Amused Authors

Too Shallow by ~ Me ~
November 1, 2008, 3:53 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , ,

This is a subject I’ve had on my mind all week.  One of my classes this semester is English Lit.  The other day in a class discussion, some of my fellow student’s suggested the idea that writers nowadays are lazy. The implication was basically that modern writing is too shallow. I disagree.  I understand why people are moved by classical prose.  Many pieces summon beautiful images and the wording can be lovely.  (Consider me a dedicated Shaksepeare fan.)


But the modern novel is a whole different animal.  When today’s readers sit down with a book, most don’t have the patience for working their way through difficult passages.  They want stories to be quick paced and they want some new bit of excitement always a page turn away.  Writing today is no shallower than it ever was; it’s just evolved to become more direct.  Authors value ease of reading and know the importance of giving readers the adventure they crave.  And we’re very aware that if our book doesn’t provide that all important escape from reality, someone else’s will.    


So, what’s your take on the subject?  Is modern fiction selling out to a world with shorter attention spans and more action based preferences for entertainment, or are we merely adopting a “simpler” style and adapting to readers’ changing tastes?  

–Dara England


8 Comments so far
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There are some aspects of modern fiction that are not at all fast-paced, shallow tales but are instead deeply lyrical, long-term reads, taking their time and as interested in the beauty of the language as they are in the action. The language has evolved, but the desire to tell a story well has not gone away. Novels in any genre can be intricately plotted, written on many levels, contain subtle humor, and otherwise very much carry on the tradition of Shakespeare.

They are not bestsellers.

Bestsellers need to appeal to the majority of readers, a large percentage of whom are not looking for an intellectual challenge. They will almost all be quick-paced escape fiction (which I do not denigrate) with a reading level of about third grade. Most of them still have something to offer. But they are not Shakespeare.

In his own time, was Shakespeare a bestseller? Or was the guy down the block doing side-splitting political commentary in his short, three-person plays, packing in the audiences better?


Comment by asherose

Language and how it was used was a lot different “back then” than today.

I think a good example of contemporary “lyrical” writing is James Lee Burke. His prose is amazing, wonderful stuff, and yet it’s also a bestseller.

And in today’s times, there’s a lot more competition for readers than ever before. It’s harder to have a bestseller now than ever before. How people got published back “in the day” was a lot different than now in some respects. There is some perfectly awful dreck that was published back then, as today. I want to gnash my teeth when people insist a “classical” piece of literature is good just because it’s classical.

What they thought was great back then is different than what we think is great today. Unfortunately, it seems like many bestseller lists are more a testament to how many co-op ad dollars a publisher will put behind a book rather than the actual quality of the writing. It’s a self-sustaining illusion. Then add in things like the “Oprah” effect and you don’t really have a true benchmark as to a book’s worth.


Comment by Lesli Richardson

staying out of this one! lol!

Comment by graysonreyescole

Much of the meaning in a story is brought by the reader. If a read sits down to read with the attitude that they are reading something deep they will find it. If they read with the attitude that it’s shallow, they’re going to find that too. I read a book recently called How To Read Like A Literature Professor and it was brilliant and addressed the subject perfectly. Not long after it I read the first Shopoholic book – and found depth.

And just now, thinking about my upcoming release, Three Alarm Tenant, I realized I’d put in a huge symbol and not realized it. The heroine has chopped up her house into apartments so she can rent out half of it. She chooses to live in the second floor because it’s further away from the basement full of creepy spiders, but it’s also cut off from the original kitchen, the heart of the home. Who moves into the first floor where the heart of the home it? The hero.

You find what you look for.

Comment by Charlotte McClain

I am a Doc, and a bluegrass mandolinist.

M.D. was easy; bluegrass mandolin was tough. Writing is harder than either, and the pay scale is lower, too.

I write because I hope my words might go on past my time on Earth. I like the notion, even if immortality gathers dust on an obscure library book shelf after I am in the grave.

There is not much lazy about writing. I have been at work on my novel five years. It is due out in 2009. I’ll probably make about three thousand bucks on it if I am lucky, but I don’t care about that. Money is unrelated to my objectives.

You seem young- I am old. But, blogs are about ideas. Enjoyed your post.

Comment by Dr. Tom Bibey

Congratulations on your upcoming book, Dr. Tom. I’m glad you write for the love of it. I think for most people who genuinely enjoying writing, the money is primarily an indicator of success, a way of judging how many people out there are reading you work. And okay, in some cases it serves as justification when the nay-sayers get too loud. LOL

I don’t mean to say it isn’t a serious business; it is. That being said, if we all woke up tomorrow in a world where writing was monetarily unprofitable, I like to think most of us would continue doing it anyway.

Comment by dara11

I get a little tired of the attitude that if something isn’t deep and serious, it doesn’t have worth.

Some books exist merely to entertain – to give the reader a fun ride, a few smiles, maybe a chill down the spine, and that’s more or less IT. And that’s JUST FINE. We all need that from time to time. It’s a vauluable thing to have.

Elle Parker

Comment by Elle Parker

Elle, I agree. There’s a lot to be said for stories that lift reader’s spirits for awhile or just take them on a fun adventure. I know often when I pick up a book its not because I want to contemplate deep questions or learn anything new. I just want a short break from reality.

Comment by dara11

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