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March 13th, 2003, 06:10 AM
I thought it might be interesting to take a small passage from some various Authors and critique them. Just say what you like or don't like or any comment at all really. I'll offer a few examples and you can say what you think and/or offer your own passages.

1) "The Waterborn" by J. Gregory Keyes

...The two of them made an odd pair, the half Giant and the child. Hezhi had limbs like willow switches, her little brown face delicate, nearly heart-shaped, an elegant setting for the black opals of her eyes. Tsem could lift her with one fist if he wanted to. Instead he prodded her long bones gently.

"You don't seem badly hurt," he said at last. "We should have Qey have a look at you, however. She knows much more of this than I."

"No, Tsem, I'm fine."

"Besides being insane, you mean."

My comments (These are just my opinions!): The descriptive part just seems to me the stereotypical fantasy nothingness. The "heart shaped" face and "opals" of her eyes are poor attempts at giving the reader a picture of the character. Same old, same old.

And the dialogue is worse. The half-giant uses the word however when talking to the kid. Who does that? Then the dumb "insane" joke thing he makes just turned me off.

2) "Anna Karenina" by Leo Tolstoy

...And she felt so sorry for him that tears came into her eyes. But immediately she thought of the man for whom she had given him up. She vividly recalled his manly, resolute face, his noble self-possesion, and the good nature conspicuous in everything he did toward everyone. She remembered the love for her of the man she loved, and once more all was gladness in her soul, and she lay on the pillow smiling with happiness. "I'm sorry' but what could I do? It's not my fault, " she said to herself; but an inner voice told her something else. Whether she felt remorse at having won Levin's love, or at having refused him, she did not know. But her happiness was poisoned by doubts. "Lord, have mercy on us; Lord, Lord, have mercy on us; Lord, have mercy on us!" she repeated to herself, till she fell asleep.

My comments: Simple prose yet it makes me think. I love that. Its like wisdom. Its studying humanity. The reader identifies with her need for justifcation. Its something everyone understands. Incorporate this type of writing with fantasy elements and that would be something special.

3) Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

...They watched the heroes of a hundred songs ride forth, each more fabulous than the last. The seven knights of the kingsguard took the field, all but Jaime Lannister in scaled armor the color of milk, their cloaks as white as fresh-fallen snow. Ser Jaime wore the white cloak as well, but beneath it he was shining gold from head to foot, with a lion's-head helm and a golden sword. Ser Gregor Clegane, the Mountain That Rides, thundered past them like an avalanche. Sansa remembered Lord Yohn Royce, who had guested at Winterfell two years before. "His armor is bronze, thousands and thousands of years old, engraved with magic runes that ward him against harm," she whispered to Jeyne. Septa Mordane pointed out Lord Jason Mallister, in indigo chased with silver, the wings of an eagle on his helm. He had cut down three of Rhaegar's bannermen on the Trident. The girls giggled over the warrior priest Thoros of Myr, with his flapping red robes and shaven head, until the septa told them that he had once scaled the walls of Pyke with a flaming sword in his hand.

My comments: This scene gets me interested in the upcoming tournament. Even though Martin does not write poetically and uses only a line or a few words about each contestant, he still paints a vivid picture.

He also mixes in some dialogue to break up the narrative. In this way he can include some personal experiences the girls have about these knights. I really like the perspective of the young girls and their guardian as well. You get a couple of points of view-the young and naive along with the experienced. Martin is always comparing and contrasting; a very valuable tool for a writer.

March 13th, 2003, 08:06 AM
Originally posted by Pluvious

And the dialogue is worse. The half-giant uses the word however when talking to the kid. Who does that? Then the dumb "insane" joke thing he makes just turned me off.

Actually, I use however a fair bit- not in writing but in speech. I guess that says something about the readers bias when it comes to dialog. I do agree with what you said about the fantasy cliched descriptions, though.

On the second piece, personally, I found it over written. But I suppose that was the style when Tolstoy was around.

The third chunk I like, but then I'm a fan of Martin's. Although he's using the fantasy conventions in his book, I think he's taken a new approach to it all.

March 13th, 2003, 09:38 AM
Pluvious: I think it's a good idea.

I think the first is almost complete trash (and I am a fan of understatement and humor but this is just poorly written).

As for Tolstoy. Well, I agree with pcarney that there are differences that I don't like that are due to when it was written. Don't get me wrong, he's a great writer, some of it just seems too wordy. He could say more and write less. Something about 3 sentences in one paragraph starting with but just bothers me, especially the last one since the sentence before it doesn't go with it in a way that makes the word but appropriate.

Still, Tolstoy is better to me than the third. It seems like an information dump and even worse, the information is completely useless and irrevelant information that the reader does not need. It would make sense if it was told in dialogue from another characters point of view, like you said, but this is the narrative voice. I guess I just prefer a slightly dummer narrator who doesn't know everything about people and feel the need to constantly spew out information.

So, I guess I'm obliged to include something I like better....
ok: just opening random pages here...

"Catch 22" by Joseph Heller

Major major Major Major had had a difficult time from the start.

Like Miniver Cheevy, he had been born too late -- exactly thirty-six hours too late for the physical well-being of his mother, a gentle, ailing woman who, after a full day and a half's agony in the rigors of childbirth, was depleted of all resolve to pursue further argument over the new child's name. In the hospital corridor, her husband moved ahead with the unsmiling determination of someone who knew what he was about. Major Major's father was a towering, gaunt man in heavy shoes and black woolen suit. He filled out the birth certificate without faltering, betraying no emotion at all as he handed the completed form to the floor nurse. The nurse took it from him without comment and padded out of sight. he watched her go, wondering what she had on underneath.

Back in the ward, he found his wife lying vanquished beneath the blankets like a desiccated old vegetable, wrinkled, dry and white, her enfeebled tissues absolutely still. Her bed was at the very end of the ward, near a cracked window thickened with grime. rain splashed from a moiling sky and the day was dreary and cold. In other parts of the hospital chalky people with aged, blue lips were dying on time. The man stood erect beside the bed and gazed down at the woman a long time.

"I have named the boy Caleb," he announced to her finally in a soft voice. "In accordance with your wishes." The woman made no answer, and slowly the man smiled. He had planned it all perfectly, for his wife was asleep and would never know that he had lied to her as she lay on her sickbed in the poor ward of the county hospital.

ALright. I think this is a good example of excellent writing. Telling a bit about parents and how a child was named (or not named), etc. is a great effect and it portrays information that could not be stated in any other way. It is a story within a story that is worded in an interesting unique way but is still precise and not overly descriptive. This gives the descriptions that are there more weight and they are far from cliche. It is the small details about the subtleties of human interactions that tell a story. I also think that putting tricks or "easter eggs," in the book for the intelligent reader who picks up on double meanings, etc, is inherent in good writing, at least in this day and age and it shows to me that the author has a style of their own. What I'm referring to in this passage is the fact that by erect, we don't know if he is standing tall and straight over the bed to show that he's not moved by his wife's condition, or if he is erect from imagining what was under the nurses clothes. Most likely it is both. Things like this are very important to me and they show up on nearly every page of a well written book, in both the micro and the macro. They show intelligence. Most importantly, I like the writing to be one of a kind. I want it to read well but also be something that nobody else would have thought of to write that way. It keeps me interested.

March 13th, 2003, 11:59 PM
I love Martin's writing. Haven't read Keyes but I like his style.

March 14th, 2003, 07:55 AM
well, although there have only been 4 opinions posted, there are obvious differences in what is considered good and bad. So is the 'answer' to write the way thats natural to you and hope people like it?

I never posted another writing example...here's something from one of my favorite authors (but not one without failings), HP Lovecraft. Its from 'The Shadow out of Time'.

"If the thing did happen, then man must be prepared to accept notions of the cosmos, and of his own place in the seething vortex of time, whose merest mention is paralysing. He must, too, be placed on guard against a specific, lurking peril which, though it will never engulf the whole race, may impose monstrous and unguessable horrors upon certain venturesome members of it.
It is for this latter reason that I urge, with all the force of my being, final abandonment of all the attempts at unearthing those fragments of unknown, primordial masonry which my expedition set out to investigate.
Assuming that I was sane and awake, my experience on that night was such as has befallen no man before. It was, moreover, a frightful confirmation of all I had sought to dismiss as myth and dream. Mercifull there is no proof, for in my fright I lost the awesome object which would - if real and brought out of that noxious abyss - have formed irrefutable evidence. "

March 15th, 2003, 03:47 AM
Originally posted by pcarney
well, although there have only been 4 opinions posted, there are obvious differences in what is considered good and bad. So is the 'answer' to write the way thats natural to you and hope people like it?

Yeah, I don't believe in good and bad myself. As readers its generally about what each person likes or dislikes. And yes, I hope all writers are writing about what they like and not what they think others will like.

I've never read Lovecraft but the passage you selected is a little wordy for my tastes.

I kind of set up this thread because in some other posts people have criticized or said good things about certain authors without actually bringing forth any examples. So, if anyone wants to document why they like or dislike an author this could be your chance.

Obviously, however, it is difficult to comment on a small passage unless you understand its context (ie you read the book). That's why I gave three initial examples.