f a i t h * i n * f i c t i o n: Me Write Gooder—Transcending the Genre Through Better Writing

f a i t h * i n * f i c t i o n

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

Me Write Gooder—Transcending the Genre Through Better Writing

Yesterday, we began a series examining characteristics of books that transcend the genre of CBA Fiction. You can see the post below for the first suggestion. Today we’ll look at the actual words put to paper.

Part 2: Writing
This area is much more problematic to discuss because any conversation about writing is based for the most part on subjective opinion. You like Hemingway’s terse prose; I find it chauvinistic clap-trap. No amount of discussion can bridge that divide.

If we take an author like Michael Crichton, however, the conversation changes. Nobody talks about Michael Crichton’s writing. If fact, if he’s done his job, it should be ignored and you should only talk about the plot, the action, the dinosaur attacks, etc. (Personally, Crichton’s writing, in his most recent books, is so pedantic that it stops being invisible for me. I’m drawn out of the story by its awkwardness.) This is a great skill—perhaps the most necessary for genre writers.

When genre writers grab hold of the language, however, the effects can be deliriously wonderful. A shining example is Raymond Carver. A hard-boiled crime and pulp novelist, Chandler has gained late esteem due in large part to the unforgettable gaudiness of his language. The dames, the gunsels, the private-eyes—they’re not that different from any other hard-boiled book. Chandler just renders each—particularly the dialogue—in unexpected but completely appropriate verbiage.

I want to draw particular attention to the word “appropriate” in the last sentence. This call to better writing isn’t a plea for more “literary” books. Anyone, given enough time and a little talent, can pump out something that sounds wonderful but limps along. This is a call to using language with intent and purpose. This is a call to taking the time to say things well rather than just getting them said. This is a call to the study of the craft of writing and the pursuit of the art.

Easier said than done, I know. Many, if not most, of the upcoming posts on this blog will tackle this very topic. There is a degree of God-given talent in writing, to be sure, but much else is learned through practice, study, and hard-work. Hopefully we can talk through a lot of it together.