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Tips Good writing always draws you in

Discussion in 'Politics and Current Affairs' started by rootabaga, Aug 29, 2016.

  1. rootabaga

    rootabaga Android Expert
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    I found this to be (the first of a series) a fascinating, well-written article. Perhaps you might, too.

    http://www.latimes.com/projects/la-me-framed/#chapter1

    Here's the intro:
    As noted, this is the first in the series, if anyone is interested, I'll post the links to the other installments in this thread.
     

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  2. rootabaga

    rootabaga Android Expert
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  3. lunatic59

    lunatic59 Moderati ergo sum
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    Okay, so I dragged out my old rat's patootie and read through the first 2 chapters.

    I had a difficult time even getting through the first chapter. A lot of unnecessary description and it seemed to be a bit disconnected. The tense bothered me and led the author to use the word "she" no less than 120 times in the first two chapters. It did improve as the story went on. At one point the "she's" were so concentrated that I had to try and substitute the protagonists name to make it readable.

    The plot's not bad. It could easily be an episode of Law & Order.
     
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  4. rootabaga

    rootabaga Android Expert
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    ^^^ Okay, luna, so I have to ask. :rolleyes:

    What kinds of stuff do you like to read?

    Trying to write nonfiction so it plays well is exceedingly difficult, and one of the things I liked about the jumping around (I think what you're referring to as "disconnected") was that it reminded me of Pulp Fiction where there are little things all over the place that eventually all tie together. Blew my mind the first time I saw it. (Or, in the greater extreme, "Memento," an excellent movie but not for everyone's tastes.)

    At work I'm usually reading technically-related stuff, which is one of the things I like about the forum, it's rather mindless in that regard. I don't read many novels anymore, but I have fairly eclectic tastes, some Grisham, some Clancy, some King, some Balducci, and a host of other folks. The last two books I read that really stand out (at least real books) were "Seabiscuit" and "Unbroken," both by Laura Hillenbrand. I went and saw the movie "Unbroken" and that intrigued me, so I read the book, loved her style and her complete devotion to telling a nonfiction story and her tireless research in order to do it right. I liked it and her style enough that I then read "Seabiscuit" (I can't recall if I saw that movie or just pieces of it) and was again blown away. I don't really know much about horse racing (or care much about it), but man, that story drew me in.

    And in this case there was something about Goffard's style I liked, I don't think I've read any of his stuff before. I didn't even notice all of the repeated pronoun usage until you pointed it out, but even then it didn't bother me. ;) For a newspaper writer I think he's doing a really good job of unfolding this relatively complex story. A bit too "flashy" at times, perhaps, but a good job, at least to me, very readable and engaging.
     
  5. lunatic59

    lunatic59 Moderati ergo sum
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    Let me give you a couple of early examples which probably put me in hyper-critical mode from the beginning. In the third paragraph :

    That is presented as a sentence, but it is only a fragment. No subject. Okay, give the guy a pass for a style choice, but it's bad grammar AND it's run-on. A run-on sentence fragment? Turned me right off. I know it's information critical to the story later on, but it could have been written better.

    Later that same chapter:

    First, the second paragraph there is non-sequitur. This is the kind of jumping around that really bothered me. The first paragraph begs a chronological question about the "hundred small emergencies", yet it goes on to simply provide a physical description and only alludes to here behavior with "constant presence" and "whirling". Then the only detail given (in the following paragraph) is used as a segue to her past occupation.

    It's written in a "jeopardy-like" style where they give you some information and then make up a question about it afterwards. Not a big fan.

    While non-fiction may require the author to adhere to more facts that a fiction writer and be constrained by reality, it should still be possible to write with style that engages the reader rather than acts a s a showcase for his creativity. (Artists who stylize the national anthem at public events bother me as well. ;) )

    EDIT: Oh and I neglected to mention that on top of the 120 "she's" there are 190 "her's". So there's a great deal of "she did this with her that." or "Her action was this while she thought about something."

    Two authors who write historically-based fiction that I do like are Ken Follett, The Pillars of the Earth and Noah Gordon, The Physician (The Cole Trilogy). Both write painfully descriptive novels that engage and tell a coherent story. For the easier read, you could also look at Mary Renault who wrote somewhat romanticized versions of historical figures from the ancient world The Persian Boy for example is a fictionalized biography of Alexander the Great.
     
  6. rootabaga

    rootabaga Android Expert
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    Thanks for the rejoinder, I appreciate it.

    I read and enjoyed Pillars of the Earth, Follett is indeed a gifted writer. I wish I'd read it before law school, because that experience really messed me up for pleasure reading because I had to re-learn how to read, studying as I went, and it seems I can't unlearn that. Novels that used to take a few days to read now stretch over more than a week. Of course I'm busier now, too. :)

    In any event, compared with what passes for typical media journalism, I found the series of articles refreshing and engaging, and while I have my quibbles with the style, I do happen to like it. And from a content standpoint, he did do his research, there are hundreds of articles out there, but few details.

    As I said at the outset, "perhaps you might too," and it seems plain you don't. ;)

    Oh, and if you have to stylize The Star-Spangled Banner, you're more of an attention-grabbing egocentric than a singer. :D
     
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  7. lunatic59

    lunatic59 Moderati ergo sum
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    Anymore, that's an oxymoron. Most "news", exposé and documentary writing is formulaic and too often fraught with sensationalism and hyperbole. Most of it begins with an agenda rather than simply reporting.

    I don't hate it. It just didn't seem like an exemplary piece of writing. I've read many thing recommended to me that I emphatically despised, but i think reading them nonetheless had value. And, I've read many more things that were recommended that i enjoyed to the extreme.

    Or you're covering up the fact that you can't sing it properly. ;) :D
     
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  8. rootabaga

    rootabaga Android Expert
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    Paging Mariah Carey, Ms. Carey, please step forward! :D :D
     
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  9. rootabaga

    rootabaga Android Expert
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    The fifth installment read a bit flat, but the final installment was pretty good.

    Pronouns aside, that is. :D :D

    Or at least I thought so. ;)
     
    #9 rootabaga, Sep 13, 2016
    Last edited: Sep 13, 2016
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  10. lunatic59

    lunatic59 Moderati ergo sum
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    I will say this, they really got a handle on the tense and use of pronouns as it progressed. ;) Seriously, there was a much better use of names and grammar in general.

    The story? It's almost a fable telling the story of modern entitlement anxiety. Everybody needs to feel good all the time no matter what the cost or consequences.
     

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