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Posts Tagged ‘ambuguity’

How do you distinguish between good and bad writing (after the standard quality of language test of course)?

I would think how the narrative is structured, i.e., the setup of conflicts and how they’ve been handled/ resolved. And since conflict emanates from human beings, reality which is in direct dissonance their wants and needs, another test of good writing is the depth/complexity of its characters.

You’ll notice that in most pulp or pop fiction the characters are clear cut. They are either or good or bad. There are the usual deviations like the good cop who used to be a drunk or the prostitute with a heart of gold. But before the movie/novel ends they usually redeem themselves. Even the self serving money minded Private Eye in B grade detective fiction usually does something to merit deliverance.

In literary fiction characters tend to veer towards shades of grey. They tend to be have both goodness and evil in them. And often we as readers/viewers don’t necessarily know who to root for.  You like one guy at a particular moment in the story and hate him at the next.

What kind of stories do you want to write? The question is best answered by answering another one – what do you want out of it? If you want obscene amounts of money via film rights, the answer if go for the former. If, however, a booker is what you’re aiming for, go for the latter.

Most books that get adapted for films have clear cut distinctions between the good and the bad guys.  On the other hand, complex stories of complex characters, where everyone has significant failings, rarely make it to the screen. Lately someone was brave enough to attempt Atonement and it even did well commercially. But not as well as The Lord of the Rings.

As one of my readers mentioned, most human beings are “promiscuous” creatures. Yet we (or at least a large majority of us, myself included) as consumers tend story gravitate towards movies with tangible “heroes”. Which brings me to the point I raised in my previous post – Is cinema escapist?

Yes, that is one reason for sure. But I think there is another more significant reason. Complex stories with murky characters are notoriously difficult to adapt for screen. If they are not handled adeptly viewers can end up hating everybody, or worse, confused.

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