I love tackling books written prior to the 1940's. They wrote in a different voice - if that makes any sense at all.


Sadly, I realized that over the years authors have scaled down their depth and their writing styles to accomodate readers. Detailed descriptions of landscapes and well-worded emotional expressions used to form part of our vernacular. Now the echoing blast from a gun gets broken down to mili-seconds and stripped into words - which the editors eventually scratch out.


Do we no longer credit readers with brains? Or has illiteracy ratings guided us to a more depraved grammar in order to make our stories more readable? Or has self-publishing opened the door for writers who would normally not have made it to the shelf?


James Fouche

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You have to compete with television, and probably at the lowest level, if you want big sales.  Otherwise, settle for a niche audience.

Crime IS a niche audience, isn't it?


And I have a really hard time thinking books compete with television.  

I also have trouble with the idea that televsion crime writing is stupider than book writing.  Near as I can tell, some of the best writing in the country is happening on TV.  The idea that viewers of "24"  are dumber than readers of Clive Cussler is a litle hard to get my head around.


Of course, where I hang out, the writers are all desparate to stake out some intellectual higher ground where the shows they write are cooler than those daytime guys, or those three camera show people or non-cable shows, or whatever.


In general, it seems to me that drawing lines like that and pointing figures is a really bad mindset for writers.  Not just a waste of time, but actually detrimental to their writing.  

Cammy, I think you and IJ are both right in this instance. My understanding of competition as IJ mentioned it, is that when you compete with something it genrally means it is either just as good as you or a bit better. I imagined that IJ meant the writing for television was getting more competitive, more expressive and a bit better. In other words, a viewer would rather watch a 1 hour CSI episode, than read a crime or whodunnit novel.


Neither of us claimed that viewers were dumber than readers. In fact, some of the more intellectually stimulating shows have a lot to offer. I do believe that some writers mistakenly feel obliged to sacrifice style for pace to try and match the shows.


My discussion started with a random musing about writing an understandable novel while not treating those who don't regularly read like idiots. In other words, to credit viewers with the same intellectual capacity as readers, and to try and entice them to pick up a book every now and then.

I hear what you're saying James.

One thing I notice a LOT is that when you get "crits" or when "script doctors" and wriing mavens, and even professional editors get at your work it's like their an ombudsman for idiots.

Oh, you need to stop and tell us what that word means,  is that the Athens in Greece or the one in Georgia,  do you mean "Federal Bureau of Investigation",  you have more than one point of view in your chapter, blah blah.


In point of fact, readers aren't that stupid.   They are quite capable of reading through words they don't understand if they trust you.  They can keep track of more than one plot line or point of view.  If they don't know a HemiHead is an automobile, they can probably figure out from the context that it's not a piles ointment.


In fact, a lot of stuff I see on TV makes me feel dumb... but that's because I don't watch a lot of TV, so I don;'t know who the Kardashians or Glenn Beck are.  But that's a matter of targeting audiences.  My kids, if God forbid I have any, won't know who Glenn Miller or Cat Stevens were. 


But, BTW, I don't think I'm saying the same thing about television writing.

Wow, Cammy, I had to look up ombudsman and will soon have to figure out HemiHead. I once had an editor tell me I couldn't use a term. He asked me why I couldn't use one that is easier to recognize and this for a lit zine. I said while I don't believe in frustrating the reader, I would be thrilled if someone were inspired to use a dictionary.

Critiques can make for flat writing. It sounds like a challenging situation. I'm about to enter a writing workshop next week. It'll be interesting to see what happens. A strong leader can prevent group think, but what you're describing sounds like a different animal.

My brother Pow was a motorhead.   He always had car parts around.  It's all about hemispherical piston heads in big old car engines.  I think the Hemi's went the way of the other thunder lizards.  He went rogue the first time I told him he could fix his Hemis with Preparation H.


I'm just finding that when people monkey with your work, they tend to dumb it down.  I think there's some sort of natural principle at work:  like they can't make it more colorful, but they can make it more bland.  


I read a thing a few months back about words the reader doesn't know, and it made sense.  First off, some words have no definitition of all.  If you want to go Jabberwocky, you either get away with it or not, but nobody can really tell you to be sure to define in in parenthesis or something.  Then there are words almost nobody knows, but people read over them.  The post mentioned William Burroughs doing a lot of that.  You don't freak out, you just read on.   

I REALLY hate it when somebody uses a phrase in French or something, then immediately translates it.  I mean, you can be reading a book from Zambia or something, and if a guy says, "Why don't you kiss my ullulu?"  you get the drift.

Ha. ha! And thanks for the hemispherical piston head knowledge. Maybe I can use it to impress this Top Gear watching fam. Then again, that will only work if I can drop the name, not explain anything.

Yes, kiss my anything is pretty universal, along with several other choice commands.

Kind of like "Careful you don't step in the cawabunga."
Don't all those cars from Dodge have Hemis?

Could be.  I never checked for whatever it is you check for.

But among Powell's chums, if you had less than 400 inches you didn't mention it.  Mopar dingus measuring.

And I'm pretty sure they don't make the 440 and other juggernauts these days.

I could work on engines (still can, but thank God I don't have to--you changed one fuel pump, you changed them all)

I was a Tomboy.  Bit of a jock.  I remember wondering what chicks talked about since they knew diddly about cars and sports and hunting.

Than changed in my modeling days: I found out what chicks talk about, just wondered WHY?

Pow gave me a Confederate flag licence plate for my Firebird.  I drove it around campus in college, loved all those little aristocrats at Montreat and Peace getting the vapors about it.  They made me take it off, so I put in on the door of my dorm room.

Wait, what was the topic here?

ha! Your own story is a great story.


I certainly agree on the not translating.  It's awkward.  But if you have too many foreign phrases and too much technical stuff, or your characters speak in a remote dialect, you may be in trouble.


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