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Observations on Writing Styles

In the breaks in his writing schedule, David has promised to stop by and chat for a while!
Observations on Writing Styles
Post by Mohut   » Sun Apr 13, 2014 3:12 pm

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I'm currently about halfway through Cauldron of Ghosts and my impression of writing styles is this ... Whereas David Weber uses words as a vehicle to convey stories, Eric Flint uses stories as a vehicle to convey words. Personally, I prefer Weber's style. While I find it always difficult and sometimes downright impossible to set down one of his stories unfinished, I find it quite easy to do with Flint's work. That said, though, Flint is a historian and I VERY much appreciate the historical context he is able to put into his writings.
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Re: Observations on Writing Styles
Post by Timlagor   » Thu Apr 17, 2014 8:20 am

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Not sure if this was a response to my other post.


While I read just about everything with David Weber on the Front (and not all that much Eric Flint -as yet) I still find some of his verbal flourishes quite aggravating.

The mangled names in Safehold are really really horrible because I simply can't read them without converting them back or stumbling: either one hurts. I'd be delighted if he abandoned the idea mid-series.


Over-used phrases are also annoying and less justifiable. It's not so much their frequency as their ubiquity. A planet that holds a common language only through the Church's unifying force and an interstellar non-community that barely talks to each other and many of whom would go out of their way not to sound like each other really ought to have a little more variation in speech patterns than virtually any two family members you care to name.
A few Words and Phrases for the David Weber conversational/internal monologue drinking game:
- chuckle (let's have a guffaw or a bray!]
- "now, [verb] [pronoun]?"
- go ahead and... [at least one "went ahead"]
- let's be about it

I expect three more will press themselves upon me as soon as I leave the keyboard.
Here's a possible (crude) guideline for good use of verbal flourishes/ticks:
- If X can't say "as Y would say" or Y say "as X would say" then X shouldn't be saying it.

It would be so easy to fix this sort of thing. Shame on the editors!


I also find his long lists of numbers less than ideal though I do appreciate him thinking about them. Not sure how I'd fix that or if it's even something I really want to fix.
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Re: Observations on Writing Styles
Post by Bolo's Honor   » Sun Aug 10, 2014 6:17 pm

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Timlagor wrote:...A planet that holds a common language only through the Church's unifying force and an interstellar non-community that barely talks to each other and many of whom would go out of their way not to sound like each other really ought to have a little more variation in speech patterns than virtually any two family members you care to name...


Fundamentally true, but a very difficult issue to address. Remember the original Star Trek series - every alien (except the Horta, which couldn't speak) spoke english! The target-audience speaks english, so the text has to cater to that.

Steven Brust has attempted to write in "differentiated voices" in some of his "before the interregnum" works. Once you get used to it, the technique functions - but it is really a major pain in the @$$ to read (and must be similarly difficult to write).

I generally approach science-fiction and fantasy works as if they were translations of the actual languages into mine. Sometimes the difference in languages is significant, and some authors can actually represent it well without damaging the "flow" of the story. But in most cases, it is of no big import.

I would agree that clearly-distinct backgrounds and dialects should have some "pet idioms" that distinguish them from each other, and keeping them distinctive would be a part of the author's (and editor's) job. The best generally-known example of this, in the same actual language, that I can offer would be many of Keith Laumer's Bolo stories. It is usually quite easy to distinguish a Bolo's "voice" from a human's (although even he failed in this once in a while). But rarely is the dichotomy in thought-process and motivation so clear-cut as that between humans and their honorable mechanical servitors. In "Old Soldiers", Mr. Weber attempted this too. Not as well as Mr. Laumer, I'm afraid - but the very nature of the main Bolo character and its relationship with the main human could well be seen as "mellowing" its mechanistic viewpoint...no harm, no foul.
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Re: Observations on Writing Styles
Post by biochem   » Mon Dec 01, 2014 9:36 am

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Bolo's Honor wrote:
Timlagor wrote:...A planet that holds a common language only through the Church's unifying force and an interstellar non-community that barely talks to each other and many of whom would go out of their way not to sound like each other really ought to have a little more variation in speech patterns than virtually any two family members you care to name...


Fundamentally true, but a very difficult issue to address. Remember the original Star Trek series - every alien (except the Horta, which couldn't speak) spoke english! The target-audience speaks english, so the text has to cater to that.

Steven Brust has attempted to write in "differentiated voices" in some of his "before the interregnum" works. Once you get used to it, the technique functions - but it is really a major pain in the @$$ to read (and must be similarly difficult to write).

I generally approach science-fiction and fantasy works as if they were translations of the actual languages into mine. Sometimes the difference in languages is significant, and some authors can actually represent it well without damaging the "flow" of the story. But in most cases, it is of no big import.

I would agree that clearly-distinct backgrounds and dialects should have some "pet idioms" that distinguish them from each other, and keeping them distinctive would be a part of the author's (and editor's) job. The best generally-known example of this, in the same actual language, that I can offer would be many of Keith Laumer's Bolo stories. It is usually quite easy to distinguish a Bolo's "voice" from a human's (although even he failed in this once in a while). But rarely is the dichotomy in thought-process and motivation so clear-cut as that between humans and their honorable mechanical servitors. In "Old Soldiers", Mr. Weber attempted this too. Not as well as Mr. Laumer, I'm afraid - but the very nature of the main Bolo character and its relationship with the main human could well be seen as "mellowing" its mechanistic viewpoint...no harm, no foul.


I'll agree with Bolo's Honor. Unless speaker of the dialect is a bit character and is "on screen" for a very short period of time, it is very difficult to read dialects. And to further complicate readability, RFC's works are translated into multiple languages and dialect style writing can add exponentially to the difficulty. While I agree with Timlagor that the dialects would exist in a real life situation, I'm willing to sacrifice the reality for readability.
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Re: Observations on Writing Styles
Post by HB of CJ   » Thu Feb 19, 2015 7:55 pm

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Excellent answers already given and thank you. Yep ... Mr. Weber has a greatly refined writing style ... especially with character development. After awhile, I for one can almost "taste" what the character is going to do or how he or she will do it ... before it happens. Each character has their own little different way of presenting his or herself in the story lines. Very well done indeed. I am a happy camper here. HB of CJ (old coot) :) :)
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Re: Observations on Writing Styles
Post by NervousEnergy   » Sat Feb 21, 2015 6:40 pm

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Eric, to me, has a bit better character variation, and he has some absolutely KILLER phrasing in key moments of his stories. Almost lyrical. This wasn't quite so much in evidence in CoG, but read 1632. There is some absolutely beautifully evocative writing there, in a short, powerful book.

On the language front, Weber does tend to re-tread some dialog turns of phrase a bit too much, but he's gotten better at not doing that in the last couple of books. As far as alien language goes, that is something that virtually no one really attempts all that often. The best I can think of off the top of my head is the (amazing, awesome, etc.) CJ Cherryh. The aliens in her Merchanter Universe feel ALIEN. Some you can't talk to at all (the Knnn), and others with multipartite brains speak in a matrix that can be read in multiple different directions. She also excels in aliens that can speak perfect technical common, but the underlying assumptions behind what the words really mean are radically different (Kif from the Merchanter universe, Atevi from the First Contact series.)

First Contact pays the bills for Ms Cherryh, but I do wish she'd write more in the Merchanter setting.
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Re: Observations on Writing Styles
Post by dreamrider   » Wed May 06, 2015 1:03 am

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Mohut wrote:I'm currently about halfway through Cauldron of Ghosts and my impression of writing styles is this ... Whereas David Weber uses words as a vehicle to convey stories, Eric Flint uses stories as a vehicle to convey words. Personally, I prefer Weber's style. While I find it always difficult and sometimes downright impossible to set down one of his stories unfinished, I find it quite easy to do with Flint's work. That said, though, Flint is a historian and I VERY much appreciate the historical context he is able to put into his writings.


I hope that you realize that David is also a historian by training.

It is presumably one of the reasons why he and Eric mesh so well despite other differences in their outlooks.

dreamrider
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