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Author Topic: Bad Writing vs "Bad" Writing  (Read 5071 times)
Rev. Austin
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« on: February 20, 2010, 05:29:33 AM »

After points raised in the latest crit group I got to wondering:

Is it ever acceptable or sensible to emulate a writing style if it serves a specific purpose, and doesn't render your own unique style redundant? 

For instance, if you were to write a 'pulp' style piece, one set in the 40's, say, could you get away with the use of dialogue tags such as 'he snarled' 'he barked' etc or should you write it with modern style sensibilities intact?  (I used pulp fiction as an example since it was one point raised, though I'm sure there are other genres that incorporate what must nowadays be a 'no-no' in regards to style)...
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« Reply #1 on: February 20, 2010, 08:50:33 AM »

I don't know, but my personal opinion would be that you could get away with it if you make it clear the piece is an homage to the pulps, or whatever other style you're writing in, Rev.
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« Reply #2 on: February 20, 2010, 02:06:54 PM »

Personally speaking I would avoid using the dialogue tags that appear in books written in the 50s and earlier, in my experience they seem to have vanished by the 60s or I'm just lucky and have avoided books of that decade that used them.

The tags offer nothing to a story, if anything they, along with the meandering sentences that were used in the 50s and earlier, make it harder to get into the flow of a story. Writing has developed along the lines that it has, in my uneducated guess, so as to make it easier for the reader. No one likes to backtrack through a sentence because it was so long they lost the meaning of it. I'm thinking of John Wyndham here. Fine writer though he is, I'm reading 'The Midwich Cuckoos' at the moment, I could sometimes scream at the way he writes. He just don't flow like the modern guys do. Still, what the hell I'm gonna read his stuff anyway.

I think it's okay to write a story and give it a flavour of era and style, but it's probably best not to over do it. A fine example of this is Dean Koontz's 'Bruno' It's a short story that's part of a collection called 'Strange Highways.' 'Bruno' has a real Dragnet feel to even though it's a sci-fi story. The use of language puts the reader straight into Humphrey Bogart territory, which is no bad place to be.

I guess the dialogue is going to be more important in a pulp style piece than the actual writing style.  
« Last Edit: February 20, 2010, 02:11:56 PM by Caz » Logged

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« Reply #3 on: February 20, 2010, 03:34:41 PM »

Rev, I'd rather see you emulate the characters and the action than the dialogue tags. I think you could write a very "pulpy" story (noir detective fiction, etc.) and have everyone "get it" without resorting to the clunky dialogue tags. Just my opinion.
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« Reply #4 on: February 22, 2010, 03:24:35 AM »

Quote
Is it ever acceptable or sensible to emulate a writing style if it serves a specific purpose, and doesn't render your own unique style redundant?  

If that specific purpose is to try and understand and learn what made someone else's style particularly appealing to you then I'd say yes. For example, I occasionally 'practice' writing in the styles of others - if I come across a scene or a paragraph that particularly moves me I might analyse it to see what works, what it is that's getting through to me, and then have a go at drafting a scene of my own in that style. It's kind of like copping a riff or two off Jimi Hendrix and then dropping them into your own playing to see if you can twist them to fit your own style.

But I'm not sure there's much value in writing whole pieces in somebody else's, or another era's, style. What would you or the reader gain from that? I can't read the original Lovecraft these days, let alone a copy. I hate most dialogue tags other than the the most common few - when I come across a book full of them, such as the Dick Francis one I read recently - it pulls me right out of what was a great story. I don't see any point in trying to replicate that style. A lot of people write pulp style fiction - myself included - but using the essence rather than the style.

On the other hand, if you just wanted to have some fun doing this - and to see if you can do it -  you could always write a Dracula style story - where the tale is made up of documents, journals, diaries and so on. That way you would have carte blanche to fully explore any style, tags and all, from any era, but within the context of a modern story. You know - Lovecraft corresponds with Jim Thompson to write a serial novel in the style of Jane Austin, based on the search for notebook detailing Mary Shelley's forbidden research for Frankenstein...

Derek

« Last Edit: February 22, 2010, 03:29:02 AM by delboy » Logged

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« Reply #5 on: February 22, 2010, 03:42:26 AM »

To write something in an epistolary fashion is a good idea, Del. It would be an interesting exercise to do to explore different voices.
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« Reply #6 on: February 22, 2010, 08:48:02 AM »

Some interesting opinions, here.  I only picked on 'dialogue tags' since that was pointed out to me recently, but I was also thinking of the 'purple' prose of older writers like Lovecraft (not too purple, in my opinion, but sometimes it is a little heavy-going) so thanks to Del for mentioning that.  And all modesty aside  Wink, 'pulp' is my strongest style but I realised just how prevalent the accursed dialogue tags are in my older work (well, from this time last year), and even in a piece I'm really pleased with that is very pulpy, and got published online (which is a little embarrasing now I know what to look for)....I suppose this was more of a musing than a proper post but what ya gonna do?  afro  Cheesy
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« Reply #7 on: February 22, 2010, 10:07:59 AM »

Funny how we move on without really noticing at the time. I cringe at some of my older stuff from two or three years ago. Every time I read my story over at microhorror.com I see more things I'd like to edit/change. Might write to Nathan with a revised copy sometime. Make me feel better smiley
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« Reply #8 on: February 22, 2010, 10:31:28 AM »

On the other hand it sometimes works the opposite way. I've read - and even submitted - a few very old stories recently that I recalled being awful, but upon a new reading turned out to be okay.

There again, perhaps I've peaked.  Cry

Derek
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« Reply #9 on: February 24, 2010, 04:27:50 PM »

mustn't have my stuff here, ed keeps it.
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« Reply #10 on: March 03, 2010, 01:35:44 PM »

Frankly, I am not too hot on writing modern just to be current. If you are aiming at a pulp piece, by all means the language of the time is more appropriate.

This kind of reminds me of what happened to westerns. Once a popular theme in movies, in the sixties things started to change and then Modern sensibilites were introduced. Eventually the genre all but died, because people really wanted the old shoot em ups rather than touchy feely political correctness.

But back to the topic. Years ago I wrote a story about Poe in his own style, I have often written period fiction, it works better in the style of the times. Putting it modern again loses something in its basic makeup...IMHO
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