Sunday, January 19, 2014

Content vs Skill

I went to see a film last week that has left me thinking a lot.  It was an incredibly well made film, a real bravura piece of film making, probably one of the best I've seen in a long time.  But I hated it.


Because the characters were immoral, crass, misogynistic, and just plain awful.  I'm not one to complain about foul language, but when the language is all derogatory toward women, I find it hard to take.

So at what point does a story's content overwhelm its style or technique?  I know I've read some pretty terribly written books that I couldn't put down because the plot was so exciting.  And I've put down some exquisitely written books because there was not plot, just page after page of beautifully crafted words.

So I think there needs to be a balance.  Good writing is not just about crafting sentences that sound lovely, or finding new and unique ways to describe mundane objects.  There has to be a story in there, characters to love and hate, action we can believe in and relationships we want to root for.  Craft is important, but it isn't enough on its own.

And no amount of fantastic plotting can make up for sloppy writing.  Nothing makes me put down a book faster than bad writing.  Even if I don't drop it, I'm always disappointed when a great story is let down by the writing.  What a waste of a good story, right?

Have you ever loathed something you knew was actually really good?


  1. I have to agree. I can't read a badly written book no matter how interesting the premise is. But I can usually force myself through something well-written but dull or derivative. And it's true that character trumps plot.

  2. A lot of it comes down to taste, and what you're in the mood for on that particular day.

    Moody Writing

  3. I loathe Babylon 5 because it was executed so poorly. It should have been as great as all its fans say it was...but it just wasn't. And that had nothing to do with budget.

  4. A lot of this reminds me of The Walking Dead. It's zombies, so you'd think it would be cool, but you shouldn't be rooting for the zombies to eat the stupid, annoying main characters.