Good vs Bad; Story or Style?

I had the idea that around this time of year, I’d review A Christmas Carol, but our Tuesday Fox beat me to it.

I had considered tucking the idea away until next year, but she got on it. Good job, Elaine!

However, after listening to family and friends praise yet another movie version, I watched their particular favorite. It wasn’t anywhere near as good as the George C. Scott version, (as Elaine rightly pointed out as superior), but it got me to thinking about performances vs writing.


When we got married, The Husband either liked a movie or he didn’t. It was cut and dry to him. It could be one of the most terribly acted, badly written pieces, but if he liked the content, it was ‘good’. If he did not like the context or content, forget it; he’d never even look at it and might even talk against it, (never having seen it).

Then he listened to me, with my critical eye. Now, he appreciates a good performance and can admit to a bad one in a ‘good’ movie. He can also spot a bad movie that contains good performances. He now even points out the merits or lack thereof in the scoring to me!

I am not here to discuss good/bad movies from good/bad books; we have done that enough.

My question is: Do you think that good writing can overcome bad context, as good acting can shine in a bad movie?

Bad writing certainly destroys any chance a good story has of finished being read, or certainly the reading of any sequel, by me. I made the mistake a few times of not reading, at least a sampling,  authors’ works before inviting them in as guests. Some, I regret greatly, but one, well, it was so bad that I had to find a way to UNinvite the authors. Yes, it was THAT terrible. It was horribly written and basically unedited. When I questioned the main writer, (the husband of the team), as to how much of the genre he has read, he told me that he never reads, but the wife does, however, I doubt that even she reads much of the genre they were attempting.

You cannot write if you don’t read, that is all there is to it.

It is unfortunate; the storyline had great promise, as did some of the characters and subplots. Try as I might to word any interview politely, I could not in good conscience advertise the books in any way, let alone make it seem as though I could recommend it.

Not that I love everything written by my guests, not that I think that they all have to be great writers, but they have to be professional about it and make a real effort.

That isn’t to say that everything I read has to be a masterpiece or should become required reading. I am more than willing to give something not destined to be a classic 4-5 stars, according to its place in literature.

You don’t have to be a Tolstoy; just write a good cozy, romance, comedy,YA, children’s or other book and be good within the book’s genre. (Everyone wants 5 stars, however. I never do reviews of anyone I know anymore because:
1) not all of their works are 5-star quality and that’s all everyone wants, and
2) other writers that I know don’t measure up, so they feel left out or underappreciated. I am so sorry for the writers that I like, including my co-bloggers, but I have been ‘come-after’ for giving ‘only’ a 4 star review or by other writers after I posted a 5-Star review  for someone else so much that I just can’t take the pressure anymore.)

But back to the question I proposed.

I believe that I have read everything that Ernest Hemingway ever wrote. I can’t say that I actually like any of the stories, but his style of putting words together is to me like listening to someone with a good voice and interesting accent. I can say the same about John Steinbeck. I can overcome some of Truman Capote’s works, even if the content is not my cup of tea, (I have not touched a few of his), but most of his early work was truly enjoyable.
Maybe I will venture into “In Cold Blood” eventually, but I can’t promise to do that. I absolutely hate the movie, “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”, but after hearing an excerpt of the book read by Capote, I think eventually I will try to get through the story. There is a huge difference between his writing and the film.

Can you get through bad stories well written, or good stories badly written?

I will take the former, every time.


About Tonette Joyce

Tonette was a once-fledgling lyricists-bookkeeper, turned cook/baker/restaurateur and is now exploring different writing venues,(with a stage play recently completed). She has had poetry and nonfiction articles published in the last few years. Tonette has been married to her only serious boyfriend for more than thirty years and she is, as one person described her, family-oriented almost to a fault. Never mind how others have described her, she is,(shall we say), a sometime traditionalist of eclectic tastes.She has another blog : "Tonette Joyce:Food,Friends,Family" here at WordPress.She and guests share tips and recipes for easy entertaining and helps people to be ready for almost anything.
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6 Responses to Good vs Bad; Story or Style?

  1. Jeff Salter says:

    I’m reading a book now — not by anybody we know — which has beautifully drawn descriptions of the settings and scenery and she (author) carefully paints a picture of each house (or space) the characters enter. I greatly admire that talent — one I do not possess, myself.
    However, she has so many characters that I’ve lost track of who is whom and what he (or she) has to do with the plot. That is further confused by the fact that the author keeps referring back to events of 17 years ago (or even longer) in a completely different setting.
    To put it plainly, (in my opinion) this author WRITES beautifully — and comes up with some rather exquisite turns of phrase — but she lacks the ability to unveil this particular plot (and its characters) in a way that this reader (ME) can follow.
    I mean, sure — I could keep whipping back a few chapters to figure out who Person XYZ is, but that’s distracting to the flow of the reading process. How much better for the author to simply provide sufficient clues each time that name is brought up. I mean, if she had only a handful of characters, I’m sure I could keep them straight. But she’s got a couple dozen so far, and I’m only half-way through the story.
    The other side of your question relates to a story with a great premise (or something great), but the author was not able to present it in a literate fashion. I’m certain I’ve read quite a few examples of this, but I’m drawing a blank at the moment.


    • My mother had a family saying, (in Italian), which literally meant, “A little bit more makes it better”, but in reality it was used to mean the opposite: you can put in too much, no matter how good the ingredients may be, and ruin the whole of whatever you are creating.I believe this author could have used this advice. Everybody wants to be the next Tolkien, Martin, Rowling, Whoever. When movies/TV were made of these authors’ works, as long as they have been, even with visual help, characters were cut out. Authors like the one that you are reading should take that into consideration.
      Oh, well, I could show you the work of the husband and wife that threw together the children’s fantasy. It was inspired in a very sweet manner and that story alone should have been worth an interview, but Heavens! What they did with it was a crime against readers and writing!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Patricia Kiyono says:

    I don’t think I’d want to read ANY story that was poorly written, but I can forgive a few typos if the book is engaging enough.


    • Typos are disconcerting to me, but that isn’t what the editing problems were in the non-guests’ book. It jumped around, yet it repeated itself and there were a great deal of exclamationpoints. Good heavens, you are supposed to make a reader excited, not tell them to be.


  3. Elaine Cantrell says:

    I’ve read a few books that weren’t especially well written, but the story was so good I kept reading. There’s a limit to that, though. I think you are right that if you don’t read you can’t write well.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I have often read that agents often ask potential clients what they read. They say that when they are told that they don’t read or are too busy to read, (in the cases of famous people, even TV newspeople), they know that they will have terrible manuscripts and will refuse to represent them before they read one word.
      Yes, it is THAT important.


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