Thursday, August 6, 2009

Mad Storytellin' Skillz

I hear a lot of debate among the writerly inclined about the literary merit of certain popular authors. Just head over to Absolute Write and post about how much you love Dan Brown or Stephanie Meyer if you want to see some serious ire. 

Now, I'm not defending either author. Conspiracy theories don't do it for me, and neither does hot vampire loving (I don't mean to offend, dear fans of Lestat, Edward, and Bill. Whatever gets you going is fine by me.) But I have read at least a bit of both TDC, and while I doubt they will win any prestigious awards for prose, the authors have one thing in common: they can tell a hell of an interesting story. 

Nor am I some kind of lowest common denominator-loving philistine. I love exquisite prose. I love when I read an insightful passage that makes me read it three times over, just to experience it again. I love when writing makes me go "Oooooo!" and I look at something in a different way. 

But I also love a good page-turner. Or a book that keeps me up giggling late at night. It's doubtful Comparative Lit majors are going to study the intricacies of Bridget Jones' Diary for generations to come, but I'm happy I experienced her charm--how could you NOT love Bridget and her granny panties? (Well, some might not. That book, like any, can be filed under Not My Thing.) 

All the anger just makes me shake my head. I read an article recently about how some foodie bloggers hated Julie & Julia because it wasn't true to food and pure or somesuch. Let me tell you how much that will come into my enjoyment of the movie: not one little bit. I similarly doubt that most readers care that Meyers used too many adjectives, or used SHOW over TELL too much, or whatever. She's got herself some mad storytelling skillz. I'd like some of that!

Anyway, that's just my opinion. What's yours?


Melanie Hooyenga said...

I'm SO glad you said this. It drives me crazy how up in arms some people get over certain authors, and how they INSIST on commenting every single time another thread pops up. Ugh. I avoid those conversations -- even though I could learn something -- because the fighting turns me off.

I'd love to have that many readers slathering over my stories. I've had a couple people tell me they read my novel in one or two days, and at first that bothered me, but I'd rather have an easy read than one that takes a month to get through.

Personal preference.

Debra Lynn Shelton said...

Personally, I think Dan Brown's writing skills suck. I'm also not real keen on Barry Manilow, but, guess what? Who the f cares what I think? To each their own, that's what makes the world go 'round. That's why there are tons of different books and CD's and art forms out there. Read or listen to or observe what you like, and be happy, even blissful about it. As the saying goes, "if you don't have something nice to say, shut the f up!"

WendyCinNYC said...

Wow, that was more of a rant than I intended. I do think we are all entitled to express our opinions on whatever we like, but as many others have said before me, great technical writing does not always equal great story.

But when it all comes together...bliss!

ac said...

The author bashing is tiring. And yes, it's bashing ((that statement is for those who disagree with my bashing commentary)).

"I've had a couple people tell me they read my novel in one or two days, and at first that bothered me, but I'd rather have an easy read than one that takes a month to get through."

And here I thought that's a compliment. Your readers aren't bored. They want to know what happens next.

Janna Leadbetter said...

I think you're right. There are so many factors that go into a good book (and granted, those can be different for everyone), how can we nitpick with judgment?

I've rolled my eyes (pun intended) at Meyer's style or particular word usages, but I'm among the first to admit what an amazing storyteller she is. The story sells her books, not her writing, IMO. And why can't that be good enough?

Ppbbt. I'm not even sure my rambling makes sense. But I followed your post, and I agree.

Kate Hart said...

ITA. I think the people complaining the loudest are those with the sourest grapes.

Between this post, your mention of Jon Stewart as your TV boyfriend, and your posts in the doll thread on AW, I am officially a huge fan.

WendyCinNYC said...

I agree with ac, Melanie. It's a good thing they read it through quickly.

Exactly, Janna. Story trumps all.

Kate--Yay, my first fan! ;) Aside from my mom, of course.

Anonymous said...

Since Twilight is not my cup of tea, I won't read it, but I read Dan Brown and while at times the potholes, I mean plot holes could swallow entire galaxies, they are fast, exciting reads.

Of course I refuse to acknowledge the existence of sparkling vampires. I got to take a stand somewhere, on principal, you know.

West Side Lurker said...

Regarding Twilight, Caitlin Flanagan said it best:

I found Meyer's ability to make me stay up late and forget things like job, dishes and child such a relief from much of contemporary fiction. Don't get me wrong, the Twilight books are not particularly well written, yet they *are* bizarrely compelling. But I'm just a total plothead, so what do I know.

Mad storytellin skillz indeed.

WendyCinNYC said...

I read Twilight because my daughter "reallyreallyreallyreally...really" wanted to read it and I thought it might be a bit too grown up for her. I didn't want to be the Banner of All Books, so I thought I should at least see for myself. (She loved the fact they sparkled, of course!)

You're right, West Side Lurker, Caitlin Flanagan was right on.

Spy Scribbler said...

I'll take mad storytellin' skillz any day! :-) Authors whose writing I really admire tend to write novels that take me a long time to read.

Kristina said...

I like what I like because I like it, unapologetically.

A lot of that ire is bitterness over someone else's wild success. It's a natural, human reaction but spewing ire in an Internet flame war helps no one!

p.s. Wendy good for you for reading the book ahead rather than just banning it without checking!

Amy said...

I often think the author bashing is just sour grapes. I don't think Dan Brown is an extraordinary wordsmith, per se, but I tore through TDC. My daughter is ravenously tearing through the Twilight series. I got to p. 30 in the first book and could go no farther. It's not my thing, but I'm thrilled she's found a love of books. People like books for myriad reasons. And you know what they liken opinions to...

Brian said...

Horses for Courses, as George Martin once said of The Beatles' White Album. In other words, to each his own. Twilight? I have no interest in it, but my daughter loved it -- wept over it -- so I give Meyer credit for getting the job done that she set out to do. Not my thing but (as they say) "this is the sort of thing you'll like if you like this sort of thing."

Me, I can't wait for the new Dan Brown. Yeah, he's formulaic as hell, but it works for him, and it hooks me -- and for me, that's enough.

Amy Sue Nathan said...

I think authors bashing other authors is jealousy. It happens, in my opinion most, with unpublished authors who have a lot to say about those who have sold millions of books. And while there have been public displays from famous authors as well, it seems they are the ones who understand that it's about the reader. If you write what people want to read, and writers abhor it, they are really just insulting the taste of the people they want to like THEIR work.