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I'm a bookseller at B&N, and I've noticed there are two kinds of readers. The first wants a good story and great characters. The second wants good use of language. Great writers (Austin, Fitzgerald) can do both. Other writers (me, for instance) concentrate on trying to do one or the other. I read character and plot driven books. Although I can appreciate an author like Kazuo Ishiguro (Never Let Me Go, Remains Of The Day) who writes beautifully, I don't enjoy his books as much as Robert B. Parker or Maeve Binchy. Both those authors write well, btw, but not like Ishiguro. Yesterday a customer was raving about Edith Wharton (affix glassy smile here) so I didn't recommend The Art of Racing in the Rain.What kind of reader are you? And/or writer?
 

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I'm hugely character driven, both in what I read and what I write. I can read any genre if I love the characters. Beautiful, poetic use of the language is a definitely a bonus (a huge one) but the first thing I look for is great characters.
 

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Dee Ernst said:
I'm a bookseller at B&N, and I've noticed there are two kinds of readers. The first wants a good story and great characters. The second wants good use of language. Great writers (Austin, Fitzgerald) can do both. Other writers (me, for instance) concentrate on trying to do one or the other. I read character and plot driven books. Although I can appreciate an author like Kazuo Ishiguro (Never Let Me Go, Remains Of The Day) who writes beautifully, I don't enjoy his books as much as Robert B. Parker or Maeve Binchy. Both those authors write well, btw, but not like Ishiguro. Yesterday a customer was raving about Edith Wharton (affix glassy smile here) so I didn't recommend The Art of Racing in the Rain.What kind of reader are you? And/or writer?
Vibrant characters and a great plot. I appreciate the beauty and intricacies of language, but I like to read and write fast-paced stories that have strong characters who I feel like I know. :)
 

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I like a great story which unveils the characters and their development/reactions/fallibility to the reader. Most of all, I want an emotional hit. Whether that emotion is sorrow, excitement, anger, happiness -- it doesn't matter as long as the writing provokes an intense response.
 

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RichardBrown said:
I'm also on the side of more character driven stories. Beautiful, flowing prose is fine as long as it's moving the story forward. More often than not, however, it seems the opposite happens and I get bored and give up.
LOL me too.
 

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I like to read and write, complex stories with engaging characters. I'm also a journalist who prefers straightforward writing to poetry and obscure metaphors. I like language, but for me it's only a means to an end, not necessarily an art. I accept that others place more value on the beauty of a well-turned phrase.
L.J.

 

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I've gotta agree with Elmore Leonard.  Unless you're Steinbeck, get rid of the hooptedoodle.  As a writer, I think I'd be offended if people like my use of language over my stories.

 

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I would add a third category... idea driven fiction. I guess most sf falls into that, but also some literary. Isaac Asimov had clunky writing and clunkier characters, but marvelous ideas.

I usually go for plot and character driven stories, but from time to time, I do love to immerse myself in beautiful language. Actually, Never Let Me Go is one of my favorite books. But most of the books I read are much less "fraught."  :)
 

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I want it all. I want a good, compelling plot with some original concepts. I want characters that I care about -- not that I necessarily like them, but that I care to find out what happens to them. I want effective use of language; which does not necessarily mean florid and/or verbose language, but language that is appropriate for the style and tone of the book and with effective imagery that helps immerse me in the story (a half dozen words or so in a great metaphor may be worth a few hundred words of detailed description).

This may explain why I'm a tough pick in the Quasi-Official Book Game Klub here. ;)
 

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I read and write horror books. I'm addicted to them.

--- edited... no self-promotion outside the Book Bazaar forum. please read our Forum Decorum thread.
 

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I read almost anything - from Remains of the day - which I loved, to The Dome which I also liked, to seafaring stories, to light and frothy chick lit, some of which I like. I prefer stories with interesting characters and compelling plots. I'm less interested in huge detail of any sort - of landscape, houses, people's looks- beyond the hair and eyes. I like dialogue driven stories which reveal character by degees and not pages of long dry paragraphs. I tend not to read much erotic romance - yet that is mostly what I write. I do read a lot of suspense novels and write those! Not sure why there is that difference.
My stories are character driven, dialogue heavy, light in the case of the romances and dark in the case of the suspense stories but all have a HEA  and humor!
 

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Unfortunately, I've read several beautifully written BORING books in my day. There are not many writers that can really pull it off. I would say Dean Koontz would be one of them. He writes with a beautiful, creepy prose that I've always enjoyed, but the man is a hell of a storyteller too.
 

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Rough or coarse writing, done for attention effect, causes me to pass over a novel. I enjoy contact with a writer who has something thoughtful or profound to say, but not in a deliberately obscure way.
 

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What a great observation! (that there are two types of readers.)
This hadnt struck me before, but thinking about it book reviews tend to fall into two camps: those swept up with character and plot, versus those that notice editing, punctuation and spelling.

The other question; what kind of writer are you - coupled with the above observation, makes me realise that when I'm writing free flow I use punctuation 'creatively' , like an artist using daubes of colour on the canvas. To me punctuation isnt a precise art (ducks to avoid objects being thrown at the screen) but there to help the flow and feel of the piece. As long as punctuation doesnt interfere with enjoyment, I really dont get those reviewers who stress over the odd, misplaced comma. (I'm guessing this is going to be controversial....doubles away to put on my flack jacket and hard hat.)
 

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Grace Elliot said:
What a great observation! (that there are two types of readers.)
This hadnt struck me before, but thinking about it book reviews tend to fall into two camps: those swept up with character and plot, versus those that notice editing, punctuation and spelling.

The other question; what kind of writer are you - coupled with the above observation, makes me realise that when I'm writing free flow I use punctuation 'creatively' , like an artist using daubes of colour on the canvas. To me punctuation isnt a precise art (ducks to avoid objects being thrown at the screen) but there to help the flow and feel of the piece. As long as punctuation doesnt interfere with enjoyment, I really dont get those reviewers who stress over the odd, misplaced comma. (I'm guessing this is going to be controversial....doubles away to put on my flack jacket and hard hat.)
While there are aspects of punctuation that are somewhat gray areas as far as the "rules" go, there are many that are not. When you bend/break rules, you risk jarring the reader out of the moment and making him/her notice the actual letters and punctuation on the page as opposed to the flow of words and ideas they should be enjoying. An incorrectly used comma can be just as attention-getting as a misspelled word or incorrect grammar. If you are going to break the rules in any of those (punctuation, spelling, grammar), it should be done with great care and only if that is the only way to appropriately communicate what needs communicating, but it should never be done out of ignorance.

IMHO, of course. :)

And to quote one of my favorite characters, Commander Samuel Vimes (from Terry Prathcett's Jingo) regarding a memo written by Captain Carrot: "There may be a lot of things I'm not good at, but at least I don't treat the punctuation of a sentence like a game of Pin the Tail on the Donkey." ;D

PS: Even Sir Terry has been known to scatter a stray comma here or there that I disagree with, but I let him get away with it.
 

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RichardBrown said:
Beautiful, flowing prose is fine as long as it's moving the story forward. More often than not, however, it seems the opposite happens and I get bored and give up.
This. My bookshelf is full of highly lauded books that I couldn't bring myself to finish. I have...opinions about how creative writing is taught as a result.
 
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