Active Users:96 Time:28/05/2023 10:36:21 PM
Storytelling is crucial... DomA Send a noteboard - 20/02/2012 05:59:57 AM
... at least to anyone who aims to be a popular writer, read and enjoyed by masses of people even while still alive.

If you're not a great storyteller, you cannot be Alexandre Dumas, or Stephen King, or Brandon Sanderson (or even Dickens and Twain, and yes Robert Jordan too. It's not because his later books fail to entertain some that they don't still please tons of people.).

Popular literature is nearly all about storytelling. It's an art/craft in itself, and a respectable one. As many philosophers point out nowadays, the concept of "culture" has been way too elitist through the last centuries, and you can't really understand a civilization or period without being familiar with its popular culture as well. Sciences are another aspect way too evacuated from the notion of being "cultured" in modern times - it's nearly all about humanities nowadays.


Tom's points and what he's tried to convey still stand, and strongly so. There's more to literature than merely telling stories and doing it well and in an entertaining manner. Some of the greatest and most important and enduring works of literature are not even fiction (and even less are novels, which is a genre but a few hundred years old). There's aesthetic value in literature and the importance of what you have to say, most often the combination of the two.

The vast majority of folks could care less about those novels because frankly, many are boring as sin, regardless of the scope and meaning.

That's because you're trying to narrow down the purpose of literature to entertainment. That's the main purpose of storytelling for sure, but that's not the sole or very often among the most important purposes of literature. It's often far more profound than this. It's perfectly possible to develop a taste for literature and derive much fun and entertainment from "serious" (I hate that word applied to literature, but can't really think of an alternative) writers, but for most people it's supposed to involve an intellectual effort from the reader, either to appreciate the aesthetics and more importantly to derive something meaningful from the content. If it entertains you as well, it's a bonus (but a bonus more and more frequent the more you've done the effort of acquiring a taste for literature...). Some great writers (Dickens, for example) managed to combine great storytelling and popularity with great literary value and much value as a social commentary and on the experience of being human in his days, but if you look at the sum of the great literature since the dawn of civilization, this combination of the two is close to being the exception rather than the norm.

As for the comment on Dickens being over descriptive, that's a good example of the effort involved to appreciate literature. The truly popular works don't endure very long (not in their original form, anyway. In modern times, new storytelling medium like cinema has prolonged the life of many popular classics). Popular literature is very much inscribed in time, sooner or later time creates barriers between the work and the masses. Dickens or Austen are still widely read, but already writers like Defoe, or Rabelais are destined to a much smaller readership. You need to get passed the barrier time created to appreciate writers like Dickens or Flaubert who wrote in the days before mass media and mass transportation. People didn't leave their village very often if at all to go see the slums in the City. They couldn't open magazines to see how people dressed. The mounting curiosity for the world outside their village was an important factor in the rise and popularity of novels. People expected the writer to make them see things, in great details. It's technological advances that "freed" popular writers from this expectations. Nowadays many people lose patience with the old novelists because they've seen it on TV or the movies. To appreciate literature is often very much to derive interest for older form of communications, older cultures. Those who can't do that, or read only to be entertained, are pretty much condemned to reading only contemporary works, tailored for contemporary tastes. There's nothing wrong with reading solely for entertainment, certainly, but the same way there's no reason for those who don't to dismiss mass culture as unimportant, there's no reason for those who do to spit on literature or, for that matter, those you call "the elites" just because they enjoy or make the intellectual efforts to appreciate other, more demanding, forms of writing.

This message last edited by DomA on 20/02/2012 at 06:01:33 AM
Reply to message
Brandon Sanderson plans 36 books in his 'Cosmere' setting - 19/02/2012 11:45:24 AM 4502 Views
Was Sanderson created by the Writng Gods to counter balance GRRM? - 19/02/2012 05:13:07 PM 1288 Views
A modern Moorcock, eh ? *NM* - 19/02/2012 05:39:00 PM 564 Views
I just wish he'd be done with the RJ shit and go back to writing his own books. - 19/02/2012 05:40:59 PM 1237 Views
Agreed on both points..... - 19/02/2012 08:00:41 PM 1200 Views
Well, but he is a "fluff" writer from a literary standpoint - 20/02/2012 02:16:11 AM 1250 Views
Not a fluff writer in my mind..... - 20/02/2012 03:12:46 AM 1201 Views
You don't seem to want to hear what I'm saying - 20/02/2012 03:51:13 AM 1163 Views
And I am saying that storytelling is more important..... - 20/02/2012 04:52:39 AM 1287 Views
Storytelling is crucial... - 20/02/2012 05:59:57 AM 1269 Views
A few comments/replies about your post..... - 20/02/2012 02:57:16 PM 1226 Views
You are correct in one respect: all of this is opinion. - 20/02/2012 07:01:11 PM 1195 Views
You sound like one of those nasty "literary elites"! - 20/02/2012 08:07:13 PM 1148 Views
Literature is subjective - 21/02/2012 12:26:35 AM 1240 Views
Very well said..... *NM* - 21/02/2012 01:12:40 AM 529 Views
I agree with your point about reading Shakespeare from textbooks. - 21/02/2012 03:18:37 AM 1282 Views
Never heard of Thomas Mann and the real Mona Lisa..... - 21/02/2012 03:34:12 AM 1117 Views
Conversely, why should I trust the likes of you? - 21/02/2012 06:19:18 AM 1363 Views
Oh, come now... - 21/02/2012 10:35:18 AM 1275 Views
When it comes to evaluating schema, I'm not going to trust someone who only had English 101 - 21/02/2012 11:26:03 AM 1086 Views
Mostly agreed - 21/02/2012 09:00:51 PM 1170 Views
Mostly true - 21/02/2012 09:27:09 PM 1212 Views
Re: Mostly true - 22/02/2012 12:58:55 AM 1027 Views
Larry = snob - 21/02/2012 05:34:22 PM 1149 Views
Amusing - 21/02/2012 07:49:20 PM 1130 Views
Wow, you lack basic reading comprehension skills..... - 21/02/2012 08:29:24 PM 1122 Views
Uh...Faust is a play. Doctor Faustus is a novel. The former is Goethe, the latter is Mann. *NM* - 22/02/2012 12:00:22 AM 566 Views
D'uh.....notice the smiley face. Good grief! *NM* - 22/02/2012 12:50:23 AM 559 Views
Just checking... *NM* - 22/02/2012 01:07:40 AM 513 Views
Wait, let's look at the gross disconnect between two statements. - 21/02/2012 01:59:34 PM 1255 Views
I have not blindly rejected the literary elites..... - 21/02/2012 05:27:35 PM 1225 Views
So true about the Mona Lisa. - 21/02/2012 07:57:41 PM 1279 Views
Yes, I was at the Louvre and you are right..... - 21/02/2012 08:32:40 PM 1148 Views
This is where your own rethoric defeats you... - 23/02/2012 06:38:54 AM 1123 Views
There's "subjective", and there's "lack of education" - 21/02/2012 08:58:11 PM 1162 Views
Re: There's "subjective", and there's "lack of education" - 21/02/2012 09:23:38 PM 1312 Views
Thank you. That was excellent. *NM* - 20/02/2012 07:01:31 PM 596 Views
Seems like an awful lot. - 19/02/2012 08:11:22 PM 1362 Views
Sanderson is a machine. Also, the books (so far) have been wildly different - 20/02/2012 12:50:41 AM 1272 Views
I thought he was just recycling the name at first. *NM* - 20/02/2012 02:09:57 AM 574 Views
It's likely to stay that way... - 20/02/2012 06:22:50 AM 1280 Views
I think he can actually do both - 20/02/2012 03:31:00 PM 1316 Views
Re: I think he can actually do both - 20/02/2012 06:34:30 PM 1349 Views
I love it. - 19/02/2012 10:00:28 PM 1114 Views
Confirmation on the Mistborn trilogies. I am so happy. *NM* - 20/02/2012 05:38:23 AM 517 Views
I am thrilled to see that there will be more stories about Wax and Wayne..... - 20/02/2012 03:46:37 PM 1037 Views
The one issue I had with that book... - 21/02/2012 06:21:29 PM 1134 Views
Waxillium! *NM* - 21/02/2012 10:47:03 PM 492 Views
WAXILLIUM! *NM* - 04/03/2012 07:39:37 AM 677 Views
Why is that an issue? I think those names are great. - 23/02/2012 05:31:51 AM 1038 Views
Do you not like puns? *NM* - 06/03/2012 01:38:31 PM 569 Views
BS- The Fantasy Stephen King? - 21/12/2012 08:12:21 PM 932 Views

Reply to Message