What Defines Quality Storytelling?

One thing I learned from being on the Supernatural message boards…is that I should never go on message boards for shows or anything else that I enjoy.

Another thing I learned is that quality may truly be in the eye of the beholder (beauty, quality, same thing).

I leave you with an open ended question. A question I just can’t come up with a definite answer for.

And that is…

What defines quality? Does success have any factor in it? Is it THE factor?

What I mean is there are stories out there I would consider very…bad. This question came to me after my last blog post and I’m struggling to find the answer. I’m sorry if I’ve asked this before (I have this strange feeling I have…).

Let’s take Twilight as an example. I’ve never read the books, so I shall just base this on the first movie,m which I did see, to be fair.

For me, that was a poor story. It was poor because it was unconvincing. I did not believe a girl that anti-social and quiet/moody was so well liked by her high school peers. I did not believe a 100 year old vampire was interested in a fifteen year old girl…unless he had some sort of mental retardation that stunted his maturity after he had been turned.

I did not believe vampires sparkled when struck by sunlight.

I’m not the only one. It’s almost a fact that everyone agrees with that Twilight is a badly written story.

Yet, hundreds of thousands of people LOVE Twilight. It made a lot of money at the box office. How can this be?

The same goes with books. I couldn’t get past chapter one of Eragon. And that had nothing to do with the story and everything to do with the writing itself.

I’ve written stories I’ve posted on fictionpress.net that I read now and cringe so hard I give myself a headache, and yet people had LOVED them.

The whole Supernatural debate is another one! I always believed I have good taste. Even when a story doesn’t work for me, I always feel I can tell if it’s good or not regardless.

Like Lord of the Rings.

I only got midway the first book before giving up on the wordiness of it, but I would never even for a second say LOTR is a bad story. I’d shoot myself first. It’s better to say I’m too stupid to completely comprehend and appreciate LOTR rather than say it’s lacking (same goes with Dune).

So I trust my mind to be able to tell the difference…for the most part.

But with Supernatural, it’s different.  On this message board, I find the episodes I had loved, be bashed by others in a rather convincing way, but still with points I don’t agree with.

An outside critic gave Supernatural a harsh review and there are fans who say her views are narrowed minded because she’s a Castiel fan. And I’m wondering why does that make her views moot?

So I’m stuck. Am I also biased due to my love for a particular character? But does that matter? Even if I did love a certain character, what would that have to do with my ability to discern what is good or not, especially since I’ve loved the show since before the character was introduced?

Okay, let’s say it is all subjective then. It can be both good and bad at the same time since it all depends on the viewer.

Then what the heck are writers striving for? If it’s all subjective, why study the art of writing? Why read books upon books on how to create a bestseller when it’s all subjective anyways?

What are guidelines for when often they are broken and become meaningless?

What defines quality when it comes to storytelling? The novel/movie’s financial success? The awards given? The overall consensus? What?

These things and more are on my mind today.

Now they are on yours! Enjoy!


5 thoughts on “What Defines Quality Storytelling?

Add yours

  1. I think that by making this about what people like you may be over democratising this. If something is never even read, it can be good even though nobody in the world likes it, right? Or it can be completely terrible even though no one hates it.

    I think it may be more instructive to look at what makes bad storytelling and go from there. For example, blatant and intrusive exposition, uninteresting characters, too many flat characters, using words you don’t understand etc.

    1. But what makes an interesting or uninteresting character? There are obvious cases of bad writing, but even then that can be overlooked by the most passionate fan.

      I guess in the end, the author’s personal sense of taste who has the final say.

  2. I agree with Tim.

    Like Twilight, i hated it because the most interesting characters were ones we only get to see in a side view, and the writing is juvenile in my opinion–the sign of a woman who just decided hey lets just jot down a fantasy i had and realized later she could maybe make money off of it, rather than people like us who have been writing for a long time.

    It also took me a long time to get into it, like years, because I felt book 1 focused too much on worldbuilding and such, but my boyfriend kept pressing me about it so i gave in and once i got past that book i really came to love that series, and i’m not a big high fantasy fan. Same with a book called Graceling, there was something about the writing style i still can’t quite pinpoint that I don’t like, and it can be overly dramatic sometimes, but it wasn’t an uninteresting story.

    I don’t know where i heard this, maybe a quote from Stephen King or Wendig or someone like that but I believe alot of writing mistakes can be forgiven as long as the characters are well-rounded. Without good characters the writing will always be flat and uninteresting no matter how interesting the premise. That is the sign of good writing in my personal opinion.

    1. I do believe that as long as you have characters that people like, the story will have some sort of life, even if its a zombie. I feel that is what is happening to Supernatural. The plot is fizzling out, but we love the characters so much, the fans stay loyal regardless and perhaps not even notice the lack of an overarching plot.

      Despite how much I dislike Twilight, I can’t really dis Meyer or its fans. She just wrote what she wanted to write and people loved it. I don’t know why they love it, but they do.

      Regardless of quality, Meyer did something I really want to do…and that is to have a story that she loves, and is also loved by many and gets people excited.

      I guess it’s interesting to know its something that can be achieved without over reaching high standards.

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