What’s Most Important to You? (1)

I like delving into the depths of what I enjoy both as a reader and a writer, and I want to see things from your perspective, too. So, I’m asking a question. What is the most important thing for you in a story? Now, I know there are thousands of little things that can make or break a story, and sometimes you like a story and can’t even explain why. But for the purposes of this discussion, I’m going to break down the question into four categories, and write a different post for each one. The categories are: Writing, Plot, Setting, and Characters.

Today, I’m starting with Writing. And by writing, I mean mostly writing style. Because part of writing is the way characters, plot, and settings unfold. So, we’ll talk about writing as more of the narrative flow of a tale, the use of descriptors and the style of conversations, that sort of thing.

Because I see this a lot in reviews, and it baffles my mind. Someone will say something like…this book was beautifully written. I thought the characters were very underdeveloped, the plot didn’t make any sense, and the world-building sucked, but it was still really well-written. …which always makes me stare at the screen in utter confusion, until I work at separating out “writing style” from overall, general story “writing”.

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And, honestly, I don’t think writing style is, to me, all that important. (Which is ridiculous because I am a writer, and I constantly strive to write the best I can and to improve my writing, and I want a beautiful writing style, etc. etc.), but I don’t think I’m alone in this. I can think of a few certain massively popular books, that are widely considered averagely or even poorly written. Yet, the writing style doesn’t really detract people.

A few months ago I read V.C. Andrews’ Flowers in the Attic. And I loved it. I couldn’t stop reading that tale, and I enjoyed every minute of my reading. But yet, I did think the writing was outdated, and a bit plain, and it included one of my biggest pet peeves (overuse of the exclamation point!)! But that didn’t make me like the story any less.

On a scale of my four sectors, I think I rate writing style as my 2nd or 3rd most important trait…as a reader it ranks more on the lower end, but as a writer I value it more highly.

How about you? This is the first of four posts in this discussion, but what do you think about writing style? Is it important to you, or not? Can you think of examples of times when you’ve hated a book that you thought was wonderfully written, or loved a book that you thought lacked writing-wise?

2 Responses so far.

  1. T. Drecker says:
    As long as I can get caught up into a story and forget the world around me, I'm happy. Upon closer look, yes, some of these books don't have an amazing writing style, but still, it works for that story. I wonder if that's part of it – the writing style has to fit what's being told. Good or average.
  2. Deshipley says:
    If the writing is bad* enough to be a distraction, I'll have a hard time enjoying the story.

    *By "bad", I generally mean it jars me by being ungrammatical, blatantly repetitive, or too unclear for me to get the gist of what's going on.

    Even with books I love — those I've written included — I'm constantly peering at the word choice and sentence structure, wondering if it could be somehow rearranged to sound closer to perfect in my arbitrary little ear. So while I wouldn't say the writing is the absolutely, number one, most important aspect for me, it is a great honking deal.

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