Flaws of Great Writers
#1
In his memoir On Writing, Stephen King had this to say about H. P. Lovecraft's dialogue:

"Writers have different skill levels when it comes to dialogue. Your skills in this area can be improved, but, as a great man once said (actually it was Clint Eastwood), "A man's got to know his limitations." H. P. Lovecraft was a genius when it came to tales of the macabre, but a terrible dialogue writer. He seems to have known it, too, because in the millions of words of fiction he wrote, fewer than five thousand are dialogue. The following passage from "The Colour Out of Space," in which a dying farmer describes the alien presence which has invaded his well, showcases Lovecraft's dialogue problems. Folks, people just don't talk like this, even on their deathbeds:

"Nothin'... nothin'... the colour... it burns... cold an' wet, but it burns... it lived in the well... I seen it... a kind of smoke... jest like the flowers last spring... the well shone at night... Thad an' Merwin an' Zenas... everything alive... suckin' the life out of everything... in that stone... it must a' come in that stone pizened the whole place... dun't know what it wants... that round thing them men from the college dug outen the stone... they smashed it... it was the same colour... jest the same, like the flowers an' plants... must a' ben more of 'em... seeds... seeds... they growed... I seen it the fust time this week... must a' got strong on Zenas... he was a big boy, full o' life... it beats down your mind an' then gets ye... burns ye up... in the well water... you was right about that... evil water... Zenas never come back from the well... can't git away... draws ye... ye know summ'at's comin' but tain't no use... I seen it time an' agin senct Zenas was took... whar's Nabby, Ammi?... my head's no good... dun't know how long sense I fed her... it'll git her ef we ain't keerful... jest a colour... her face is gittin' to hev that colour sometimes towards night... an' it burns an' sucks... it come from some place whar things ain't as they is here... one o' them professors said so..."

And so on and so forth, in carefully constructed eliptical bursts of information. It's hard to say exactly what's wrong with Lovecraft's dialogue, other than the obvious: it's stilted and lifeless, brimming with country cornpone ("some pace whar things ain't as they is here"). When dialogue is right, we know. When it's wrong we also know - it jags on the ear like a badly tuned musical instrument."

What great writers have you read who were notably flawed in certain areas of their craft, and which areas do you struggle with as writers?
"We believe that we invent symbols. The truth is that they invent us; we are their creatures, shaped by their hard, defining edges." - Gene Wolfe
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#2
(08-28-2013, 02:30 AM)Heslopian Wrote:  In his memoir On Writing, Stephen King had this to say about H. P. Lovecraft's dialogue:

"Writers have different skill levels when it comes to dialogue. Your skills in this area can be improved, but, as a great man once said (actually it was Clint Eastwood), "A man's got to know his limitations." H. P. Lovecraft was a genius when it came to tales of the macabre, but a terrible dialogue writer. He seems to have known it, too, because in the millions of words of fiction he wrote, fewer than five thousand are dialogue. The following passage from "The Colour Out of Space," in which a dying farmer describes the alien presence which has invaded his well, showcases Lovecraft's dialogue problems. Folks, people just don't talk like this, even on their deathbeds:

"Nothin'... nothin'... the colour... it burns... cold an' wet, but it burns... it lived in the well... I seen it... a kind of smoke... jest like the flowers last spring... the well shone at night... Thad an' Merwin an' Zenas... everything alive... suckin' the life out of everything... in that stone... it must a' come in that stone pizened the whole place... dun't know what it wants... that round thing them men from the college dug outen the stone... they smashed it... it was the same colour... jest the same, like the flowers an' plants... must a' ben more of 'em... seeds... seeds... they growed... I seen it the fust time this week... must a' got strong on Zenas... he was a big boy, full o' life... it beats down your mind an' then gets ye... burns ye up... in the well water... you was right about that... evil water... Zenas never come back from the well... can't git away... draws ye... ye know summ'at's comin' but tain't no use... I seen it time an' agin senct Zenas was took... whar's Nabby, Ammi?... my head's no good... dun't know how long sense I fed her... it'll git her ef we ain't keerful... jest a colour... her face is gittin' to hev that colour sometimes towards night... an' it burns an' sucks... it come from some place whar things ain't as they is here... one o' them professors said so..."

And so on and so forth, in carefully constructed eliptical bursts of information. It's hard to say exactly what's wrong with Lovecraft's dialogue, other than the obvious: it's stilted and lifeless, brimming with country cornpone ("some pace whar things ain't as they is here"). When dialogue is right, we know. When it's wrong we also know - it jags on the ear like a badly tuned musical instrument."

What great writers have you read who were notably flawed in certain areas of their craft, and which areas do you struggle with as writers?

Reading that gasping dialog had me hyperventilating Hesp! Nonetheless, HP Lovecraft was a favorite of mine as well. His short stories were classic gothic horror with cosmic and mythological roots. From Pickman's Model and to The Dunwitch Horror, they were always narrated by a witness or an observer of the event, probably to avoid excess dialog. You brought back some memories, thanks. I shall think on that favorite flawed writer of mine…
My new watercolor: 'Nightmare After Christmas'/Chris
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#3
wow jack. this is a hard one for me, i either liked or hated the book i was reading, spilline did some great private detective romps, sven hassle wrote some great war novels, (all non epic, dime novel shit, but really good stuff) zola is one of my faves, siddartha, what bit bit i read was shit yet it got major acclaim and everyone else loves it Big Grin. on the other hand i loved the glass bead game, erskine calwell wrote about life situations tobacco road was a famous novel about yeah, you guessed Big Grin some of his other books i've read i saw as badly crafted. i can't say why, and i can't tell you the books but i often leaft his books 20 or 30 pagesd through because they never held me, i have no idea why.
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#4
I've tried Spillane a couple of times but he's never grabbed me. I find his prose a bit amateurish and pulp-y in the bad way. Maybe I'm just not macho enough to get itBig Grin I've never read Zola or SiddarthaBlush As you I know I like Bukowski, though his posturing can grate on me at times. He could be a bit too generous with how he painted himself through his alter-ego, Chinaski. I also loved Agatha Christie as a kid, and she was shit at dialogue. One critic described it as being like tinnitus to the ear. Also, her detective stories lacked much texture - whereas one writer might take a page to describe a library, Christie would be content to say "the library was big" - but then she turned out a book a year, roughly, and her appeal was her plots, so that was understandable.
"We believe that we invent symbols. The truth is that they invent us; we are their creatures, shaped by their hard, defining edges." - Gene Wolfe
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#5
I think Tom Clancy does the worst character development of any writer I have read. First, he spends page after page /telling/ me what type of person his character is. Second, his characters are always loaded with unbelievable traits. Finally, after explainging every possible nuance of his character, they always act out of character. WTF?
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#6
read earth by emile zola jack. it's on par with joyce's Dubliners. spillane is pulp as is sven hassle wilbur smith wrote a lot of fiction about africa. shout at the devil (which was turned into a film) a sparrow falls, the dark of the sun and when the lions feed. he uses stereotypical characters but the plots are excellent. he's a prolific writer. terry pratchett is my almost favourite writer. yet i do hate his non fiction stuff where he talks about his fictional stuff .

i could never get into the silmarillion from tolkien yet i loved TLOTR and the hobbit. the silmarillion seemed to arty farty for my taste but suspose it's expected from a language expert Big Grin
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#7
(08-28-2013, 10:40 AM)milo Wrote:  I think Tom Clancy does the worst character development of any writer I have read. First, he spends page after page /telling/ me what type of person his character is. Second, his characters are always loaded with unbelievable traits. Finally, after explainging every possible nuance of his character, they always act out of character. WTF?

But do you like his work otherwise?

(08-28-2013, 10:41 AM)billy Wrote:  i could never get into the silmarillion from tolkien yet i loved TLOTR and the hobbit. the silmarillion seemed to arty farty for my taste but suspose it's expected from a language expert Big Grin

Here's my dark secret: I've never liked LOTR. I know, I know, I've signed my own death warrant by admitting that, but I may as well be honest before the legions of fans dangle my head from Tower BridgeBig Grin I just find it too sentimental and rambling, with twee characters having inane adventures. JMHO, of course. Pratchett, though, was a geniusSmile
"We believe that we invent symbols. The truth is that they invent us; we are their creatures, shaped by their hard, defining edges." - Gene Wolfe
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#8
it's all about taste jack, you're is bviously bad in certain parts Big Grin

i think LOTR is an acquired taste and i won't attack you for not liking it Big Grin

the sven hassle i was on about wrote a whole series of books about a russion tank crew, if you can try the first book (google it) bloodthirsty they are but funny with it. they knock the gold teeth out of the head of dead germans etc.

back on topic, i could never see him writing a love story Big Grin
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#9
(08-28-2013, 10:47 AM)Heslopian Wrote:  
(08-28-2013, 10:40 AM)milo Wrote:  I think Tom Clancy does the worst character development of any writer I have read. First, he spends page after page /telling/ me what type of person his character is. Second, his characters are always loaded with unbelievable traits. Finally, after explainging every possible nuance of his character, they always act out of character. WTF?

But do you like his work otherwise?
Not really, but I know he is pretty popular.
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#10
(08-28-2013, 10:40 AM)milo Wrote:  I think Tom Clancy does the worst character development of any writer I have read. First, he spends page after page /telling/ me what type of person his character is. Second, his characters are always loaded with unbelievable traits. Finally, after explainging every possible nuance of his character, they always act out of character. WTF?

Ain't that the truth? He spends whole chapters at the start of each book on irrelevant character background information. Some of his books would be great if he didn't start them so slow and drag us through do many mundane details. He did write one great one though, I'll come back when I remember the title.

One writer I do like is Lee Child. If I had to point out a flaw, I'd say he hasn't quite mastered the American idiom. Oh, and that the movie was made off of one of his lesser works, and wholly inaccurate to the book, but that probably wasn't his fault.

Robert Ludlum was a favorite for a long time. His only flaw was that he died. The mutherfucker, I miss the shit out of him.
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#11
most of the writers i know and have read are the older ones. i've only read pratchett as far as current buns go.
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#12
Probably a bit odd for a girly type, but I read all the Sven Hassel books (when i was younger). Making up for it now by reading silly books like the Pratchet books.
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#13
i think i love you aj Big Grin there was a western series of books called edge and one called steel about cold blooded killers without consciences can't remember the authors but they would certainly fail at writing anything serious, it was like reading comics without pictures Big Grin i did enjoy them though Smile
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#14
Come to think about it, I think Hemingway does the best character development of any writer, it is fluid and effortless and all occurs through dialogue or action. Also, I think he is a great writer. That being said, some of his actual plots are dreadfully dull. Kind of like - "Hey! I'm the world's greatest writer but I have nothing to fucking write about!"
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#15
Most of the greats don't keep me interested. It's probably a personal flaw. I just don't see the hype. Farewell to Arms, Grapes of Wrath, even Catcher. I'm not a big fan. Won't ever be.

And Steinbeck sure knows how to make you feel like you're enduring the Great Depression. Holy mother.
Balls balls balls balls balls
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#16
A great science fiction writer and a favorite of mine, Phillip K Dick, was very much a flawed writer and and sadly a flawed character. He was a drug addict and paranoid schizophrenic, which is probably why his work was so different, albeit convoluted at times. He would paint brilliant stories with the mind, time, altered states of reality, dreams and hallucination, not only at the center of the plot, but twisting it about on a wild ride. Some of his criticism included subplot holes, sometimes a nonsensical line perhaps, but these flaws fit into the stories and stream of consciousness runs, as to be minor to the overall work.

Just another thought/query on the overall subject, can’t some writer’s flaws be directly attributed to their editors? Most works are edited.
My new watercolor: 'Nightmare After Christmas'/Chris
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#17
If the Shemthepenman was still around, he might send you in the direction of an essay on Minor Literature by Deleuze and Guattari.
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#18
(09-01-2013, 03:27 AM)rowens Wrote:  If the Shemthepenman was still around, he might send you in the direction of an essay on Minor Literature by Deleuze and Guattari.

FYI, I saw that name posting a joke of some sorts recently.
My new watercolor: 'Nightmare After Christmas'/Chris
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#19
He might would send you in that direction. I won't. I don't drive, and forget road names.
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