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  1. #91
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    It's all just a matter of opinion, after all.
    Aint that the truth!

    Ah, so there are no definitively bad (or good) novels. Interesting. It's all just subjective and there are no metrics involved. Well, then people need to fire every editor working today--it's a waste of money. And stick with your first draft; you can't, after all, "improve" your story because--other than grammar--there
    Some peoples opinions matter more than others (obviously) but you seem to confuse facts and opinions.

    I are agreeing not wit you. That sentence is clearly flawed and that is fact.

    I really think Terry Goodkind is a superb author and Tolkien is a bad author. That is my opinion and do not try to present it as fact.

  2. #92
    Registered User Joe Abercrombie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ranke Lidyek View Post
    Ah, so there are no definitively bad (or good) novels. Interesting. It's all just subjective and there are no metrics involved. Well, then people need to fire every editor working today--it's a waste of money. And stick with your first draft; you can't, after all, "improve" your story because--other than grammar--there is no way to enhance the plot or prose of one's novel because these elements don't even exist per Joe and others.
    There may be massively widespread agreement on what is good or bad, but ultimately, yes, it is subjective and there are no metrics. Glad I've finally got through. Subjectivity in no way removes the possibility for improvement, it's just that improvement will be relative rather than absolute. How's that for a pretentious sentence? But in any case, that has nothing to do with whether an editor is important. What an editor does is to present their opinions to an author - opinions carrying the weight of their perceptive observations and long experience - the author then considers the arguments and frequently comes round to their way of thinking, sees that there are ways to improve a scene, sentence, or element that they themselves agree with. It's you who'd be firing the editors, because in your world all we have to do is learn the simple tenets of the writerly craft and everyone can produce the perfect book every time. If only it were that simple.

    That's ignoring, of course, the fact that an editor has a much more important role in representing a book commercially even than the key one they have in improving it creatively. So no, I think we can keep them in work for now.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ranke Lidyek View Post
    Had Rothfuss rewritten that portion and made it more pertinent to Kvothe's development (and his relationship with D), then the novel would be better for it. I think--with objective distance--most readers would agree.
    You may be right that most readers would agree, but that's a very long way from it being an objective fact about the book, isn't it? And the extent to which it would damage any one reader's overall experience of reading the book would vary, some might not particularly care. They might even still think it's the best debut fantasy of the last 30 years.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ranke Lidyek View Post
    I also feel the story would benefit from removal of all third person sections...
    Now you feel the story would benefit, rather than presenting it as a factual flaw. It's nice that we're making progress.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ranke Lidyek View Post
    And Joe misses my point altogether with his response. Yes, one's enjoyment of certain themes or tropes (forms) can be enhanced through emotional resonance, perspective, and sympathetic experience (making a novel better for some than others), but that in no way divorces a novel's attachment to the real world of fictional craft. Craft is separate from story. There are ways to improve BOTH. The main thing is making every word count--more than once. Great scenes have stimulus/internalization/response, scene/sequel, characterization, advancement of plot. Advancing more than one of these elements at a time strengthens a story.
    Of course you can find myriad ways to improve a story in the eyes of the vast majority of readers, you can find ways as a writer to improve it in your own eyes, many of which will involve seeking the opinions of others, such as editors. As a writer you should, of course, endlessly be seeking to improve. But you present fictional craft as though it's a universal set of principles that everyone agrees to, and as though the adherence to that set of principles is the key thing that makes a book good or not.

    I've yet to hear a principle of writing from you that isn't ultimately an opinion. Sensible ones, that could often be very useful to writers, maybe, but a long way from facts. And even when you're presenting a very sensible general principle such as, "make every word count", exactly how or when one should apply that principle is still utterly subjective. No two writers, no two editors, no two readers, will ever have exactly the same opinion about what constitutes a wasted word or not. But that's a good thing. Celebrate it. It would be a dull world if we just had a set of rules to follow.

    Anyway, pleasure tussling with ya, I applaud your passion in the cause of better writing, but damned if I haven't spent the best part of an hour chewing the fat, and I'm supposed to be editing my own book, so, with the greatest of respect I will retire, the field is yours.

    Now where did I put my much thumbed-through copy of Lidyek's Incontrovertible Principles of the Writerly Craft? I've an ending I need to bring within acceptible parameters...

  3. #93
    GemQuest Moderator Gary Wassner's Avatar
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    Ranke, I'm on your side, though it's not always possible to objectify the subjective, and find those elements common to many positive reactions and negative reactions. The problem is not that there is no way to objectify them, it's just that we don't know what they are clearly enough to do it. How do you spell out in words an emotional response to a book? And that emotional response is the result of both physical reactions (chemical, brain reactions) and personal history, expectations and so much more. KatG and I have arugued this point many times in that past. It's absurd to say that there are no differences in quality from one book to another, and that it's all a matter of taste. We are the ones who define quality and we are the ones who define taste. So on one level, everythings objective, based upon our assumptions, assumptions we all generally agree upon apriori in order to even have the discussion. On another level, everything's subjective, yes, but that's mostly irrelevant. And our assumptions, when we come here to talk about literature, are clear before the conversation begins: We can speak about things and we can understand each other because there are objective standards against which we measure what we say. As I said earlier, we may not be able to quantify them all and give them names and make them clear. But you know what I mean when I say a book was profound or trite or well written or mesmerizing. If you didn't, then we couldn't communicate at all.

    KatG, I'm sorry. But as I've said to you many times before, we need to be able to operate on more than one level. The macro level tells us that nothing is certain, everything is subjective, our knowledge is all conjecture, free will is an illusion and so on. But on the micro level, we still need to function, and we can find common ground in order to discuss books, and we do understand what we're saying to one another when we have those discussions. To insist that all literary criticism is purely subjective and to thereby reduce the entire field to 'taste' is not productive. I can hate a book and admire it's appeal, it's style, it's technical proficiency etc. It's kind of like love. Tell me what it means? We use the word all the time. Can you define it so that we all agree on its meaning? And if you can't, does that mean it has no meaning for us in the context everyday discussion? Maybe it is just a word, but we use it and we make sense out of our use of it.

    We're not perfect, and language is by no means the only way we communicate. But let's not get silly about it. We know we can talk about books and we know we can evaluate our reactions personally as well as weigh our observations against the history of similar observations regarding literature. And we don't need to believe in Platonic forms in order to converse and have valid opinions.
    Last edited by Gary Wassner; October 30th, 2008 at 08:33 AM.

  4. #94
    Palinodic Moderator KatG's Avatar
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    Ranke, save the meandering ms. stuff for the Writing Forum. These are readers here. And you can kind of understand that they resent being told that their views of works they read don't count and yours do.

    As for the stoned dragon in Name of the Wind -- there are two reasons that Rothfuss appears to use this. (Possible spoilers if you don't want to read.) Okay, three, because having a drug-crazed dragon is just really cool to some of us. But the main reasons are first of all so that Kvothe is able to kill it, because it can't be helped and it's an extreme danger. Otherwise, if it was just a creature of magic flushed out into the world, Kvothe, as Rothfuss has created him, would not have been able to do it. Second, is to play with the idea of heroes and legends and how legends get built, which is a major principle of the story. Instead of a fierce, deadly dragon that must be outwitted and out-fought, the dragon is a damaged, confused, drug-crazed animal who has been used. Instead of a fearless hero who tackles the dragon with sword or massive spell, Kvothe is a panicked young man who desperately
    Spoiler:
    knocks the dragon dead by dropping a large wagon wheel on its head.
    Not terribly poetic, and that's the point.

    Now, you may think that Rothfuss was ill-advised to do this or didn't do it very well. But it certainly wasn't one of the problems I had with the story as it fit quite neatly into all the things Rothfuss was trying to do with the story -- it was the end of Kvothe's childhood, the creation of the first, big, iconic legend about him that wasn't true, the acceptance that magic couldn't solve everything, the knowledge that there were even more mysteries to deal with coming up.

    We can go round and round about this and have an interesting discussion about it, though it should probably be in the Rothfuss thread or in the Writing Forum. I can also talk to you about the mixed viewpoint format structure versus a purely first person one and why Rothfuss did it that way and why I think it works for the story from a craft standpoint, in my opinion.

    But the topic of this thread is for people to mention their experiences with books that they did not enjoy or did not enjoy totally that other people did. And if we're going to get upset that people have different experiences, we're going to be here all year. So again, I think we can stop the objective-subjective discussion -- move it to another thread if you like -- and go back to the topic proposed for the thread.

  5. #95
    Ranke Lidyek
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    I agree with Gary.

    Sorry, Joe.

    And I can't agree with you, Kat concerning the "dragon". The "unreliable" narrator excuse only goes so far. And it doesn't go any further, in my opinion, than the heroic deconstructionist angle so many people use to explain away poor structure or execution...

    That said, you're right in that we can move on from this. I will say no more about NotW.
    Last edited by Ranke Lidyek; October 30th, 2008 at 08:49 AM.

  6. #96
    Omnibus Prime Moderator PeterWilliam's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dsw13 View Post
    If this was directed at my post, I'd like to point out that it was meant in jest, as indicated by the lovely winking and smiling fellow at the end.
    Ah, that's what I get for skimming through. My apologies.
    Pete

  7. #97
    Quote Originally Posted by Ranke Lidyek View Post
    Apparently there is an issue with reading and comprehension on your part. I'm not saying one person is the ultimate arbiter of taste. I'm saying you CAN quantify good writing (though it's easier to notice the bad). Yes, there are some things (usually tied to thematic elements or authorical conceits/devices) that are more subjective, but writing can be analyzed on many levels, just as critics analyze films.

    People like you want to say there is no difference between good writing and bad (if your argument is carried out to it's inevitable conclusion). I say that's ridiculous. Certain tenets of good (or bad) writing exist; it has NOTHING to do with me at all. I could care less if you agree with me on anything. In reality, I'm probably more forgiving and less likely to catch flaws in many novels as I want very much to enjoy the journey, but I'm not going to sit and dismiss fair criticism of any work, even my own.

    However, criticism doesn't mean one isn't allowed to enjoy a novel. It depends on what, as readers, we're willing to overlook.

    Perhaps I misconstrued your post, but I don't think so. If you were, as I felt, offering your criticism of NotW as in any way objective then my post still stands. And if you were being objective, then you are declaring yourself as a person who can decide what is right or wrong with a novel, and this strays quite close to declaring yourself as the 'arbiter of good taste.' Because ultimately, if two people disagree over an objective fact, then one of them must be wrong.

    Writing, as an artform is something that is meant to be judged on its qualities by an audience, it holds no value inherent value on its own. So you are right, ultimately there is no difference between good and bad writing. However, I can differentiate between what I consider good and bad writing, and I'm sure you can too, we as an audience are assigning a value to it, and this is completely subjective.
    Last edited by Fruitonica; October 31st, 2008 at 04:41 PM.

  8. #98
    Analyze That
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ranke Lidyek View Post
    Ah, so there are no definitively bad (or good) novels. Interesting. It's all just subjective and there are no metrics involved. Well, then people need to fire every editor working today--it's a waste of money. And stick with your first draft; you can't, after all, "improve" your story because--other than grammar--there is no way to enhance the plot or prose of one's novel because these elements don't even exist per Joe and others.
    Finally, something you've said that I agree with.

    Throughout the rest of your post you continued to mention the majority of readers. That is the point of drafting. While there really isn't an objective good or bad, there is some things readers like in a book and some things readers don't like in a book. There could be readers who would prefer an authors first draft to the actual book, but to the majority of readers, they like the final book better. This doesn't make the final draft objectively better than the first draft, it simply makes it more popular among the audience.

    *Quick topic switch*

    In a sense to argue among yourselves which book is better for the purpose of discussion is pointless. A person usually doesn't change their opinion of a book because someone else thought differently of it. You can state your opinion, and state why, but you can't always expect others to agree with you.

    And I think the objective-subjective discussion is extremely important to this thread, because books living up to hype and deserving hype is purely subjective in the first place.

  9. #99
    Palinodic Moderator KatG's Avatar
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    Ranke -- I didn't say anything about structure; I just explained what seemed to be the reason Rothfuss had a stoned dragon as his dragon.

    For the record, Ranke and I have had several perfectly profitable discussions about various titles on which we disagree or partially disagree. He's not advocating that all stories be written to a formula or that everyone should agree about stories.

    No one here in this thread has to justify their opinion of a title in this thread, or prove that they came by that opinion one way or another. This is not a prove your life view thread. The thread has drifted away from books and into a debate about how authors write, for the most part, and people are getting very personal. Further, I think we've pretty much exhausted the subject and people are starting to just repeat themselves.

    If you really want to continue this particular topic, I again suggest starting another thread.

  10. #100
    Wow. One moment I leave a post on my thoughts of why books get hype, and the next time I return to this thread, it's no longer about over-hyped books.

    What's all this objective view, subjective view stuff about? This is supposed to be about books you didn't like that everyone else does.

  11. #101
    I eat fish. Bear's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Irrelevant View Post
    Wow. One moment I leave a post on my thoughts of why books get hype, and the next time I return to this thread, it's no longer about over-hyped books.

    What's all this objective view, subjective view stuff about? This is supposed to be about books you didn't like that everyone else does.
    Welcome to the internet.

  12. #102
    I would have to list the following:

    1) The Dune series after Frank Herbert passed. I have read several and enjoyed learning the stories of the characters and ancient history, but (to me, at least) the books appear to be a money grab and have gotten ridiculous. (Happens a lot in commercial successes, they try to bleed the characters/storyline to death - really stretch out the storyline.)

    2) Dark Tower series. Loved the first few, but see above. It was supposed to be a triliogy, the third announced the "conclusion" in the forth. The prices went up and the number of volumes has expanded - to eight or nine - and has he even gotten through his quest yet? (I quit at the fourth when it was continued) King gets really longwinded at times and this series is a cash generator.

    3) Eragon series. Loved the concept of a child author and good first attempt, but three books now and a movie? The movie made little sense with an obvious aim for a sequel. The books are the same. Much was lifted from a "cutout" (and very, very predictable) fantasy line, with stilted dialogue and big questions in my head whether the young author had read the McCafferty series, as it was very similar. While I appreciate the youth of the author, after the first book, I dont want to get unimaginative plots and predictable storyline which are characatures ripped from fantasy novels I read twenty or thirty years ago.

    4) The many endless series - especially those that become labelled "saga". Seems that today, once a character or plotline becomes popular, there will be sequel after sequel. Believe it or not, when I was much younger, L. Ron Hubbard was advertising the first "decology" (ten book series) on his books and, aside from Robert Adams, most series ended at three (if that far). To me, it seems that the more books, the more useless verbage - thus, a watered down book that makes you mad at the ending. (Especially when you pay $8.00 and waste a few days time on it.)

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