Tuesday, December 12, 2006
Good Writing vs. A Good Story
Ian Fleming was a storyteller - but he wasn't a great writer.
I'm about 3/4 done with Casino Royale. From page one, I could see that Fleming was not a great writer. But - he can tell a story. And that particular story—and that particular character— have morphed into a multi-million dollar business.
How is this possible? Today we're taught to write the best book we can - and there's a lot that goes into that. Good grammar, plot structure, description, character development, action verbs...the list can go on and on. So how can Fleming get away with breaking some of those rules?
Because he can tell a good story.
Honestly, this frustrates me a bit. I've read my share of books where the writing wasn't that great, but the story was wonderful. And I've also read books where the writing is amazing and the story is only so-so.
My biggest problem right now is reading those books where the writing isn't very good. I have a horrible time trying to plow through prose that is not very readable. And then it makes me wonder how the book got published in the first place. But then again, I'm a writer. I notice these things. I notice if the passive voice is used, or if too much backstory is dumped into the first chapter, or if the POV switches mid-scene. Do ordinary readers notice this?
What has been your experience? Have you read a lot of great books where the writing and story is great, or where the writing is good and the story isn't? Or vice versa? If you're a writer, how does it make you feel to read a great story with lackluster writing? Or vice versa?
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