registered: A Long Time Ago!  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Crystal Stevens
Member
Member # 8006

 - posted      Profile for Crystal Stevens   Email Crystal Stevens         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Okay, Kathleen, so be it:

One thing I've noticed since I've garnered an education on the finer points of writing here on Hatrack--and how to write good poetry at www.cowboypoetry.com --is that when I run into, shall I say, hastily done wordsmithing in either I find it very hard to read. This includes even my early story writing attempts or poetry to now.

I thought writing a good poem was nothing more than some random metering and closely rhyming every other line (or every two lines depending on the poem). There is much more to it than that. Even something as simple as cowboy poetry takes knowing your craft. And if you can't get a poem (or song lyrics) down well, it'll stick out like a sore thumb. cowboypoetry.com has several eye opening essays on how to write good poetry. If any of you truly want to write poetry, I highly suggest reading these essays if you have no prior experience in writing poems. You'll never look at poetry the same way again.

One last comment: I mostly tell stories through my poetry and can bring certain stories out better that way than using prose. It just depends on the story and what the author is trying to get across.

Posts: 1318 | Registered: May 2008  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Merlion-Emrys
Member
Member # 7912

 - posted      Profile for Merlion-Emrys   Email Merlion-Emrys         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
though it is true that i'm trying not to make this personal (as that can be perceived as an attack),
While that's understandable and all, refusing to acknowledge or address other people's points in a discourse can be perceived as a slight, which for many ranks close to if not equal with an attack in terms of offensiveness.


quote:
skirting around actually arguing, which is why i'm not quoting excerpts from your posts and then responding to that in-particular.
It's not about quoting posts. It's about acknowledging and addressing, in some way, the things the other people in the discussion are saying.
It seems to me that if you really didn't want to "argue" (by which you seem to mean discuss or debate in any sort of two-sided way) you probably shouldn't have gotten the discussion going again. Actually, it could be said that if your so against any sort of conflict, perhaps you shouldn't have posted the initial inflammatory comment. I mean, did you really think that stating as some well-known fact that most fantasy writers are weak or bad writers was going to garner much of anything besides negative response on a forum sponsored by a fantasy author and populated mainly by people who read and write fantasy?


quote:
I'm not sure why that is, but I just don't think Denevius is necessarily dissing genre writing when he calls it bad. I think he is just saying that when writing (or, as I prefer to refer to it, "wordsmithing") is not as important as storytelling, then the "quality" of the wordsmithing is incidental, whether it's good or bad or excellent or atrocious, to the quality of the story being told.
He is saying that, yes, but he's not "just" saying that. He's also saying that the wordsmithing of most fantasy authors is weak or bad...and not just in his opinion, but that this is a fact and further that it is wrong for fantasy writers...some of whom have spent years, as I said before, honing both their storytelling and their wordsmithing, to in any way challenge this undeniable truth of their weakness and lack of merit as wordsmiths.

And despite the assertion that this is a fact and not subjective, he refuses to offer anything but his own opinion to support it, nor even any criteria by which the judgement is made.


quote:
In any case, things have gotten rather far from the original topic of poetry and songs in fantasy. Perhaps we should try to get back to that topic?
I think the topic was pretty much dead until Denevius brought the post back up in order to re-assert the absolute truth of his personal opinion...but don't worry, it's clear now that what I thought was going to be a discussion is actually a person conducting a monologue with his hands over his ears while a couple other people shout at him purposelessly. That, more than any "circular" discussion or argument, isn't worth spending any further time or effort on.
Posts: 2626 | Registered: Apr 2008  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Merlion-Emrys
Member
Member # 7912

 - posted      Profile for Merlion-Emrys   Email Merlion-Emrys         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Oh and just for the record, I'm not an educator in any recognized, professional sense of the word (though I've been told I should be a teacher more often than I've been told I should be a writer.)
Posts: 2626 | Registered: Apr 2008  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Merlion-Emrys
Member
Member # 7912

 - posted      Profile for Merlion-Emrys   Email Merlion-Emrys         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
artful drama simply appeals to an audience, artless does not.
I have yet to see any "drama" or other form of art that, given a chance to do so, didn't appeal to an audience of some kind or degree, even if only a small one.

Therefore, all art is artful...all art is simply Art.


That aside, I agree with everything extrinsic said (in as far as I think I understand most of what he said) especially as far as the silliness of making value judgements and that "simple" and "complex" are not automatically "bad" and "good." Although I would also say that plenty of "genre" fiction has a variety of complex aspects...

Posts: 2626 | Registered: Apr 2008  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
Administrator
Member # 59

 - posted      Profile for Kathleen Dalton Woodbury   Email Kathleen Dalton Woodbury         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Thank you, Crystal.
Posts: 7997 | Registered: A Long Time Ago!  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
  This topic comprises 2 pages: 1  2   

Quick Reply
Message:

HTML is not enabled.
UBB Code™ is enabled.
UBB Code™ Images not permitted.
Instant Graemlins
   


Post New Topic  Post A Reply Close Topic   Feature Topic   Move Topic   Delete Topic next oldest topic   next newest topic
 - Printer-friendly view of this topic
Hop To:


Contact Us | Hatrack River Home Page

Copyright © 2008 Hatrack River Enterprises Inc. All rights reserved.
Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited.


Powered by Infopop Corporation
UBB.classic™ 6.7.2