Friday, October 30, 2009

Good writing versus beautiful writing: is there a difference?

I’m back to writing—every waking minute and some not-so-waking minutes—but this summer I took some time off writing to read. A lot. I caught up on everything I’d been wanting to read this last year but didn’t because I was absorbed with my own characters. I found some new favorite authors and read a few lemons, but the two I still can’t get out of my head are The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins and Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher.

I love the way they write. Their styles, though very different, resonate with me. Simple and beautiful. They’re some of the least obtrusive writers I’ve ever read, meaning their words never distracted me from the story. And they had me crying, I don’t know, like twenty times.

There are some beautifully written stories out there that are sometimes too beautifully written. I know it sounds crazy, but if the prose is so beautiful that I start thinking about the prose, I’m no longer living the story. As a writer, I’m thinking that’s not such a good thing.

Am I wrong? Is there a difference between a well written story and a beautifully written story?

What do you think?


  1. That's a tough one. Beauty can be defined in so many different ways. Personally, I don't make a conscious distinction between beautifully and well written. If I'm reading a story and I'm not distracted by the writing I'd call that a type of beauty. Both books you refer to are beautifully written. I just finished Catching Fire by Susanne Collins--another well-written beauty.

  2. Every once in a while I come across something that's so beautifully written, it actually makes it hard to get and stay pulled into the story.

    That said, both 13 Reasons Why and The Hunger Games are both beautifully written but they beauty enhances the story rather than distracting from it.

  3. Paul--Catching Fire blew me away.

    Paul and Suzie--
    I absolutely agree that simple and beautiful can be the same thing. As I said, I think that's what Jay Asher and Suzanne Collins have managed to do. But there have been several books (one I read recently and is on the NYT best seller list) that I enjoyed but, as I read, I was continually drawn out of the story by the writing, which everyone describes as beautiful.