One would think that in this age of e-mail, blogs, self-publishing, dictation software, spell-checkers, grammar-checkers and other modern marvels that we would readily find copious examples of good writing. Sadly, that is not the case and good writing seems to be on the wane. I’m not talking here about your Faulkners, Fitzgeralds, Hemmingways, Steinbecks, Waughs, et al. Instead, I’m speaking about every-day good writing; the kind that you see – or at least used to see – in stories, novels, papers, etc. This does not mean that there isn’t good writing out there; it’s just harder to find nowadays.

There are many things that could be used to define good writing: Quality, Grammar use, Structure, and more though that is not the aim of this essay. To narrow our focus, we’re going to talk about fiction. Even with that limitation in place, there’s still a lot to consider. Here is what the award-winning writer, Jim Parsons – No, not THAT Jim Parsons! – has to say on the subject:

“It’s going to depend on what it is, where it appears, intended audience, etc. What would be considered quality writing for, say a newspaper story, might not be the same for a television script or a children’s story. In books, it’d be hard to compare Mark Twain with James Blish (who wrote the Star Trek paperbacks), though each did what he intended to do very well.”

Since Young and Not-So-Young Adult fantasy has been the subject of most of the reviews here on The Parsons’ Rant, we’re going to narrow our focus even more to consider the fantasy genre. When asked, Jim Parsons said:

I’d guess J.R.R.’s trilogy is the gold standard (just like Harvard Lampoon’s version was for parody), although it might’ve been a bit long. But all the elements fit together, it was well crafted and delivered, and at the end, you just said ‘’wow.’’ I’m not sure that Harry Potter would count, as that’s sort of “pop fantasy” vs. “pure fantasy.” Obviously a different style than JRR, but again JK’s approach and execution were very effective.”

Well-crafted and delivered. Effective approach and execution. A “wow” factor. There are other identifying traits, of course, but Jim has elucidated three very important ones. In conclusion, he tells us:

” . . . the most eloquent writing ever will fall flat if there’s no message that connects with the audience. Similarly, a great story can be lost if the writer doesn’t know how to put sentences together. It’s all about balance.”

Below are three separate passages from three separate authors which exhibit most – if not all – of the properties mentioned above. They also exhibit one or more of the other factors that I consider to be important.

The first passage certainly has a “Wow” factor to it. In addition, it conveys feeling and emotion and makes them a tangible item that you almost want to inhale. It is one of the “hottest” passages I have ever read. Please note that there is a distinct difference between “hot” and “steamy”. The latter usually leads to a (very) cold shower.[[1]] By “hot”, I meant that it’s heat enters in to you and radiates throughout your very being. It is not unlike the motto of the Scottish Clan Mackenzie – and Glen Ord single malt:

Luceo Non Uro – I shine, not burn

This passage literally glows, its heat converted to a lambent light that fills you with a sense of “Wow”.

“This time, when the sweet pull came for Tatiana’s soul, she allowed herself to be free and afterward, the connection was so much deeper than anything she could have imagined. Her soul exploded into a song filled with all the goodness that was him. And everything about him felt right. To hold him close, to be with him, to treasure him for all eternity, she could think of nothing else, completely engulfed in his love.” – Brenda Pandos, Everlost

Feeling. Emotion. Wow! The passage comes from Everlost, the third installment in Brenda’s Mer Tales series for Young Adults. Inasmuch as the series is firmly planted in the YA genre, there is a distinct limit to the sensuality and sexuality to be found within those pages. Yet, that passage leaves the reader even more breathless than most adult fiction.

Our next passage will surely show that its author knows how to put sentences together. It is very well-crafted and delivered and it conveys a sense of purpose, a sense of inspiration. If you were not on board at the start of this speech, you definitely are at its conclusion.

“I have been imprisoned here a long time, Abby. These years in your world have made me tired and weak. But I have learned a great many things in that time. One is that I should trust in my dreams, and I have seen that this time we will win. The other thing I have learned is that even when I was in my lowest, most desperate state in this place, the universe has provided for me. It is when things seem impossible that miracles happen.” – Melissa Eskue Ousley, Sign of the Throne

In this short but moving passage, one can almost hear the echoes of the Agincourt speech{{2}} in Shakespeare’s Henry V. Sign of the Throne is one of the most well-written stories that I have had the privilege to review and is an absolute joy to read. If nothing else, I hope that Ms Ousley’s target audience will take away an idea of what good writing – as opposed to texting – really is.

Our final passage is by the author of the adult fantasy novel, The Marked Ones{{3}}, and does not come from the novel itself. Instead, it is a short blog entry by Samantha K. Munt and it is included here to show that good writing is transcendent; it crosses all barriers – both natural and artificial – in the delivery of its message.

“I just went and laid next to my husband for a moment and spooned him, pressed my head into his shoulder and tried to let my guard down and the tears fall. I was almost there-my nose was tingling, my eyes were welling and I was completely feeling sorry for myself. I haven’t slept in three weeks. It’s been all about the book. A roller coaster ride on which I’m clinging to with nail polish that is chipped for the first time in my life. Everything I thought I cared about, every passion I’ve ever undertaken and conquered-doesn’t compare to the ache of uploading your soul to the internet for judgment by others.

But before the first tear could spill, I heard what hubby was listening to-Twilight Eyes, by Dean Koontz, playing in audio format on his iPhone while he slept. My favourite book of all time.

And then I remembered why I’m doing this, and what height I aspire to rise to. And how all I want of this industry is love. Then I remembered the message I got two days ago from a fan who wrote to me, what I’d write to Koontz if I believed he could ever read it.

And I kissed my lovely husband on his bristly cheek, and got out of bed, back to my study with its broken chair, where the winter wind is freezing me off the Pacific through the window. Back where I belong.” – S.K. Munt, Why I didn’t go to sleep

I remember – which really dates me – the series of dramatized key events in American and World history, hosted by Walter Cronkite, called You Are There. I am an older guy living on the east coast of North America and Ms Munt is a 30-year old mother of three from Queensland, Australia. And yet, because of this outstanding bit of writing, I believe that I am indeed there and get a sense of how she is feeling, her motivations and what she is going through. This simple blog post has a “Wow” factor all its own and transcends age, gender, and geography. If Ms Munt can write like this in a blog post, you can imagine what her stories are like.

These three authors have several things in common: Their books have been or will be reviewed here on The Parsons Rant and each of them are or will be the subject of a 20 Questions Interview as well. I hope that you will take the time to read the reviews, read the interviews and by all means read their books, all of which are examples of very good writing.

[[1]]For a better understanding of this, read the “Boat” scene from The Marked Ones[[1]]

[[2]]This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remember’d;
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition:
And gentlemen in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day. – William Shakespeare, Henry V[2]]

[[3]]It must be noted that The Marked Ones does NOT fall into the YA (Young Adult) genre. The story is more intended for adults and those in the New Adult age bracket.[[3]]

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