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Old 01-23-2012, 05:03 PM   #1
MsFicwriter
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Is Writing Dead? (An Essay a la Kreia)

[/rant and generalizations on]

Maybe this is just my cynical frustration talking and not my good sense, but every day I feel like writing is a dying (if not dead) art. Despite the record sales of hit titles like Twilight and Harry Potter, I know that fine writing is not the point of those novels. Their main objective is action, especially so that they can be made into movies. Who cares about a witty turn of phrase when an explosion or sex scene can be had far more easily?

I know there's a lot of emphasis in schools on becoming proficient in reading. At least, that's what the proponents of No Child Left Behind say, but that's not what they mean. What they actually want is for students to become proficient at reading skills that standardized tests measure. "Characterization" and "character motivation" are not examples of these skills. "Decoding phonemes" is, and also "comprehension". However, comprehension of what? There is only one right answer to any standardized-test question, and you must comprehend what that answer is (especially if all the other answers seem correct). If you don't "put down what they [the tests] tell you", as an SAT cheater phrased it, then you're sunk. Does this relate to writing at all?

Definitely. More and more, writing (at least in terms of the kind mastered by Dickens, whose bicentenary is in February) is becoming an obsolete occupation. Great books are everywhere, sure, but in (elementary and high) school, one doesn't learn how to write a great book. Writing's purpose is seen as utilitarian: to give instructions, to explain something, to relay messages. Many employers are saying they're looking for people with "good writing skills", but a coherent memo is hardly the example of "good writing" I'm looking to pen. Most memos are ignored. I know that firsthand!

Is writing pointless, even as other people wail that communication is paramount? I'm afraid to say that in this 21st century, the answer is more often "yes" than "no". Who needs, "I'm so glad to make your acquaintance!" in a handwritten letter when we already have "nice 2 mt u?" It's shorter, sweeter, and more to the point than the longer version (at least if you text a lot). The kind of literary masterpieces our forefathers read, I fear, will soon be as dead as they are. We want more from our books, but what we want is more action--another Millennium Trilogy, not another Little Dorritt.

This brings me to the point of why I work so hard on my Star Wars stories, and why there's not much action in them. I'm better at the characters, and I enjoy delving into them. Intrigue is my forte, and as long as I still feel the desire to write, I'll try to write well. It may be pointless, but it's my passion.

[/rant and generalizations off]
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Old 01-23-2012, 06:23 PM   #2
Rtas Vadum
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I'd say it isn't dead, at least not in the sense that it is worthy of nothing more than nice sendoff.

While I'm sure that every single person who writes anything has certain shortcomings, no matter what it is they write for, be it professionally, or if they do it either to hone their skills(perhaps of doing it professionally), or if they enjoy it. The trouble is, when you really think that there should be rules when trying to write a story. Certainly, but not rules so restrictive that the thinking goes more towards "No one will want to read this", then the thinking that someone will read it, merely because you wrote it, and perhaps posted it online, or showed it to them. Along with that goes the potential for the writer to take in the comments that he or she gets, and either uses those to improve the work in question, or future pieces.

But there should be a certain divide between a story written to be read as a book, and one that is written explicitly for a movie. While some books can easily make the transition, some get it exactly right - while others don't. The movie has the potential to leave out certain facts that are integral to the story, even if at the current point, the detail is minimal. Such as any story that involves a seemingly common item, that later(either in the film, or in a sequel), becomes important. If the detail is left out, then unless the sequel does something to introduce it, it becomes perhaps a bit to obvious.

Though I can't say I don't know my own problems. I usually go the route of trying to present an interesting story, if nothing else. Maybe, as I would hope, the references, the small details that either foreshadows something, or becomes important, an entire scene that clearly defines a character, these things come off as fairly clear, if not things that people can understand. I can certainly imagine an action scene that, at least to me is quite interesting, the problem always becomes not that I can't get it out, but the pacing. Weather I'd want to stretch it out, having the characters keep exchanging the verbal blows, alongside the physical ones, while keeping the scene interesting to read. Aside from that, there are also the scenes which are easier to imagine(like one character against many), where it is either a complete curb-stomp, or a struggle by main character, to take down the multitude of mooks sent their way.


Last edited by Rtas Vadum; 01-23-2012 at 08:02 PM.
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Old 01-23-2012, 07:33 PM   #3
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Why do I suddenly want to hug you? Does "mook" rhyme with "book" or "fluke"?
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Old 01-24-2012, 01:22 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MsFicwriter View Post
Who cares about a witty turn of phrase when an explosion or sex scene can be had far more easily?
More importantly, when an explosion or sex scene can make the book more sellable and thus more profitable. There are people who write without caring much for art, or who don't have the same standards of art as we do. Making money might be an important thing for them, and writing is a means to do that. Would you criticise an industry worker poor at his job who just wants to make money?

Quote:
Originally Posted by MsFicwriter View Post
I know there's a lot of emphasis in schools on becoming proficient in reading. At least, that's what the proponents of No Child Left Behind say, but that's not what they mean. What they actually want is for students to become proficient at reading skills that standardized tests measure. "Characterization" and "character motivation" are not examples of these skills. "Decoding phonemes" is, and also "comprehension". However, comprehension of what? There is only one right answer to any standardized-test question, and you must comprehend what that answer is (especially if all the other answers seem correct). If you don't "put down what they [the tests] tell you", as an SAT cheater phrased it, then you're sunk. Does this relate to writing at all?
While admittedly I've been rebellious about this throughout my educational history, it really is the most economical way to do things without outright shunning your responsibility. One extra page of questions per student equals one multiplied by every child covered by the American education boards. How many pages is that? How many hours of photocopying? How much money?

Elementary/High School education teaches what has been deemed most necessary for children to know. Learning the bare basics of reading is one. Being able to read and analyse the artistic merits of an English work is not. Being able to read and understand simple paragraphs is a skill everyone in the world can do with, whether they are flipping burgers, subtitling TV shows, working as executives, campaigning for president, commandeering submarines, programming software, smuggling goods between three continents, working as doctors, etc. etc.

As someone practicing a craft, you'd naturally wish that the whole world knew a thing or two about what you are so good at. Welcome to the world of IT administrators. Not a night goes by without them praying that God will magically make everyone in the world better at computers so they won't have to deal with the inanity. You wish it would happen - but happen it does not. I'm sure many dentists wish patients would take just a *certain* level of interest in maintaining their dental hygiene, or filmmakers wish that the mainstream audience had some understanding of how to properly appreciate a film beyond its explosions and sex scenes.

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Originally Posted by MsFicwriter View Post
Definitely. More and more, writing (at least in terms of the kind mastered by Dickens, whose bicentenary is in February) is becoming an obsolete occupation. Great books are everywhere, sure, but in (elementary and high) school, one doesn't learn how to write a great book. Writing's purpose is seen as utilitarian: to give instructions, to explain something, to relay messages. Many employers are saying they're looking for people with "good writing skills", but a coherent memo is hardly the example of "good writing" I'm looking to pen. Most memos are ignored. I know that firsthand!
Schools don't teach about writing books because writing books has always been something done by the minority. What percentage of the total population of the world has written had an interest in writing a book? Probably less than 10% and that's a very generous figure.

On the other hand, simple utilitarian writing is something everyone desperately needs. The difference between being able to and not able to write is enormous - like being able to see and being blind. The difference is, you cannot 'learn' to see, but you can learn to read and write.

Quote:
Originally Posted by MsFicwriter View Post
Is writing pointless, even as other people wail that communication is paramount? I'm afraid to say that in this 21st century, the answer is more often "yes" than "no". Who needs, "I'm so glad to make your acquaintance!" in a handwritten letter when we already have "nice 2 mt u?" It's shorter, sweeter, and more to the point than the longer version (at least if you text a lot). The kind of literary masterpieces our forefathers read, I fear, will soon be as dead as they are. We want more from our books, but what we want is more action--another Millennium Trilogy, not another Little Dorritt.
Did photography kill the painting? Did 3D Modelling kill sculpture?

Take a 100 people. In a world where people only know of writing, all 100 people would be exposed to writing. The writer has the perfect audience - 100%. Then suddenly Sculpture is invented. Now a random group of people will spend the time they can otherwise spend reading for looking at sculptures. Say we only have 80% audience now. Then somebody comes up with paintings. We go down to 60%. Then tap dancing comes up and the people love it. 40%. On and on.

But there's something else happening behind the scenes. The percentages keep going down, but the 100 people that lived then are 10,000 now. 40% of 10,000 is 4000 people. Who do you think has the larger audience, the guy with 100% or the one with 40%? Writing may have been pushed far to a niche, it may have much less influence on mainstream culture and thought, but it's still there. And writing in fact, is a very primal kind of art. It has existed long before we knew about psychology or nuclear weapons or stock exchanges or quad-core processors. It was there before the Turks took Constantinople, before the Vikings packed their bags for Greenland, before the Buddha decided to sit under a tree, before Qin Shi Huang-di thought that building a huge wall might be a rad idea. Writing has survived censorship, pogroms, exiles, language divides, genocides, cultural hostilities, life and death sentences, book burnings, riots with torches and pitchforks. I don't think it's just going to die of old age any time soon.

Quote:
Originally Posted by MsFicwriter View Post
This brings me to the point of why I work so hard on my Star Wars stories, and why there's not much action in them. I'm better at the characters, and I enjoy delving into them. Intrigue is my forte, and as long as I still feel the desire to write, I'll try to write well. It may be pointless, but it's my passion.

[/rant and generalizations off]
So long as you keep writing, the art you cherish will never be dead. And if you, the last writer, die - then what's so bad anyway? Everyone dies. We don't mourn for each lost soul, each extinct species or language. Just be glad that you got in before the gate closed, and are in the company of the millions of writers before you.


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Old 01-24-2012, 06:27 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by Sabretooth View Post
Would you criticise an industry worker poor at his job who just wants to make money?
Yes. Not for wanting to make money, but for sucking at his job and only apparently caring about his paycheck.


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Old 01-24-2012, 06:53 AM   #6
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On second thought, I concur. >_>


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