Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Defining What Quality Is

Throughout my duration in writing, I’m constantly debating the subjectivity of “quality.” It is something that is hard to pinpoint, especially because of all the people who disagree on what the standards for quality are. Many teachers have told me that we’re not supposed to look into whether we like something; that’s not important. (Of course, I think that when they say that, what they mean is, “I think it’s good, and you don’t know what you’re talking about.” Which, at least considering that I often haven’t read the work in question, they’d be right.)

I’ve come to a conclusion on what my standards are onto whether or not something needs to be changed. It is the main objective I look for and hold most important when I am in a heated debate with myself.
Does it take you out of the story?

This is an idea that was brought to me when reading an interview with Jim C. Hines, the writer of Jig the Dragon Slayer. A reader commented on an inaccuracy in a very small description of the way something worked. His description of stalagmites were inaccurate. To this, Hines stated that though it was irrelevant to the story, he agreed with the critic on the grounds that the reader had been taken out of the story, suddenly unable to believe the situation, and quickly reminded that he is in fact reading a fictional book.

Therefore, when editing or discussing my work with someone, I think of criticism in those terms. If I use a word that stands out to the reader, even if it is the perfect choice albeit rare, then he is no longer thinking about the world, but contemplating why I picked that expression. If it seems to me that it is distracting, I immediately alter it, even if I chose that word specifically because I liked the poetic way it sounded.
Of course, the author then has to remember that just because one person was distracted doesn’t mean everyone will be. It may have very contextual. That’s when he would use his judgment call. And despite what people may say, I believe that the writer can see a situation for what it is once identified as long as he is willing.