Writing is one thing.
Storytelling is something else.
This is a discussion on "Can Writing Be Taught?" in the Writing Questions forum.
Writing is one thing.
Storytelling is something else.
I would call 1984 the greatest novel ever written in the English language, but have you ever read Burmese Days...his first novel?
I wouldn't quite call it forgettable rubbish - it has it's moments - and you can see the germ of his recurrent theme in it (ie, the individual versus the machine) - but if he'd never written Animal Farm and 1984 he would have disappeared totally in the mists of history.
Having said that, I've always believed that writing can be learned but storytelling is innate. Maybe in Orwell's case he just needed his writing to improve enough to bring out his storytelling genius?
Too complicated to call.
This is a recent example of a ok writer improving making her stories and making them oh so much better.
There was a hint of a good story in the twilight books. Just a hint. Then her writing improved a little throughout the series. (I said her writing not her story telling skills) But then she comes out with the host. It's a pretty good book. Her writing is way better than it was in Twilight and she actually seems to be getting the hang of not getting her story caught up in everything else but the story itself. I enjoyed The Host and if she keeps improving her writing the way she did between the Twilight Saga(which isn't even a saga >( ) and The Host she will be an amazing author.
Point of all that. There can be good writers who just need to keep practising in order to nail the techniques of story telling and novel writing.
Writing in constructed worlds may be atypical. A writer like Dickens could go out and look at the world, then write exactly what he saw (seeing the progression of a disease, then describing it so well his account has been reproduced in medical textbooks; seeing a late-stage abusive relationship, then writing the interactions in it long before the term "battered woman" was ever coined, etc.) Since we can't go out and look at elves and orcs, imagination becomes much more important.
I think writing can be taught, it comes easier to some.
Each genres is different.
I think a person that is knowledgeable in a subject, it interests them, they can write a non-fiction book about it. The information a person finds interesting will probably be interesting to someone with like interests.
But I think good fiction is a constant battle to improve.
Simply put, I think any child can be taught to draw or paint, but it takes someone with dedication, talent and focus to create a good painting or drawing. The basics are easily taught, but to master it takes alot more then just a teacher.
The only thing I remember bout grammar is she baked me cookies.
define what is great,the more you learn the better you are equipped to be great. Many authors are good and have superlative editors who make them great. Some greats are one hit wonders and others are consistent like Shakespeare, and striving for greatness is usually the reason people are good, how many when they reach their goal become pedestrian and produce rubbish because their motivation is gone.
Some people are brilliant but lack the discipline to actually follow through.
I think there are a few things which mke a book great for me, and a writer greater. Authenticity is the first. When I read Kite Runner, I was in love with the first half. The picture painted was captivating, from the buildings to the observations of class structure, to the pomegranite juice stains on the kids' hands. But then it all fell apart for me in the second half when authenticity went out the window and it sounded much more to me like a heap of crap thrown together in half-assed story-telling to complete a book.
I think life experience is the other. How do you write if you've never lived? When I read my own work, I'm almost bored to tears in the one epic battle I tried to write, knowing I have no idea what war feels like or anything at all about military tactics, hand-to-hand combat, or life-and-death decision making. But when I read scenes between characters, I can picture the people I modeled my characters after, laugh at their silly arguments or fumbling flirtations, because those are scenes I've witnessed. I can only hope that when I write I convey those same feelings to a reader, because that's the stuff my world is made of; real stuff, the way people really act. Great writers write authentic characters and situations, and they do it very well.
There's of course practice too. My first drawings were pretty awful, but then I drew some more, and some more and some more. Build off what you know until you end up with a product which is beautiful and believable. Readers are intelligent enough to spot a fake, and if everything you write comes from your wonderfully imaginative mind, with no basis of real-world anchoring, it reads that way.
Last edited by Caged Maiden; 6-12-12 at 4:51 PM.
Hi CM, I think to some extent you're contradicting yourself but, strangely, I agree and disagree with both points. I guess that simply demonstrates how complicated this subject is?
Reflecting on my own experience - my first (published) book had lots of action scenes (mainly football, violence and sex). All the reviewers raved about the football scenes and, in all honesty, I've played a lot of football and love it to bits - but I've not played at anything like the level described in the story. That's where imagination kicks in and leaps off the foundation of experience; ie, my description of being a goalkeeper in an FA Cup final still seems real to readers despite the fact I've never done it myself (I hope).
Moving on to violence - I'm a middle aged lawyer and have thrown one punch in my adult life - which missed (and that was on the football pitch a week after my first wife left me). I have almost no experience of being an aggressor and no experience of fighting...but my main character in that football/crime thriller was a great fighter. How did I bridge the gap between my own inexperience and the character's authenticity? Well, for a start, we've all seen so much violence on TV and in movies that the rudiments are sort of sucked in with our mother's milk. Secondly, I've seen lots of violence and I've (more in my youth) been confronted with violence and I understand its visceral nature...in fact, in real life, its horror. If you can tap into that feeling you can then employ the received tropes and cliches in a way that seems fresh and new to your readers.
Finally sex - (and I've written about this in detail on my blog The Book Hammer "How to write an excellent bonking scene"). If you're an adult then you have a vast treasury of both experience and fantasy at your fingertips.
Use it wisely (but be wary of what the missus might have to say about the public disclosure of intimacies).
Good writing can be taught, great storytelling is a talent.
Well, techniques can be taught, or rather they can be learned - you don't actually need a writing teacher to aquire technical writing skills. That said, it's true some people have a much greater potential than others.
I don't really like to talk about "sparks of genius" or whatever - what we are talking here is called talent. A few people have a lot of talent for writing, most have only a little, and some have almost not talent at all.
See, I used to think it was just a matter of practice and that talent was just about how much you wanted it, but the more I see how people develop as artists the more I come to believe talent is a specific quality that you can naturally possess to varying degrees. Some people just don't have the affinity and aquired skills can only take them so far.
"Optimism through stalwart skepticism is a defect not everyone is lucky enough to be cursed with."