Bashing People for What They Read

Hey guys, sorry about the lack of post last week. I have been teaching summer school over in Atlanta and have been super busy. This isn’t really an excuse, but I feel like its always good to keep you in the loop. In other news, I got a contract for a super small part in an audiobook, so I will make sure to let you know once the story is published. Enough pretense, here is this week’s post.

Bashing People for What They Read

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So this is going to be a bit of a rant. I want to discuss a few extremely popular books such as Twilight, 50 Shades of Grey, and Harry Potter. If you regularly frequent the literary blogosphere, you might have an idea about what this is going to be about, but I am NOT going to write an entire rant disbarging the quality of writing in the above books. Instead, I am going to rant about the people who hate them.

My primary problem does not lie with the dislike of these books. Of the above, the only series I have enjoyed was Harry Potter and I partially credit that to being young and not having really any experience reading novels. This is besides the point. Anyone can have an opinion regardless of their stance, but what pisses me off is when people push their opinion on others as if they are somehow the sole arbiter of quality in regards to another person’s taste.

Go on to just about any online writing group and make a post saying 50 Shades is your favorite book, it inspired you to write, and changed your life. I can guarantee that you have several people bash you within an hour. They will tell you how you are wrong for liking it and give several reasons supporting their stance. Some of these have merit and others do not.

I’m not going to get in a debate about what makes these books successful or pieces-of-crap, because that isn’t the point of this post. When it comes to writing and literature, any book that gets people to read has merit. It is as simple that. Some books might sell more, others might earn more awards, but if one person likes it then it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks. It was good in the eyes of at least one reader.

Envy fuels this Hate

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I think part of the hate against these books is envy. Personally, I don’t understand how the quality of the prose in all of those books was able to get past an editor. I have submitted work that has been rejected that I feel is more polished than 50 Shades, but that doesn’t make my work any less rejected. When looked at through this lens, it gets frustrating.

Why can something with better prose get rejected over things that are widely regarded as garbage? The answer is simple, economics. The only people who actively give shit about the craft writing are writers (and editors), but there are not enough writers to warrant commercial success if they were the only people buying books.

The people who make a writer successful are the readers. Not the editor, not the publisher, it all comes down to the reader. Most readers don’t even realize that the actual writing in a book is called prose. Readers care about the story.

In order for them to care about the story, the writing just has to be good enough that it immerses them in the work and keeps their interest. That’s it. Readers don’t care about cliche’s. Readers don’t give a shit about adverbs. Reader’s just want to be entertained.

Emersion is Proportional to Desire

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These books succeed despite breaking several writing guidelines that are touted as law because they all allow the reader to place themselves in situation that they want to be in. As a child, I remember laying awake imagining what it would be like if I was at Hogwarts. Twilight and 50 Shades work off the same principle. They let readers escape into a world where the most perfect, desirable guy wants them.

This is integral to good storytelling. The reader should feel so immersed in the world that it seems real to them. The more that the reader wants to be in that world, the more they are likely to forgive things that make it unbelievable. Let’s use horror movies as an example.

How often have you yelled at the screen because the characters made some incredibly stupid decision that you wouldn’t make? This is almost a cliche of the genre. The reason why people notice this is because most of don’t want to be in that situation to begin with. Any little error can kick us out of the story, because we are ready to flee. (Personally, I love horror movies, but I hate bad ones for this reason).

Now I want you to think about A Song of Ice & Fire. What happened to Gendry? The books just happen to forget all about him, and the show isn’t much better. How many times do people make stupid choices? Sansa Stark’s infatuation with Joffrey comes to mind. Do we react the same way as we do with a horror movie? Generally, no.

We give the author leeway because we WANT to like the story (and most of Martin’s prose is awesome anyway). When a reader wants to like something, they often forgive its shortcoming and only focus on the things it does well.

Desire as a Reason for Rejection

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I honestly believe this one reason why it is so hard for new writers to get published. Editors read a ton of books–including really bad ones–so the bar to impress us is much higher than a casual reader who might only pick up a book if it becomes as big as Twilight or Harry Potter. When an editor sees a manuscript in the slush pile, we are not looking to be entertained. We are looking for a reason to reject.

If someone with established credits (I’m talking about SFWA pro market level) sends us something, we are much more likely to read it with optimism and this mindset completely changes how we experience the story. We are more willing to accept a prose style different than our normal tastes because this writer must know what they are doing.

A new writer doesn’t get this luxury. I believe that the best submission processes are a direct result of blind submissions. This allows stories to be judged solely on merit and makes it impossible for editors to conceive biases that have nothing to do with the story.

Parting Thoughts

Thanks for reading, and I apologize again about missing last week. I hope everyone is having an awesome day! Good luck writing and check back here next week for another post!

7 thoughts on “Bashing People for What They Read

  1. Good post! This goes on more than the average reader realizes. People feel their genre or what they read is what everyone should be reading. If not, Name Calling 101 and personal attacks of epic proportions rule the day. Heaven forbid something they shun should actually become a bestseller. 😀 😀

    Of course, there’s a flipside to that. Readers/reviewers who aren’t a part of a book’s adoring throng… and say so, get targeted. I wasn’t a fan of the movie you referenced and WOW! Suddenly I was the second gunman on the grassy knoll! 😀 It still amuses me.

    People are funny. They want to be unique and different and think outside-the-box… in theory. Don’t try this at home! LOL! 😉

    Liked by 2 people

  2. You know: Stephen King said, that he followed the Hype around Harry Potter and the Twilight series and he only sees one difference: J. R. Rowling can write while Stephenie Meyer can’t.
    I think that’s pretty harsh. I know, he’s been a writer for longer than I live, but hey… even though I highly respect him: he doesn’t have the right to tell me what I can like and what I can’t.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I won’t comment on which ones I like and which ones I don’t. But I’ll say this: if the books weren’t immensely popular, nobody would care. They’d like them or not like them, but they wouldn’t make it their life’s mission to convince everyone around them that the books were the most awful things ever written and nobody should ever read them. When books are really popular, and we don’t like them, it tends to infuriate us. We don’t get why the hell so many people think we’re wrong! And from that point on, we never miss an opportunity to rant about how awful the books are, as if we’re trying to convince everyone in the world to see it from our point of view.

    But I agree that the quality of the writing, in terms of how carefully crafted the story and prose is, how fully fleshed out the characters are, etc… that all takes a backseat to how much the story grips us and pulls us in. I’ve read novels I thought were… not wonderfully written — say one of the “Murder She Wrote” novels — but I enjoyed them immensely, and I’d reread those books any day over something considered brilliant like “The Scarlet Letter.” (Apologies to Scarlet Letter fans, but I never liked it.)

    Liked by 1 person

  4. When someone expresses a negative opinion about a writer’s work, they may not necessarily be telling you not to read that writer’s week. They may just be expressing an opinion, and opinions are easy to ignore.

    Like

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