Booking Through Thursday is a weekly meme centering on the subject of books. The question for this week is one I suggested.
Various book memes usually have a question concerning what draws you in to a certain book or author and what turns you off, makes you put down a book unfinished or avoid that author in the future. Almost always people will answer “good writing” to the former and “bad writing” to the latter.
But what makes up good writing and bad writing? Since I suggested this a few weeks ago, I was going to have a really well thought-out response ready. But, alas, I haven’t spent much time with it and am late to the computer today. So just off the top of my head, here are my thoughts of elements of each.
A plot line that is not too simple or too obscure
Characters that I can relate to
Characters with depth, not cliched or one-dimensional
Punchy or beautiful sentences without a lot of wasted words or rambling unnecessary explanations or description
Something of truth and possibly beauty that resonate with us even though the times, language, customs, etc. are different
Evokes the feeling of being right there
Believability, even in a fantasy
Cliches or stereotypes in plot or character
Excessive prepositional phrases or linking verbs (He is…or she was…) — action verbs usually make for stronger sentences and show us what the character is feeling rather than telling us.
Transitions that don’t make sense, leaving the reader confused
Foul language. Besides being offensive to me personally, it’s just unnecessary and even lazy in some instances when there are so many great words available.
Most of those characteristics would apply to fiction. Bad non-fiction to me is too or encyclopedic or academic (I don’t know why even textbooks have to seem so dry and dead, but that’s another topic); good non-fiction leads the reader along from point to point in a logical yet interesting fashion. It makes the reader think rather than just disgorging information.
Even still I don’t feel I am really adequately conveying what exactly constitutes good and writing, what engages me or bores me in a book.
What do you think? What makes up good writing or bad writing to you?